Covid-19: Jacinda Ardern defends decision to keep Auckland border in place

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended her Government’s decision to keep the Auckland border in place and to bring forward the Covid traffic light system.

Newly published Ministry of Health advice from Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there was no justification to keep the city’s hard border in place when the nation moved into the new framework, at the time expected to be around mid-December.

He also wrote “a requirement for testing and vaccination certificates to leave Auckland would direct resources away from where they are most needed, particularly given the high practical cost of enforcement”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her Government’s decisions weighed up different pieces of advice.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her Government’s decisions weighed up different pieces of advice.

But Ardern said Bloomfield’s November 11 advice, published now as part of a Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the Government’s pandemic response, came when the Government planned to move into the traffic light framework at 90 per cent double vaccination rates across district health boards’ (DHBs) eligible populations.

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Instead, New Zealand moved into the system on Friday December 3, when a handful of DHBs had not reached the target. Auckland’s boundary is set to ease for vaccinated travellers on December 15. Vaccinated travellers will need to show their vaccine pass, while those who are unvaccinated will need to return a negative test before crossing the border. Police will be conducting spot checks.

Ardern said the decision to keep the border in place “weighed the advice from our public health officials, but we have also weighed that against the requirement to consider the best interests of all New Zealand”, in the House on Wednesday in response to questions from National Party leader Christopher Luxon.

“It is incorrect to claim that we have kept the boundary longer than we were advised to by Health,” she said.

“What it is fair to point out is when we changed that boundary, [the Ministry of] Health said we could simply lift it.

“Our view was that over the summer period there would be a large amount of movement across New Zealand and that we could best balance the interest of Aucklanders’ need to move with the interest of the rest of New Zealand not having a large increase in Covid cases by simply requiring unvaccinated individuals to be tested before departure and for other Aucklanders to carry proof of vaccine.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the traffic light system was brought forward because it offered “as good if not better” protection than the alert level system.

“We decided on the balance of all the factors we were weighing up it was better to move quicker, to move the country into the traffic light system,” he said.

“We have been cautious, we want to slow the spread out of Auckland. We also want to see those vaccination rates getting up to the 90 per cent mark. As of today, we have only got three DHBs (district health boards) that have not quite hit that 90 per cent threshold yet.”

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