Government 'scrambling' over Omicron: Luxon

National leader Christopher Luxon. Photo: Getty Images
National leader Christopher Luxon. Photo: Getty Images
National's leader Chris Luxon says the Government has no plan for tackling Omicron, and decisions today show Labour "took a month off".

This afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Cabinet's decision to move Northland into orange from midnight tonight.

She said that if Omicron was found to be transmitting in the community beyond border-related cases, all of New Zealand would move to Red on the Covid-19 traffic light system within 48 hours, and not go into a lockdown.

She also signalled further changes including a "graduated system" for isolation would be announced next week once the details were finalised.

In a statement ahead of a briefing to media in Nelson, Luxon said the threat of Omicron was apparent in December but "nothing seems to have happened in the last month to prepare New Zealand. Instead Jacinda Ardern and her government took a month off".

"Once again the government is scrambling. When Delta hit last August, they developed a response on the fly and now history is repeating itself," he said.

New Zealand had been slow on boosters and vaccines for 5-11 year olds, he said, and was slow again on rapid antigen tests (RATs).

"The PM revealed that New Zealand has only 4.6 million rapid tests in the country right now. That's less than one per person. That is a stunning indictment on the government's lazy lack of planning."

He said the 2020 playbook would not work against Omicron, and companies' requests to import RATs were being stalled at the Ministry of Health for weeks at a time when more were needed.

"The Government has done little other than to make them available for the unvaccinated and for some selected employers. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister still can't outline how they will be used, when they will be available, and what isolation rules will be in place. She even thinks our current contact tracing system will work against Omicron."

New Zealand deserved better, Luxon said.

Luxon was chosen as National's leader at the end of November after Judith Collins was removed from the role by the party caucus.

'Nothing has been done' - ACT

ACT leader David Seymour similarly said the Government had done nothing to prepare for Omicron.

"I listened closely to the prime minister for a plan against Omicron and all I heard was the sound of crickets," he said.

"Actually, I admire Jacinda Ardern's guts for getting up and saying that with a straight face. They've got nothing in their response today that was not known five weeks ago.

"Now, I understand everyone's had a long year in 2021 and everyone needed a break, but Omicron does not observe Christmas the way our Prime Minister does, which seems to be very very relaxed."

He did not think anyone believed that Ardern would not bring back lockdowns if hospitals were overwhelmed in the face of Omicron.

The Government should be focusing on targeting boosters to vulnerable New Zealanders, and there were other rules that were unclear, Seymour said.

"We have made none of the kinds of preparations around testing availability, around targeting of boosters, around rules of isolation for people who are infected - you name the topic, nothing has been done.

"There was nothing new in today's announcement other than 'we will move to red', which will have a mild effect in the sense that it will stop gatherings of more than 100 people. And that will have an effect but probably not much."

"Instead of a plan, we've announced a plan to make a plan. That's the point that we've got to with this government's preparation even after five weeks of watching Omicron raging around the rest of the world."

There were far too many things left completely unsaid, according to Seymour, and he thought New Zealanders were left with more questions about what the response would be than answers.

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