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National leader Judith Collins says South Islanders have had enough and slammed the Government's decision to extend alert level 2 restrictions for the island another week.
It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signalled today in Dunedin an easing of restrictions next week - including bigger gatherings in Auckland and level 1 freedoms for the rest of the country - if cases continue to track down as they have been.
Modelling done for the Ministry of Health suggested a 25% chance of cases moving outside of the Auckland region, which supported keeping the rest of the country at level 2, Ardern said.
It only took one person travelling and attending a super-spreader event in another part of the country to spark a surge in cases, she added.
National Party Leader Judith Collins disagreed with the Government's approach saying alert level 2 had gone on too long outside of Auckland.
"Why is the South Island still at Level 2 when there hasn’t been a case recorded there since the end of May?
South Islanders were paying the price for an outbreak happening hundreds of kilometres north of them.
"South Islanders have put up with the inconvenience of restricted gatherings, cancelled sports fixtures and half empty businesses. They've had enough.
She said the response to the pandemic in March was sound, but the country was now in danger of using "a mallet to crack a nut" when it comes to handling Covid-19.
"For many under continued lock-down, far from the outbreak, the worst effects won’t come from the disease itself but the economic fall-out of how we handled it."
“The Prime Minister’s claims about the positive state of the economy do not line up with the number of people out of work and the even larger numbers who have retained work due to the wage subsidy.
“If Labour had a clear plan at the border, this outbreak could have been tracked and traced much earlier.
Coalition cracks - Winston speaks out
Today's decision had majority support in Cabinet and followed the advice of director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Ardern said.
But NZ First leader Winston Peters disagreed and invoked the "Agree to Disagree" provisions.
"The director general of health has stated that the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland is contained. Additionally, he believes there is a low risk of transmission outside of Auckland," Peters said.
"New Zealand First notes that it will be around 120 days since the last community transmission or reported case – with the sole exception of the four Tokoroa cases, all linked to the Auckland cluster – outside of the Auckland region.
"Despite modelling suggesting a small risk of undetected cases outside Auckland, no evidence has yet emerged that this risk has been realised."
He said the economic costs were taking a toll, and people in the South Island were already in a level 1 mentality.
"Travelling around the South Island has reinforced that people are not observing social distancing in the absence of any registered or real threat of Covid-19 exposure since late April.
"Not because they are against the Government's Covid-19 response, but because they have applied their own 'common sense' test to their risk of exposure to the virus."
Ardern said it wasn't unusual for NZ First ministers to take a different view, and Peters' comments were being made in the context of an election campaign.
While not everyone will agree with today's decision, she said it was important that as many people as possible followed alert level rules.
Act leader David Seymour also disagreed with today's decision.
"The restrictions on the South Island are particularly harsh. There hasn't been any community transition there in the latest outbreak, but they've been unable to go about their daily lives."
"Many in the hospitality business are allowed to open but cannot make money doing so. It is death by two thousand cuts. A thousand last lockdown and another thousand now."
With NZ Herald