The National Party’s Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop has told NZ Herald’s politics podcast that New Zealand will likely forever speculate what more time at alert level 4 during the Delta outbreak would have meant for Auckland.
He also weighed in on the party’s recent poor polling, admitting the party has “a lot of work to do” to make up the ground lost to the Act Party.
Bishop joined NZ Herald deputy political editor Derek Cheng and senior political journalist Thomas Coughlan for the latest episode of On the Tiles, the Herald’s new politics podcast.
He joined in a week where case numbers for Covid-19 in Auckland have skyrocketed, with new cases hitting 71 on Thursday – the highest number since September when Auckland was still at level 4. There were 65 new community cases today.
Bishop said the Government spent the first six months of this year “resting on their laurels” around Covid, and were now playing catch-up around antigen tests, at-home isolation and shorter MIQ stays.
He said National’s policy is that once the country is at 85 per cent double-dosed, anyone coming from low-risk countries or areas with a negative pre-departure test and arrival test will be allowed to skip MIQ.
In terms of ending lockdowns, Bishop said National’s plan is not to continue with nationwide lockdowns once the country is at 80 per cent double-jabbed.
And while level 4 would likely be off the cards under a National Government – in the same way Labour has ruled out a return to the highest alert level – Bishop said the growing case numbers had raised speculation if the move down to level 3e came too early.
“I think we’ll probably look back in a few years and say it’s one of the great ‘what if’s’ of New Zealand history,” though agreed that it is impossible to say if it would have improved case numbers.
Bishop was also asked about National’s recent polling; two polls out this week show National still more than 20 points behind Labour, and the Act Party close on its tail.
“I’m not going to beat around the bush, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said in response to figures that show National is trending behind Act in Auckland and in rural areas.
He said presenting “constructive, credible plans” on what National would do if it gets into Parliament was key to the recovery.
Bishop expressed confidence in National’s wish to open the borders at 85 per cent when pushed on what the recent modelling shows around thousands of cases a week if New Zealand reopens with those figures.
• On the Tiles is available on iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes will be available to listen to on a fortnightly basis.
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