Judith Collins unveils National’s border security policy

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National Party leader Judith Collins is unveiling the party’s policy on border security.

Watch the media conference here:

The National Party wants to establish a Border Protection Agency to oversee and manage Covid-19 and any other public health threats at the border.

Collins has likened the agency to korowai, describing it as a cloak of protection. The agency would be called Te Korowai Whakamaru.

The announcement comes a day after the government bolstered Defence Force numbers at isolation and quarantine facilities.

It’s also set up a new team of health advisers, after the Health Ministry failed to deliver a robust testing strategy at the pace required.

Collins said the current Covid-19 border approach was set up in an ad-hoc way and heightened border management will be required.

She said National wants international travellers to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country.

Anyone who tests positive would not be able to board their plane.

It also wants those who work at the border and treat or test Covid patients to carry compulsory contact tracing technology.

This would include the rapid deployment of bluetooth applications and things like a Covid card.

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The agency would report to a single minister whose focus will be keeping New Zealand free from the risks of Covid-19 and other pandemic threats.

It would also oversee the response from other agencies such as the Ministry of Health and district health boards, and be responsible for managing co-payment for the costs of managed isolation.

Anyone in contact with people in managed isolation would be required to have a weekly Covid test and all agency workers would be required to carry contact tracing technology.

Collins said the government’s dropped the ball on testing, tracing and managing people in isolation.

To prevent the virus coming through the border National wants international travellers to undergo pre-boarding thermal imaging and completion of a health declaration card.

It would also require another test of travellers within three days of arrival as well as a test on day 12.

Collins said New Zealand borders will be tough, but they will be smart.

“This is tough but tough times need tough measures.”

Targets would also be introduced for testing, with a plan to make waiting times for a Covid test no longer than 60 minutes.

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Aged care workers would be required to undergo regular testing and more opportunities would be created for wider testing within retirement homes.

Collins said the current response of putting various agencies in charge of different facets, “has led to a disorderly and confused response, putting the health and livelihoods of five million New Zealanders at risk”.

“More than 1.6 million Aucklanders are locked down right now because the government dropped the ball on testing, tracing and managing people in isolation. It’s not good enough.”

Collins said if there’s a need for a lockdown it would be based on what’s necessary.

“We have a zero tolerance to Covid-19 being in our community.”

National’s Covid-19 Border Response spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said a Crown Agency dedicated to defencing New Zealand from the virus would be established within National’s first 100 days in government.

“This agency will be resourced to act as a centre of expertise. It will have the personnel, technology and capability to provide a world-class defence against Covid-19.

“National will immediately invest and seek to rapidly deploy bluetooth technologies to enhance contract tracing, making these mandatory for border facility workers and District Health Board staff who treat or test patients,” Brownlee said.

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“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti said National will follow international models and require people coming into the country to not only quarantine but also test themselves for Covid-19 three days before departure, and provide the results of that test to airline staff before boarding their plane.

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