PM Jacinda Ardern reveals $150m PPE purchase for border, isolation workers

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed the government is spending $150m on the purchase of PPE, with a focus on supplying frontline border and isolation facility workers.

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Speaking at her weekly post-Cabinet media briefing, Ardern said it was important the recent cases found at the border and the strengthening of border management needed to be kept in perspective.

“The overarching fact remains that New Zealand is in an extremely good position and we’ll fight to keep it that way,” Ardern said.

“Today we are announcing an additional $150m allocation for the purchase of PPE from the Covid response and recovery fund with a firm focus on ensuring consistent supply for our frontline, border, and managed isolation and quarantine facility workers.”

She said the government would also ensure Air New Zealand had access to face masks for international travellers, and returnees would be required to wear masks as they disembarked and travelled to their isolation facility.

There had been no evidence to date of the virus spreading within the facilities, even with wider testing, “but that does not mean that there are not more things that we can do to give ourselves greater assurance that we have put in the highest level of protections in the area that is the highest risk,” she said.

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She noted cases worldwide had risen to more than 10 million, with more than 500,000 deaths.

“The virus is sadly growing, not slowing.”

She said it was not surprising that meant New Zealanders wanted to come home.

“It’s unrealistic to think we wouldn’t have cases in that way … let’s not forget why they want to come home.”

Minister Megan Woods, who has been given ministerial responsibility for the management of the isolation and quarantine facilities, said travellers who did not comply with the requirements could face a fine of up to $4000 and up to six months in prison.

Cabinet today was expected to discuss changes to the managed isolation and quarantine process, including looking at partial payments for those coming to New Zealand.

A review of managed isolation by Woods and Air Commodore Webb, who has been given oversight of the facilities, found the system to be under “extreme stress” and unable to respond to the increasing demands being placed on it as more New Zealanders returned home.

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Ardern told Morning Report today that New Zealanders should have confidence in the government’s response because it had “adjusted our settings every step of the way based on what we’ve learnt, based on what we know is working and based on what needs to be done. So while there is no playbook, we have been very agile”.

“There is not one person to blame for all of this … we just have to fix it,” she said.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation facilities in New Zealand today.

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