Three fixes for our region’s Covid response

By: Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges
National Party MP

The recent Covid-19 case in Katikati, while eventually coming to nothing, was nevertheless a real wake-up call in our neck of the woods.

It has had me really thinking about the government response to date, as it relates to us locally.

We all want to be safe while getting back to normal as soon as possible, even if it is a new normal, and I think in the Bay of Plenty this involves immediately tightening up three key areas. 

Firstly, vaccination. I think we all understand by now that the government’s rollout has lacked the necessary urgency. This has resulted in long, draconian lockdowns and far fewer freedoms than we are used to - all while other nations have, or are about to, dramatically free up.

With elimination now accepted as unrealistic, Covid numbers will go up. This means vaccination is now more important than ever, as this ensure less hospitalisations and, ultimately, less fatalities. This will also importantly reduce the strain on our hospitals which are already at capacity. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, I encourage you to do this for your own health and our region’s.

The second big area we need to get right is our borders with other regions. We want to keep Covid cases out while ensuring common sense prevails, and having clear, robust rules in place - and enforcing these - is key to this.

The current rules don’t seem well thought through. For example, I’ve been assisting the families of dying constituents who can’t get through from Auckland to say an urgent and essential goodbye, while others are allowed through our border without particularly exceptional reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want strict borders between regions forever more. These are only necessary, though, because our rates of vaccination and ICU beds are still too low.

Finally, I urge the government to bolster our healthcare system with all the urgency possible. Greater ICU capacity is at the heart of what’s required.

Prior to Covid, New Zealand already had a lower than average, and arguably inadequate, level of ICU beds and nurses compared to other Western countries. But since then, government has done nothing to increase capacity. In Tauranga this means a sum total of 10 beds in our hospital – not nearly enough, and not nearly good enough.

So, let’s vaccinate vaccinate vaccinate and up our healthcare system now. This will allow us to free up and open up, which is vital for us socially, health-wise and economically in the Bay of Plenty.