COVID-19: Simon Bridges 'commends' Government for 'doing something significant'

Simon Bridges is pleased with the Government's decision to require 14 days of self-isolation for almost all arrivals to New Zealand, but he's questioning how it will be enforced. 

"We're in serious dark times," the Opposition leader told Magic Talk. "I commend the Government for doing something significant [but] I've got these very clear questions about how it will work. Should it have been travel bans instead?"

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Saturday that every person entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world - excluding 17 Pacific Island regions - will have to self-isolate for two weeks. 

The restrictions will all be reviewed in just over two weeks. 

Bridges is questioning the Government's decision not to include Australia in the list of exemptions. 

"I'd like a sense of understanding how they went through the process of deciding those places and then yet not Australia," Bridges told Magic Talk. 

"I personally expected travel [restrictions] - but not the Trans-Tasman. I think what we can say, though, is that having done the Trans-Tasman, the effects of that are going to be economically unbelievable."

Strict new border exit measures for people travelling to the Pacific will be put in place, however, including no travel for those who have travelled outside of New Zealand in the past two weeks, and no travel for close or casual contacts of a confirmed case. 

Cruise ships have also been banned from coming to New Zealand until at least 30 June, and the existing travel ban has been retained for China and Iran. 

"I sit there and say, well, it's good we've seen significant decisions this weekend," Bridges said. "They're not early though, we know that, and we've been pushing for bolder action for weeks."

Bridges said the Government's action came "after me repeatedly saying we should be cancelling big events" and that he was relieved when it was announced the March 15 Christchurch memorial event had been cancelled on Sunday.  

He said there are still "many, many questions" about the self-isolation requirement. 

"I'm not sure I understand what will happen if someone in self-isolation needs food. Are they allowed to go to the supermarket? What happens when they come back to their loved ones? Do the loved ones in that household need to go into self-isolation? I want to see those details."

Bridges acknowledged that these questions might be answered on Tuesday when the Government is expected to reveal a massive economic relief package which will include a "targeted wage subsidy scheme". 

The National Party leader said he wants to be "constructive and come with answers" and that one of the suggestions he's sticking by is halting the minimum wage increase to ease pressure on businesses - but the Government has refused.  

"That doesn't stop me talking about it."

ACT leader David Seymour agrees and is calling on the Government to delay by 12 months the introduction of any non-coronavirus-related regulations as a way of supporting businesses and helping keep people employed. 

"The goal must be to reduce pressure on firms so they can keep people employed. Introducing new regulations unrelated to coronavirus will add to the cost, risk and uncertainty of doing business."

Bridges said there is "no hyperbole or exaggeration" he could use to describe the economic effects of COVID-19, pointing to Air New Zealand's decision to slash its long haul flights by 85 percent. 

"We're going to see routes shut, we're going to see airlines pull out, we're going to see small through large businesses go to the wall - so people are going to be waiting with bated breath for the Government's package which will be regrettably late on arrival."

Bridges said if he were Prime Minister, he would have announced a relief package sooner, and would prioritise tax relief and infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy. 

The Government announced details of a $12 billion infrastructure package earlier this year, which Finance Minister Grant Robertson hopes will help to keep workflow. 

Bridges argued: "We keep hearing [about] this $12 billion infrastructure package - but nothing's actually been started."

Robertson said last week it's the Government's belief that targeted solutions is what's required to help specific industries struggling, such as tourism which received an $11 million boost in February.

New Zealand so far has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19.