Coronavirus: National's petition for mandatory quarantining received unprecedented response - Simon Bridges

A National Party petition calling for mandatory quarantining at the border has had an unprecedented response, leader Simon Bridges says.

The party launched the petition on Tuesday afternoon calling for all arrivals to be quarantined for at least 14 days, not just those with symptoms or without a self-isolation plan. Bridges has pointed to concern that people could fly into New Zealand, say they have their own self-isolation plan, and be walking around in the community later in the day. 

With the large number of cases overseas, experts, like epidemiologist Professor Sir David Skegg, say a blanket quarantine is needed to ensure Kiwis with the virus don't return to the country and nullify any success our domestic lockdown measures have had. 

Likewise, the National Party leader told The AM Show that implementing a mandatory quarantine was about making sure the four-week lockdown wasn't in vain.

"As we make sacrifices as New Zealanders, as dads can't see their babies in hospital, as people can't go to their loved ones' funerals, let's do some of the things that really matter," he said.

"We know where COVID-19 is coming in from, it is offshore, that is where most of the cases are. This is urgent."

The National Party quarantine petition has had an unprecedented response, Bridges said.

"In the petitions we have done since I have been the Leader of the Opposition, none have had this kind of response. Since we launched it yesterday afternoon, 21,000 signatures without really any effort. I think we will get to 50,000 very easily," he said on Wednesday.

"If we are in this lockdown, we want to get out of it as soon as we possibly can, let's make it the most effective lockdown it possibly can be. That means focussing on the stuff that matters. That's borders and quarantine. It's testing, it's tracing, it's PPE."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled over the last few days that stricter border measures are on their way. On Tuesday, she said her COVID-19 committee has discussed toughening up quarantine and expected final advice on that shortly. 

"I think you’ve seen, from every decision we’ve made at the border, that we see it as an ongoing point of risk, and so we want to make sure that we remove that risk as much as possible. 

"That’s why we’ve only continued to ramp up… I really want a watertight system at our border, and I think we can do better on that."

With only New Zealanders allowed back into the country, arrivals have dropped to a trickle. But Ardern said tens of thousands of Kiwis were initially returning to the country. That scale made mandatory quarantining difficult. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also appeared supportive of tighter border control on Tuesday.

"I agree with what Professor Skegg was saying, that, actually, if we’re going to go for the elimination approach, which is our extended keep it out, stamp it out, and for when we move down out into Alert Level 3, we need to be very confident we are not letting new cases into the country at the border," he said.

There have been questions about whether police are doing enough to check in with those who have arrived back into the country and have gone into self-isolation. Last week, police said not all arrivals in self-isolation had been physically checked in on by officers, while a system through which police can track arrivals via their phones also came under scrutiny as it requires people to opt-in.