ACT leader David Seymour wants New Zealand to 'accept new reality' that COVID-19 is 'here to stay'

ACT leader David Seymour wants New Zealand to "accept a new reality" that COVID-19 is "here to stay" because the country cannot afford a rolling maul of lockdowns. 

"If a lockdown is required to maintain elimination, then it is time to have an honest conversation about accepting a new reality that the virus is here to stay and we must learn to live with it intelligently," Seymour said on Friday. 

"It's simply unaffordable to have a rolling maul of lockdowns and the uncertainty and other health impacts that brings. I don't think that people are going to accept having a lockdown as the only tool to deal with an outbreak," he added. 

"I think we're going to have to live with it."

Auckland was put into alert level 3 lockdown for three days starting from Wednesday after COVID-19 was discovered in the community, with the source still unknown. The rest of the country was put into alert level 2. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Friday evening that Cabinet had decided to keep the current alert levels in place for an additional 12 days, with a review set for August 21. 

Seymour said he would not recommend New Zealand follow in the footsteps of Sweden, which has embraced a 'herd immunity' approach to overcoming the coronavirus. More than 5000 Swedes have perished from the virus.  

Seymour said New Zealand should follow Taiwan. 

"Some people would say we need to be like Sweden, that's wrong - we need to be like Taiwan who managed to minimise the impact of COVID-19 and their economy simultaneously," he said.

"I've been saying for some time we need to get smarter about public health, we need to treat people from different countries differently depending on risk, we need to augment our public response with better technology in partnership with the private sector."

Newshub Investigations Reporter Michael Morrah reported on Thursday that only 1089 of 2980 border workers in Auckland had been tested as of August 3, meaning around 63.5 percent of the Auckland border workforce had never had a test.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said on Friday testing will be made mandatory at the border. He said it wasn't previously compulsory because some workers did not want to be tested and it is "quite a big lever to pull". 

Seymour said it's not good enough. 

"People are absolutely flabbergasted at the performance of some of the Government, particularly the Minister of Health, who says it's a big lever to test those people who are most likely to encounter COVID-19," he said. 

"Well Chris Hipkins, if it's a big lever to test people most likely to be exposed, then how big a lever is it to lockdown a whole city."

Seymour criticised the Ministry of Health for incorrectly naming Pakuranga College as an affected school during the 1pm press conference on Friday. 

While there is a casual link, the Ministry of Health said it was awaiting further test results and at this point no additional public health action is required from the school.  

It came after Hipkins promised "verified and fact-checked" information from the Government. 

"What I can say is that when the Director-General, the Prime Minister or I or any other minister stands here to give you this report, what we are saying is all verified and fact-checked and we will not put out any information from this podium or from these announcements that is not completely accurate," Hipkins said. 

Seymour said those errors create distrust of the Government. 

"As some of the kids at the school might say, WTF," he said. "People make mistakes, but if you stand up and say we are the one source of truth, and the things you do say are true, then that really erodes confidence in the Government."

The ACT leader also took aim at Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters who told Australia's ABC 24 News on Thursday evening a "usually very reliable" journalist told him the Auckland outbreak was linked to the quarantine system

"The Spanish have a name for Winston Peters - it's desperado," Seymour said. 

"I mean seriously, he's supposed to be the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and he's going on international TV spreading unfounded scuttlebutt because a journalist apparently told him something," he added. 

"I mean, if it wasn't such a serious situation you'd have to laugh at him."

Hipkins said Peters never said it was official information. 

"He was very clear in that interview that he did not get that information from an official source, so he can comment on that if he wishes to."