Coronavirus: Judith Collins not keen on ACT leader David Seymour's call to learn to live with COVID-19

National leader Judith Collins is not keen on ACT leader David Seymour's call to learn to live with COVID-19 because she does not think New Zealanders would accept it. 

"I don't think the public's there. I think that we don't have to accept that we have thousands of people dying or having their health impaired by COVID-19," Collins told Magic Talk on Monday.

Seymour said on Friday he wanted 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," he said. 

"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."

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. 

He said New Zealand should follow Taiwan by embracing smart borders. 

It came after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland would be kept under alert level 3 restrictions until August 26 after COVID-19 was discovered in the community. The rest of the country will stay at alert level 2. 

The Prime Minister said on Monday COVID-19 is the "world's new normal" and that the Government is working as hard as it can to "make sure that our new normal disrupts our lives as little as possible". 

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty

Collins told Magic Talk there is no need to accept COVID-19 as the new normal if there is confidence in security at the border to keep the virus out. 

"What we have seen at the moment after only a couple of months is total complacency and that comes from the Government - the messaging, the lack of any insistence on the COVID Tracer App, the lack of ability to actually test people," she said. 

"I think we'll be able to say to people it's not the elimination strategy that's the problem - it's the Government and their inability to deal with the most basic security issues."

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said on Saturday he was frustrated and disappointed the Government was misled about the level of COVID-19 testing of frontline border staff. 

It came after Newshub's investigations reporter Michael Morrah revealed that just one week before the current community outbreak, 63.5 percent of all border and hotel isolation workers in Auckland had never been tested for COVID-19. 

"Obviously I'm very disappointed by that," Hipkins told Newshub Nation on Saturday. "It has been frustrating - things have not moved as quickly as I would like."

The Government announced in June a new testing strategy to prioritise testing for those who are most likely to have been exposed to COVID-19 which is border and airline staff and those arriving back in New Zealand.

That new strategy included "regular health checks and asymptomatic testing of all border facing workers" - but the data shows that clearly was not happening.

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Getty

The Prime Minister said on Monday Cabinet understood the testing was being done. 

"When we make a Cabinet decision we have an expectation that testing is occurring."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Monday "quite extensive" testing was being done across a number of sites, but he admitted it requires a "lot of coordination". 

"The [Health Minister] was very clear that they wanted that testing to roll out as quickly as possible and we were working with the DHBs and very focused on making sure that happened," Dr Bloomfield said. 

"We were giving the minister and Cabinet very regular updates on the extent of that and based on our updates they were making sure on a regular basis that we were quite clear about the imperative to get the testing scaled up as quickly as possible for our border workers as one part of continuing to strengthen our border measures.

"I was checking every single day and there was clearly a dissonance between what the Prime Minister thought was happening and what was happening on the ground."

Collins described it as a "systemic failure". 

"They haven't put in place the systems and they haven't checked that they're being complied with so don't blame the poor old human at the end of it - blame the fact that the Government put the system in place."

She said National would be unveiling its own border policy this week.