The National Party has released its border policy, outlining how a negative COVID-19 test would be required of returnees before their flight, ahead of managed isolation when they return to New Zealand.
If National is elected to power, it says a new Te Korowai Whakamaru/NZ Border Protection Agency would be set up to provide comprehensive oversight and management of COVID-19 at the border, as well as other public health threats.
People travelling to New Zealand would be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test three days before their departure. They would then be required to have a test on days three and 12 in New Zealand, as is currently the case.
National already announced last month that it would charge new arrivals at the border for their quarantine stay from October 3, with single adults charged $3000 each, an additional adult in a room $1000 and children $500.
The current Government is only charging people who leave New Zealand and come back, or those who visit the country for 90 days. Adults are charged $3100 per room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child.
Newshub revealed earlier this month that the half-a-billion-dollars set aside to pay for the costs of the managed isolation facilities for the rest of the year will not be enough despite the Government introducing a charging system.
National would also aim to ramp up the speed of tests by exploring a 'test on demand' system, with the ambition of waiting no longer than 60 minutes for a COVID-19 test.
National Party leader Judith Collins said on Thursday Government "dropped the ball" on testing, tracing and managing people in isolation.
"The current ad-hoc system of managing COVID-19 at our border - putting various agencies in charge of different facets - has led to a disorderly and confused response, putting the health and livelihoods of five million New Zealanders at risk."
The National Party would:
- Establish Te Korowai Whakamaru/NZ Border Protection Agency
- Require international travellers to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in New Zealand
- Strive towards a test-on-demand system with a waiting time target of no longer than 60 minutes for a COVID-19 test result
- Prepare a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur, allowing lockdowns to be more targeted and shorter in duration
- Widen the availability of testing nationwide
National's COVID-19 border response spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said a Crown agency dedicated to defencing New Zealand from the virus would be established within National's first 100 days in Government.
"This agency will be resourced to act as a centre of expertise. It will have the personnel, technology and capability to provide a world-class defence against COVID-19," he said on Thursday.
"The expensive and ineffective systems we have now aren't up to scratch. National will manage the border effectively to keep New Zealanders safe."
National's policy also mentions exploring alternative contact tracing technologies, such as a 'Covid Card', which the current Government is already exploring.
The Opposition would also aim to regularly test aged-care workers and increase opportunities for testing within aged-care facilities.
Brownlee said National will "immediately invest" and seek to rapidly deploy Bluetooth technologies to enhance contract tracing, making these mandatory for border facility workers and District Health Board staff who treat or test patients.
The Government has been grappling with Newshub's revelation that the week before the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland more than 60 percent of all border-facing workers in the city had never been tested.
That was despite the Government announcing a new testing strategy on June 23 which outlined the prioritisation of testing of border workers and airline staff - those most likely to have been exposed to the coronavirus.
The new strategy included "regular health checks and asymptomatic testing of all border facing workers" - but the Government has since admitted that the amount of testing happening on the ground did not live up to its expectations.