COVID-19: Chris Hipkins snaps back at David Seymour for claiming Sir David Skegg panel a 'focus group'

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is denying claims the Government is "focus grouping" a report into New Zealand's border, led by prominent epidemiologist Sir David Skegg.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Hipkins was pressed on accusations by ACT leader David Seymour about the new report by the Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group. The report recommended a "phased reopening" that shouldn't commence until next year. 

Seymour questioned on Tuesday - before the report was released on Wednesday morning - what the function of the public health advisory group was. The group was set up in April, with the purpose of advising the Government on critical decisions about the pandemic. 

"The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has spent $250,000 on focus groups to analyse the COVID response," he said in a statement.

But Hipkins rejected those claims.

"That's just not true," he said.

In another statement on Wednesday - after the report was made public - Seymour said the paper offered nothing his party hadn't already.

"Altogether, there is nothing new in this report and that's why the Government has sat on it."

At Wednesday's regular COVID-19 press conference, Hipkins was also asked if the report was all the advice the Government had received from Sir David and the advisory group.

"It's certainly the full extent of the written advice but we have also met regularly to talk through it… but the written advice is what we have released," Hipkins told reporters.

Earlier in the briefing, Hipkins issued a stark warning New Zealanders should prepare for future lockdowns - given the spread of the prominent and highly infectious Delta variant.

Sydney, for example, is still reporting hundreds of daily COVID-19 cases as it grapples with a Delta outbreak - despite the city being in its seventh week of lockdown.