COVID-19: National's 'home by Christmas' plan a tantalising prospect for tens of thousands stranded offshore

"Home by Christmas" - the National Party has laid down the gauntlet to the Government with a plan to throw open the borders and get rid of lockdowns by December

The party released its opening up plan on Wednesday which promises to "supercharge" the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, ditch lockdowns at 70-75 percent vaccinated, and introduce a traffic light system for travel to New Zealand.

It would mean double vaccinated Kiwis in countries with low COVID-19 risk could come home without the need to isolate - a tantalising prospect for the tens of thousands of New Zealanders stranded offshore who missed out on Tuesday night's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) lottery.

Alexandra Birt was one of the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who missed out in the MIQ lottery. She summed up being a Kiwi overseas: "Devastated, abandoned and furious."

"People are really angry with their country and if I could add a fourth word, I would say ashamed," she told Newshub.

"A lot of people for the first time are feeling genuinely ashamed of the way their country is treating its citizens and particularly those who are in vulnerable or really tragic situations - to see the way they've been abandoned is just shocking."

National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop agrees.

"A lottery in human misery," he described the MIQ system. "It's like the Hunger Games except it's not fictional - it's Kiwi citizen's lives we're talking about."

National took off to the underused Wellington Airport to rewrite the story by unveiling their proposals for opening up.

"Under our plan, Kiwis will be able to fly," said National leader Judith Collins.

Releasing their 'Opening Up' plan, there was one key promise in Santa's sack.

"National's plan means Kiwis overseas could come home to spend this Christmas with loved ones," said Collins.

Kiwis would be able to come home using National's traffic light travel system. It works like this for double vaccinated travellers who test negative:

  • No isolation for travel from 'green light' countries considered low-risk
  • Seven days self-isolation at home for travel from 'orange light' countries considered medium-risk
  • Standard 14 days in MIQ for travel from 'red light' countries considered high-risk

Unvaccinated Kiwis would also have to spend 14 days in MIQ, while unvaccinated foreigners would be completely banned.

The Government isn't on board.

"On the first day of Christmas National gave to me: COVID," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson joked in Parliament.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said National was proposing to "open the floodgate without getting it right first", which she described as "rushed" and "risky".

National would open the borders when 85 percent of over 12s are fully vaccinated but Bishop couldn't say how they'd get it done by D-day, admitting they don't have modelling to back it up.

"Not in the sense of numbers per day," he said.

It would require an epic upswing in vaccine rates which are dropping off massively from the peak of the Delta outbreak.

National says it's got that covered: supercharging vaccines by prioritising south Auckland, the vulnerable, schools, Māori and 'the youth' - think vaccine club hubs.

Collins wasn't quite familiar with the term used when Newshub asked how many people she expected would hit the clubs and get a jab.

"She means go to nightclubs," Bishop said with a grin.

"If one of those conditions of going to drum n bass post-midnight is getting vaccinated, then you'll probably get vaccinated," he said.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins isn't so sure about that. A Pfizer chaser with your Red Bull and vodka is not for everyone.

"I'm not sure that when people are loaded up on alcohol  that's necessarily  the right environment to be safely administering vaccines."

Collins isn't worried about the ethics of vaccinating people when they might be out on the razz.


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