Jacinda Ardern hits back at Sir John Key's accusations of 'fear and luck' COVID-19 response

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is hitting back at claims from Sir John Key her Government's COVID-19 response strategy is based on "fear" and "hope".

Former Prime Minister Sir John says health officials and the Government are peddling fear around COVID-19 - which he believes doesn't work. 

"Fear and hope are not a strategy. They don't actually work," he told The AM Show on Monday, a day after NZ media outlets including Newshub published his scathing column on the Government's COVID-19 response. 

But Ardern said the Government hoped to ease restrictions once 90 percent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

She told The AM Show the Government's plan is based on facts and statistics and disagreed with Sir John's comments.

"He is wrong," Ardern said. "Hope and luck have not got us the lowest case numbers in the OECD, the lowest death rates, an economy that returned to pre-COVID levels, low unemployment even outside of a pandemic and, might I say, some of the fewest restrictions that any country has experienced."

Ardern said the Government has a plan and a high vaccination rate was crucial for that plan to work. Sir John earlier gave ideas to boost those numbers.

"If you go to young people who, frankly, are under no pressure to go and get vaccinated, go and tell them, 'I tell you what, you can't go to Rhythm n Vines, you can't go to a nightclub, you can't go to a bar, you can't get on the Air New Zealand flight' - go and see how many of them still think spoons can stick to their left arm when they're getting the vaccine," Sir John said.

And he's found an ally in Epsom MP David Seymour, who served as Regulatory Reform Minister under Sir John between 2014 and 2017 as part of a confidence and supply agreement with Seymour's ACT Party.

Speaking to Newshub, Seymour said New Zealand won't get very far with the Government's scaremongering.

"It's time to move from fear and uncertainty to hope and optimism - if we're not prepared to do that then all we have is misery and suffering."

Seymour said there needed to be a plan for getting New Zealand back to normal.

Last month, before the emergence of New Zealand's Delta outbreak, Ardern released a four-phase plan to ease restrictions and reconnect the country over the next six months.