COVID-19: David Seymour calls for Government to be 'honest and real' in face of Omicron variant

ACT leader David Seymour is calling for "calm and clarity" in the face of the new Omicron variant, warning we can't afford a repeat of the Government's handling of Delta.

Recently identified in South Africa, Omicron could be several times more infectious than the original coronavirus and it's unclear how effective current vaccines are against it.

Already a number of nations have issued travel restrictions from southern African countries to prevent the spread, including Australia, the UK, Canada and the US.

Seymour says the Government should consider doing the same, while continuing its plan of moving to the COVID protection framework and opening borders.

"The Government should reassure New Zealanders that it will buy time with selective border closures. It should immediately list the countries with the Omicron variant to high risk and limit travel. It should be meeting urgently today to put in place a plan," he warns.

"The Government also needs to be honest and real. This new variant exists, and it's only a matter of time before it reaches our shores, whatever we do. We cannot afford, given the pressures on the workforce, many industries, and cost of living, to do any more debt-supported national isolation.

"People badly need clarity in the Government's response, so that they can plan their lives. It's not just people's Christmases that need clarity, it's all those people who need their businesses to reopen, or become viable at all."

Seymour's calling for the Government to upgrade its overall COVID response, warning while it's still unclear how dangerous Omicron is, this variant "won't be the last".

"ACT will be watching the response to Omicron to see if anything at all has changed since the Government was not ready for Delta. Just yesterday, a Friday afternoon document dump, where the Government tried to hide the evidence of its poor handling of Delta, included a letter from Sir Brian Roche," he says.

"The letter outlined a litany of failings including poor levels of preparedness in hospitals and not enough testing and tracing. All things ACT has been highlighting for months.

"COVID Response Chris Hipkins needs to let New Zealanders know what the Government is doing to prepare for Omicron. We can't let the response be the same as Delta."