The government massively underestimated the number of people returning to New Zealand – and the costs of keeping them in manageable isolation, according to documents released today.
Hundreds of documents related to the government’s pandemic response were released this morning.
They include the Cabinet paper on April 17, which places estimates cost of hotel insulation being managed $ 195 million for the first six months, based on 190 arrivals a day.
However, in the first two and a half months, the bill has reached around $ 80 million and is now expected to reach half a billion by the end of the year.
Megan Woods, the minister responsible for managed isolation facilities, announced this week plans to charge fees for those who enter temporary New Zealand or leave after new regulations come into force.
It is expected to return less than $ 10 million.
Another paper from June 17 about allowing Resumption of transit visa, noting the risk that some people could be stranded in New Zealand because border restrictions change in a short period of time.
“If their country is next after New Zealand refuses to let them board, there may not be another flight to return [the country they just left] so passengers must stay in Auckland in managed isolation. “
Increased social inequality
The government hopes that the already high and increasing level of homelessness will be exacerbated by the social and economic impacts arising from Covid-19.
According to the Cabinet committee report homelessness, more than 1,000 people have been accommodated in motels across the country.
It is said an increase in unemployment and a reduction in income is expected to further increase homelessness in the future and long term.
He noted that in early July, the demand for Emergency Special Needs Grants had risen 42 percent over the 10-week period from the start of the standby level 4.
The report says the impact of Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate inequality for groups that are already experiencing high levels of homelessness, such as Māori, Pacific and rangatahi communities, or young people.
Mandatory display of QR codes is considered
Business owners may face imprisonment or large fines for refusing to display government QR codes for fast contact tracing, under the option considered by the Cabinet.
In a paper from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on June 8, the Cabinet was asked to decide whether to do it requires businesses to display a QR code or just encourage them to do it.
“My recommendation is to take a voluntary approach at this time, but with the knowledge that options to make it a legal requirement are available if needed,” Ardern wrote.
According to the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, non-compliance will be subject to a sentence of up to six months in prison or a $ 4000 fine.
The paper notes there will also be “challenges to law enforcement” from a mandatory approach.
“Officials recommend exceptions for organizations where obtaining a QR code is unnecessary or practical.
“This will make it difficult to know whether an organization is not displaying code that is inappropriate or excluded.
“And the mandatory requirements must include retail outlets. It might seem contradictory that retailers will face requirements that can be imposed to support contact tracing at level 1 alert when they are not at level 2.”
Conversely, a voluntary approach will “produce a more positive tone”.
Public health impact
The Ministry of Health has refused requests from intensive care specialists for high-level masks for health workers handling Covid patients.
A Cabinet paper from June 2 noted a request from the expert advisory group for revise service guidelines on the protective mask in the intensive care unit.
The ministry currently recommends surgical masks for all health workers associated with suspected or confirmed Covid cases, and the use of N95 masks during risky procedures.
The expert advisory group recommends N95 respirator masks be used by all health workers who manage suspected Covid cases, and those who carry out the procedure are at risk of being given a class N100 mask.
However, the Ministry of Health said that there is no clinical evidence that the N100 respirator provides greater protection against Covid-19.
“The ministry recommends that there be no changes to the current guidelines, but the guidelines are reviewed when additional evidence and data are available.”
The Director General of Health wants the country to remain at level 2 limits for a few more days.
In a report to then Health Minister David Clark on June 5, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said New Zealand was “on the right track” to move to level 1 in the week starting June 8 – far earlier than earlier suggestions that loosening of restrictions should not be considered until at least June 26.
“My preference is for level 1 to take effect on Friday 12 June, which is 14 days since level 2 was fully implemented and the time when conservative estimates indicate the likelihood that 95 percent of Covid-19 has been eliminated.”
However, when the Cabinet met on June 8, he decided to move to level 1 starting at midnight.
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