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Press Release – Science Media Centre

Ahead of the 2020 general election, scheduled to be held on September 19, the Science Media Centre posed nine science-related policy questions to political parties. Full responses are available <strong><a href=”https://sciencemediacentre.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=fdc5316d8cbd7a248ee94eaeb&id=b0ac89646f&e=67d2de6c0f” …

Ahead of the 2020 general election, scheduled to be held on September 19, the Science Media Centre posed nine science-related policy questions to political parties.

Full responses are available on our website. The COVID-19-related responses are also below.

We asked the Labour, National, Green, NZ First, ACT, Māori and TOP parties for their policies on the following topics:

COVID-19
Mental health
Climate change
Research sector

Cannabis

Fresh water
Conservation
Biosecurity
Smoking & vaping

NZ First has yet to respond: we will add the party’s comments to our website when they are available. Let us know if you want to be alerted when those final responses are added. The Māori party have declined the invitation.

COVID-19

What is your party’s plan to control COVID-19 in New Zealand, and will this include a new public health agency? How will you balance this response against wider societal and economic concerns?

NATIONAL: National is committed to elevating the role of public health. Covid-19 has highlighted issues with the structure and funding of public health. We are committed to greater coordination across Public Health Units. We will also review the Pandemic Action Plan in light of the experience of Covid-19 and respond accordingly. If the question regarding “a new public health agency” refers to the recommendation in the Heather Simpson review that there be a new Crown entity provisionally called Health NZ to coordinate all DHBs, we do not support that.

National will effectively manage border policies. Community surveillance has fallen away. National will have a structured approach to widespread ongoing community surveillance. National recognises the importance of information technology in pandemics and will collaborate with public and private developers for the best solutions possible.

LABOUR: Labour went hard and early with its health response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand. That included swift border closure and a strict lockdown. New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 1. There are just a handful of active cases of COVID-19 here, and all are in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

Labour continues to focus on keeping New Zealanders safe, while minimising the ongoing economic impact of the virus. That means ensuring robust systems for managed isolation and quarantine, and testing and contact tracing, as well as a continuing public information campaign that promotes basic measures like good hygiene and keeping track of where you go, all intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Going hard and early with our health response has not only saved lives but allowed our economy to bounce back sooner than others. Labour has a five-point plan for economic recovery, and with the investments we’ve already made as part of this plan, projections show unemployment could be back down to normal levels in just two years, and our economy could be growing again as early as next year.

Our five-point economic recovery plan is about investing in people, protecting and creating jobs, preparing for the future, backing small business, and positioning ourselves globally.

GREEN: COVID-19 has highlighted the value of a strong public health system. Throughout 2020, the Green Party has been comfortable taking a science-led approach and following public health advice. We resisted calls to end the lockdown early for economic reasons: in our view, there is no point opening “the economy” if it creates serious risks to public health. We support continuing managed isolation for new arrivals for as long as public health experts believe is necessary.

In principle, we support the recommendation of the Health & Disability System Review to create a new public health agency. Good health starts in the community with healthy food and healthy homes. We welcome a stronger emphasis on preventative health and wellbeing and look forward to working with other parties in the next Parliament to make this happen.

ACT: ACT’s position on economic recovery is simple. We need to kickstart the economy while continuing to protect the public from COVID-19. We need smart policies with how we go about it. Just as East Asian jurisdictions, like Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, learnt from their experience with SARS and were prepared for COVID-19, we must learn from the COVID-19 experience and be prepared.

To improve our speed of response to future events, ACT would permanently increase funding to public health by 50% to $660 million a year. We would consolidate the 12 Public Health Units around the country and merge them into a single National Public Health Service, with its own human health border inspection service and a health surveillance capability independent of the WHO. This Service would manage an expanded national PPE stockpile and audit DHBs’ and social care operators’ pandemic plans.

The Opportunities Party (TOP): One of the cornerstones of TOP is that we are an evidence-based party. In response to COVID-19 TOP has called for the reinstatement of the Public Health Commission to act as an independent body of experts which would advise the government on effective and efficient health-based policies. Having an independent body would allow us to continue to listen to experts which has served us well during this first wave of COVID-19. TOP would continue to support current management systems such as managed isolation and contact tracing.

In response to the wider societal and economic concerns, one of TOP’s key pieces of policy is the rolling out of a Universal Basic Income to support New Zealanders. This UBI would help provide financial security and flexibility to everyone, including those who have lost jobs due to COVID, or who are seeing work opportunities and hours dwindling but who don’t qualify for additional financial support under current government policy. The UBI will help buoy the economy as there is more currency flowing and will help reduce the immediate impact of borders being closed for longer.

Responses to eight other science policy questions are on the Science Media Centre website.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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