I hope you’ve all managed to have a restful break over the long weekend and that those who observe Easter were able to celebrate in their bubbles. I know that many churches livestreamed their service so that those at home could participate, albeit in a slightly unusual manner. I also want to convey my best wishes to all who recently celebrated their New Year (as many of us of Indian origin have) and to our Punjabi brothers and sisters who are celebrating Baisakhi.   

This week, we’ve seen a lower number of new cases of COVID-19 - just19 new cases – but an increase in the death toll to nine.  These deaths are a sobering reminder that Covid19 remains a serious threat and that we all need to stay the course – to stay at home and in our bubbles so that we can save lives.COVID-19 is a challenge like we have never seen before.

Our goal is to eliminate COVID-19 from New Zealand so that we can live and work free from this disease. This is the best thing we can do for our people, our communities, and our economy.

We attacked the disease early and hard by going into lockdown or Alert Level 4. This has put us in a good position to eliminate the disease, bank those gains and to get ready to transition to Alert Level 3. When this decision is made, it will be because we have transmission under control and can tolerate a little more risk.

Getting this far has required a collective effort by every New Zealander.  We are all making extraordinary sacrifices to protect the people, communities, businesses and traditions we care about. Thank you.

We will not risk going to Alert Level 3 too early. We will move when we have met four criteria:

  • We know that community transmission is under control, and the transmission rate is very low.
  • We have robust measures at the border stopping new infection.
  • We have tracing and testing capacity to shut down any new outbreak.
  • We have supplies for, and capacity, in the health system.

It is vital that everyone knows we are still under Alert Level 4, and all Alert Level 4 restrictions remain in place.

In the meantime, we’re still scaling up the health response and PPE availability to protect frontline workers, with testing ramping up too. The best economic response continues to be a strong health response

Beyond the public health response, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to manage the outbreak and planning for further scenarios. A key part of this is planning for the economic impacts of the virus.

As we do this, we know that this Government’s economic plan has been strengthening and growing the economy, even in the face of the global headwinds we have faced over the past two years, like the US-China trade war and Brexit uncertainty.

We go into this situation with the economy in good shape. Our levels of debt are very low compared to the rest of the world. We are in a strong position to stand up to the economic and health impacts of coronavirus.  International credit rating agency Moody’s recently reaffirmed its highest AAA credit rating on New Zealand, saying the economy is expected to remain resilient, backed by the Government’s strong fiscal management and our flexible economy.

The government’s priorities have been to protect the health of New Zealanders and the economy. That’s why we’re making sure New Zealanders have what they need during this lockdown to stay home, break the chain and save lives.

A million New Zealanders have now been supported by the Wage Subsidy, which continues to keep workers and employers connected during the lockdown so they are in the best position to reopen and kick-start the economy out the other side.

This is backed by the business finance guarantee, tax changes to improve cash flow, the rent freeze, Winter Energy Payment boost and income support measures, which are all targeted at supporting incomes and jobs.

The government’s early action has seen money get out the door and given us valuable time. There is still much to do and further support options will continue to be developed as the situation evolves.

Please stay home, please stay in your bubble, please help break the chain of transmission to save lives.

Part of the government’s efforts to support New Zealanders during these uncertain and challenging times is to assist, where possible, Kiwis stranded overseas. The fact that there were close to 800 Kiwis stranded in India was brought to my attention last week and I raised this directly with our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She assured me that she would look into the possibility of flights to assist them to return to New Zealand.

Within a week, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, announced that the government will repatriate New Zealanders stranded in India. Minister Peters reiterated that discussions were ongoing with airlines and international partners and that this is a seriously complex endeavour due to the current lockdown and a large number of New Zealanders in various locations around India. Important Information for New Zealanders who want to travel back from India

Those who are in this situation should ensure that:

  • They are registered with Safe Travel NZ and that their details are updated so that they receive information via Safe Travel. This will include an invitation to express their interest to access these repatriation flights
  • They apply for a travel ban exception via Immigration New Zealand’s website if they are not NZ citizens or residents and believe they are eligible for such an exception
  • Apply for financial assistance if they have exhausted all avenues for temporary financial assistance. For those in this position, a financial assistance application form will be provided by the booking agent to those who want to apply for assistance.

The New Zealand government has established a global framework for pricing repatriation flights.  The flights are undertaken on a cost-recovery basis.  This means that the costs recovered do not cover the full cost of the flight and as such, these flights are already heavily subsidised.

Please note that quarantine requirements have been put in place for all international travellers arriving in New Zealand and you will be required to enter 14-day quarantine on arrival in New Zealand. You can find information on those here: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-current-situation/covid-19-border-controls

If you do require urgent consular assistance, including if you are facing financial difficulties, please contact the 24/7 New Zealand consular assistance line on +64 9 920 2020. The New Zealand High Commission is operating remotely with reduced services due to the quarantine in New Delhi.

Once again, thank you all for staying safe in your bubbles and working together to break the chain of transmission.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour List MP based in Maungakiekie, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities