The country’s disabled population urgently needs a Covid plan, with barriers to getting tested and vaccinated disadvantaging the community, National’s Disability Issues spokesperson Penny Simmonds says.

 “Our disabled population cannot continue to be left out of the vaccination and testing programmes in this country.

 “Almost one-in-four Kiwis identifies as living with a disability, yet there’s a massive gap in our vaccination and Covid-testing options.

 “The disabled appear to be the forgotten New Zealanders of this pandemic,” the Member of Parliament from Invercargill says.

 “A lack of public transport to and from vaccination points, long periods waiting in queues and busy, over-stimulating environments just aren’t suitable for many disabled people.

 “Barriers to getting our disabled population vaccinated and tested means we have a significant number of people in our communities, often with compromised health, in an incredibly vulnerable situation.

 “Disability advocates have also told me that many isolation facilities are just not accessible to the disabled, and with carers not allowed in to provide people with support, I’m hearing that disabled people in the community are fearful of getting tested.

 “Alternatives for vaccinations, such as priority queues to shorten wait times and the provision of quiet spaces just haven't been implemented, despite requests from disability advocates.

 “A mobile unit which can go into the homes of people who can't physically get to vaccination centres also needs to be established and saliva testing should be made available as soon as possible.

 “Our disabled population cannot continue to be left out of the vaccination and testing rollout – the risks are just too high.”