100 signatures reached
To: The Team of 5 Million & the New Zealand Government
Return to COVID-19 Elimination
In March of 2020, Aotearoa New Zealand led the world in a decision that set us apart as a nation. That decision was choosing to prioritise the people of this country, to pursue an elimination strategy against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. And it worked. People pulled together, were kind, stayed home to save lives and were supported by the Government to do so, and together, we became a Team of 5 Million. For over a year most of us enjoyed a life of relative safety and extraordinary freedom, while other countries experienced astronomical avoidable death tolls.
On Tuesday the 17th of August we set out to pursue elimination again, after the Delta variant of COVID-19 was found in our community. With proper supports, we may have been able to stamp it out as we had previously. However, the Government has not provided proper supports this time; there have not been the same Income Relief Payment schemes, doubling of the Winter Energy payment and allowance for course-related costs, increase in benefit levels, or any steps taken to make it easier for people to access income support through Work and Income and/or Studylink, nor has there been any COVID-19 response budget packages providing targeted supports to Māori and Pacific communities. This lack of support has made it difficult for communities to comply with lockdown rules, which in turn, has led to the abandonment of the elimination strategy.
On Monday the 4th of October 2021, the New Zealand Government announced they were leaving the strategy that had been effective before. This decision to abandon elimination seems to have been made against the advice of Māori and Pacific health experts. This decision to abandon elimination comes too early, according to trusted experts.
We all want to return to Level 1, but we cannot achieve Level 1 by any path other than Elimination. Delta exposed the weaknesses in our Elimination strategy Level 3 & 4, as many people needed additional support to stay home and save lives once again. Instead of strengthening our only pathway through, however, the government abandoned it. The way forward is a tried and trusted method, with improvements. The government should not have moved away from Elimination, they should have fixed it, to ensure people were not left behind. The Team of 5 Million must include all of us. Without all of us, it becomes a hollow appeal to nationalism. We demand the government serve the only purpose it exists to serve: the people.
This choice to not improve on the Elimination strategy, but instead to give up on it, endangers all of us... but abandoning Elimination does not endanger us all equally. Vaccines are an important tool in addressing COVID-19, as is wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and sanitising. We know that we cannot rely on one tool alone, we know vaccinations are an essential component, and we know it will not be enough on its own. Our children, our elders, our disabled and vulnerable whānau are essential. Our health care workers are essential. Our loved ones are not disposable. We cannot take a risk this great, we cannot afford to abandon Elimination, when all it needed was a little improvement.
As with the first COVID-19 response, there is a need for the Government to listen to and work with iwi, hapū and Māori organisations in order to deliver culturally appropriate solutions to ensure Māori receive equitable support and resources.
Partnership under Te Tiriti requires us to recognise and support rangatiratanga to be expanded, strengthened and embedded fully by the Government. We encourage the Government to do better to understand the collective nature of Te Ao Māori values, including mātauranga Māori and strengthen efforts to ensure that Māori can exercise their rights collectively with their whānau, hapū and iwi. We urge the Government to recognise the legitimacy of Māori-led solutions and to support them as a priority as part of a return to the elimination response. We uplift, support, and affirm the mahi of Māori groups, and other initiatives led and organised by Māori.
Why is this important?
A return to Elimination with improvements to the COVID Alert Levels is the way forward. We urge people to sign, to email their MPs, and to go on social media to say that we support a return to COVID Elimination, with improved economic supports, so we can effectively end the spread of COVID in our communities. The way to Level 1 is a supported Level 4. Our lives depend on it. The lives of our children and our whānau depend on it. We have done it before, we can do it again, if the government enables us.