Covid 19 response: Interview with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on what the government did right and wrong

March 17, 2022 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says vaccine warrants and passes are unlikely to be used as widely as before and Cabinet will consider traffic light settings next week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wishes the government had “brought more people with us” in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an in-depth interview with Newstalk ZB this morning, Ardern reviewed two years of handling the pandemic and foresaw New Zealand’s potential path out of the pandemic.

Ardern spoke about what she thinks New Zealand has been doing right and wrong in its response to the pandemic so far.

She said that, given that the government was working with imperfect and constantly changing information, it was right to close its borders in March 2020 – against the advice of the World Health Organization. The crucial decision gave New Zealanders relative freedom for a long time, she said.

“And it was very hard for everyone, but the alternative would have been for the Covid to circulate without a vaccine.”

Asked by ZB’s Francesca Rudkin what she got wrong in the Covid response, Ardern said: “I wish we could get through those final stages…bringing more people with us.

“I don’t know what the answer to that is but…wish we could have done that. How, I didn’t quite land because again the flip side was probably restrictions more generic affecting more people rather than targeted people who only affected a few.

“But I’ll probably think about it for a long time.”

The Prime Minister said one of the benefits of the public’s “proximity” to New Zealand MPs was that she always knew when people disagreed with her or her government’s policies.

“There will be times when we make a decision that people don’t agree with. And the most important thing is that as long as we do it because we think it’s the right thing to do.

“I won’t always have it right, but back then I always made decisions that I thought were in the best interest.”

Ardern was asked about how she personally dealt with the pain and grief caused by some of the government’s Covid-19 measures: border restrictions, preventing family from attending funerals and job losses caused by warrants vaccination.

“One of our critical advisers through this, who is from the scientific community, mentioned to me the other day that according to his calculations, more or less 5000 people were saved because of what we had done.

“So in those moments, I think about that. Now these 5,000 people, they don’t know who they are. They don’t know that they are the ones who have been potentially protected by these measures. But I just keep that in mind. . It was hard, but the flip side would have been even more painful.”

The Cabinet will this week discuss when vaccination mandates and other Covid measures could be scrapped.

Ardern said that with only 190,000 eligible people unvaccinated and many already exposed to Covid, New Zealand would be able to move away from mandates and “put them back in the toolbox”.

He was asked if New Zealand could revert to stricter measures in the event of a new outbreak. She said another variant that the vaccine was not effective against and that made people “seriously ill” would be a game-changer for the whole world and not just New Zealand.

“At this stage, everything is different for everyone. But for us, we are now very much in line with the approaches of other countries.”

She predicted that people would adapt to the major changes brought about by Covid as they had to another world-shaking event, the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Ardern was a student at Arizona State University in 2001.

“I still remember the difference when I traveled to the United States before 9/11 and when I left. And I felt like nothing would ever be the same again.

“And yet, over time, it has become embedded in the way we do things. We would hardly notice now that in airports we have a fundamentally different experience than before.

“And I think the same will be said for this pandemic. There will be parts of our way of life that will change forever. But we will also acclimate to that.

“It may be that in the future, alongside biosecurity measures, we will have health screening measures at our airports. And we may in the long term be better off … but we will probably stop noticing it.


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