The summer planning approach supports New Zealand’s elimination strategy to keep COVID-19 out. If we find it, we will stamp it out. To manage any community cases over the holidays, the Government’s COVID-19 team and the national support network are ready.
The summer holiday period poses unique challenges in responding to an outbreak of COVID-19. Large numbers of people will be travelling for holidays or seasonal work, there are more social gatherings and large events such as festivals — and like other Kiwis, there will be health system workers taking well-deserved leave.
New Zealanders can be reassured the planning has been extensive and has included scenario testing and understanding the actions that might be needed, including, as a last resort, Alert Level changes.
Contingency plans are in place
If a positive case were found in the community, we would use the usual approach to communicating with the public — updates and advice from the Prime Minister, the COVID-19 Response Minister and/or the Director-General of Health (or his delegate).
The Government’s planning has revolved around 3 broad scenarios.
In each of these scenarios, extensive contingency plans are in place. We have learnt from previous cases and regional lockdowns and used that knowledge to refine our plans and preparations. We know what to do.
The health system is ready
The health system is standing ready. People and resources are on call. Our supply chains are stocked. Government agencies are tightly connected and have worked closely with local government, iwi and community leaders, Civil Defence and Emergency Management and the private sector to ensure a fully coordinated response.
People in remote locations where there is limited cellphone coverage would very likely be safe from exposure to COVID-19, but would need to follow public health advice upon return from those locations — this is a personal responsibility.
Be prepared for a worst-case scenario
In a worst-case scenario, if it became clear there was a high risk of widespread transmission, you would need to stay where you are in your bubble until you get official advice. We do not want people rushing home and possibly taking the virus with them.
It’s important to remember that this is a worst-case scenario. After a long, hard year, we all deserve to enjoy our summer, including those who are working hard through the holidays to keep us safe. Let’s thank them by doing our bit to stop the spread of COVID-19.
And if we’re going away on a break, we should also think about what we would do if we were required to stay at our holiday location while we wait for official advice. That might mean a backup plan for homes or pets if we cannot get home straight away.