We can’t do level 4 again, says Ashburton mayor

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Ashburton mayor Neil Brown has blasted Government and the Ministry of Health for their handling of new arrivals in quarantine, saying the country cannot afford another wave of Covid-19.
News broke this week that two women allowed to leave quarantine early to attend a funeral in Wellington had met acquaintances along the way and been in close, if fleeting, physical contact.
Other breaches of quarantine and managed isolation rules are also emerging, generating anger among the rank and file of New Zealand’s team of five million who locked down to stop the virus spreading.
Mr Brown said Mid Canterbury’s team of 34,000 had done a great job, but that was being jeopardised by the handling of new arrivals at the border, including the two UK women granted compassionate leave to visit a dying parent. They drove from Auckland to Wellington, stopping against the rules.
PM Jacinda Ardern has now suspended compassionate leave and asked the military to oversee those in quarantine and managed isolation after arriving in the country.
Mr Brown said people were now learning of one not breach, but several.
‘‘It is disgusting. We can’t do level 4 again. It will cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars once this is over and it won’t be our children, but our grandchildren, who repay the debt.’’
He said the people of Mid Canterbury had made many social sacrifices during the fight against Covid-19 and others had lost their jobs and businesses.
‘‘Some have lost their livelihoods. There has been sacrifice and all for the greater cause.’’
Like others, he believed Covid-19 had been beaten in New Zealand.
While the Ministry of Health had done good work earlier, it was now letting the team down on border control, he said.
‘‘Government needs to step up and do this job properly. They have let us down just lately.’’
The mayor said Ashburton district, with its agricultural and manufacturing base, and domestic tourism, was well-placed to survive. ‘‘We earn overseas dollars for our economy, which is our success. We will be the first to come out of this as long as the politicians do what they should.’’
Mr Brown and district councillors voted today to suspend their special Covid-19 response committee, which has met weekly since late March.
‘‘Thank you all for your contributions over the last period of time in lockdown,’’ he told his fellow elected councillors. ‘‘We have done things we never have before, learned new stuff, zoomed, learned new computer skills.’’
Several councillors said the weekly Zoom meetings had been a valuable bonding experience for a council just a few months old when Covid-19 struck.
New ways of working tried in lockdown may be incorporated into future council meetings, with a governance review planned for late September.