Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Jacinda Ardern to speak as Parliament gets back to work

The Prime Minister is expected to address the public at 4pm after Parliament sat for the first time this year and protesters gathered outside.

The Government faces ongoing scrutiny from political rivals over its handling of the Omicron outbreak, rapid antigen tests, and plans to reconnect with the world.

Jacinda Ardern earlier this afternoon said the Covid-19 pandemic had tested New Zealanders in ways not seen for decades.

The PM said the Government aimed to save as many lives as possible, protect jobs and cushion the blow to the economy.

“In a pandemic that moves swiftly, where new variants emerge quickly, no country has perfected the playbook.”

She said the Omicron variant presented a new, difficult phase of the pandemic.

But she added: “We face the challenges ahead in a better position than many other countries we compare ourselves to.”

She urged people to get Covid-19 vaccine booster shots to bolster immunity and alleviate pressure on health workers.

Today, 202 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the community, and 63 cases recorded at the border.

Meanwhile, protesters arrived in Wellington to demonstrate over issues including vaccine mandates and ongoing Covid restrictions.

Hundreds of cars, trucks and motorbikes arrived at Parliament, causing backlogs on main roads around and into Wellington.

Ardern and National Party leader Christopher Luxon both voiced no intention to engage with protesters.

Act Party leader David Seymour this afternoon offered a similar view but said Government policies had caused social division.

“It could have been as simple as saying: If you don’t want to get vaccinated, you have to be frequently tested.”

He said it was antisocial for demonstrators to block roads for people trying to get to work.

“It’s a shame they’ve chosen to be that way, but it’s also a shame that we’ve had policies that are inevitably divisive.”

Seymour attacked the director general of health over the rapid antigen tests controversy, saying the Government had taken test kits intended for the private sector.

“The level of spin and cover-up from Ashley Bloomfield is breathtaking, even for him.”

Seymour said the Government should never have banned the importation of rapid tests.

“A simple rule for life is: Don’t steal people’s stuff.”

Public officials have offered a meandering set of explanations in recent days to explain what happened with rapid tests which businesses had ordered.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health backtracked on Bloomfield’s claim that tests requisitioned from private businesses were not already in New Zealand.

Apart from arguments over how to tackle Omicron, the Government has faced pressure in recent days over high petrol prices.

The National Party earlier today called for the Auckland regional fuel tax to be scrapped.


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