PRESS RELEASE | Erica Stanford MP & Chris Bishop MP | 17 February 2022 -
Children and teachers shut out of RAT scheme
The Government’s failure to order enough rapid antigen tests is causing chaos for New Zealand’s children and schools, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Education spokesperson Erica Stanford say.
“Multiple schools have contacted us expressing concern they’re not part of the Government’s Close Contact Exemption Scheme, meaning they can’t access the Government-supplied rapid tests,” Mr Bishop says.
“The Government’s overly bureaucratic close contact scheme doesn’t define schools as ‘critical’, apparently except for in a situation where there wouldn’t be enough teachers in the school to cater to the children of critical workers.
“Creating multiple, complex layers of eligibility is an admission by the Government that they do not have enough rapid tests to go round.
“Incredibly, some schools have even secured their own supply of rapid tests only to be told that they can’t use them for return-to-work purposes – truly a perverse and wrong-headed policy outcome.”
Ms Stanford says the return-to-work provisions are important for keeping schools open and kids learning, and access to rapid tests is urgently needed to keep children and teachers safe.
“On the same day Ministry of Education officials are emailing principals to say they’re not included in the scheme, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall is telling Parliament that schools are included. It’s emblematic of a Government that doesn’t have a plan and is making things up on the fly.
“We’ve been calling for the Government to make rapid tests available in every school. With over 1000 cases a day, Omicron is spreading quickly so the need has never been more urgent.
“If the Government hadn’t dropped the ball so badly and gotten onto ordering the tests when National first started calling it, we wouldn’t be in the position where they’re having to ration tests and shut schools out of their bureaucratic nightmare of a scheme.”