Full inquiry into pandemic response overdue

October 1, 2020

A full inquiry into New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 should have begun “weeks ago”, to better prepare the country for future pandemics, McGuiness Institute founder Wendy McGuiness told the conference.

“I think we have been very lucky, this could have been so terrible… but we’re all looking to the honey pot and thinking this is all behind us,” she said. But there would be other pandemics in future. “We’ve got to get together to redesign the new system for the next one.”

McGuiness wants a royal commission of inquiry into New Zealand’s response, covering logistics, communication and lockdown timings, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) supply – “everything”.

In April-May, the institute partnered with NZNO to survey almost 600 members’ experiences with PPE. The survey found accessing PPE was a problem across district health boards (DHBs) and in the community, as well as DHB confusion over who was responsible for PPE.

Its 13 recommendations included an inquiry into what went wrong, updated pandemic planning for the Ministry of Health and regular PPE audits. McGuiness also believed individual COVID-19 positive cases should be studied to improve patient care and the health system.

“We are dealing with an incredibly tricky and difficult and sticky virus,” which had caught New Zealand “off-guard”.

Yet coronaviruses – which infect animals and humans – were identified in animals before the 1960s and in people in the 1960s, with different varieties emerging in the 2000s, “so that gives you 60 years of an emerging new ‘kid on the block’.”

While she was “delighted” with the auditor-general’s review of PPE supply, which aligned with the NZNO survey, she wanted to see an inquiry into the full COVID-19 response.

The McGuiness Institute (previously the Sustainable Futures Institute) was established in 2004 by Wendy McGuiness to contribute to New Zealand’s long-term future.