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This time tomorrow we will be at alert level 2.  

The state of emergency has also been lifted which means we are transitioning towards alert level 1.   The Government will review this phased approach again on Monday 25 May.

Not many people, however, are aware of the legislative logistics of a national state of emergency but in short, under the national state of emergency, the enforceability of alert levels requirements relied on the Epidemic Preparedness Act, the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.  

With the lifting of the national state of emergency, a new legal framework was required in the form of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill for when we move to alert level 2. 

This controversial bill has been a hot topic of debate under urgency in Parliament before it was passed today.   

Serious concerns have been raised that this Bill was being rushed through Parliament without due process, without consultation and giving the Government the absolute power to force people to comply with any request without limitation, broad powers to enter people’s homes without a warrant and removes people’s right to refuse medical treatment.

I spoke about these issues in the House today - you can view my speech here.

National wanted to ensure that people's liberties are not compromised in this piece of legislation that will set the framework for life as we know it for the next couple of years. That is why we voted against the Bill.


Life at Alert Level 2 means we can resume many of our everyday activities — but we have to do so safely.

  • Most businesses can open if they can do it safely. This will help to get people back to work.
  • We can go in-store at local businesses.
  • Tertiary education facilities, schools and early learning centres will be open.
  • We can travel between regions.
  • Initially, gatherings like weddings, religious ceremonies and social gatherings can have up to 10 people.  Funerals and tangihanga can now have gatherings of up to 50 people under strict conditions.
  • We can safely connect and socialise with close friends and family, in groups of 10.
  • We can visit local cafes and restaurants bars and pubs to have a meal.
  • We can return to our regular recreation activities, at first keeping to 10 people.

Golden rules for business at Alert Level 2

Do everything you can to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at work – we all have a part to play in keeping each other safe. 

  • COVID-19 is still out there. Play it safe. 
  • All businesses can operate if they can do so safely. Alternative ways of working are encouraged where possible.
  • Hospitality business should keep customers seated, separated, and with a single server.
  • Talk with your workers to identify risks and ways to manage them.
  • Ask everyone – workers, contractors and customers – with cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from your premises.
  • Keep groups of customers at least 1 metre apart
  • Keep contact-tracing records of anyone who will have close interaction (workers, contractors or customers).
  • Reduce the number of shared surfaces, and regularly disinfect them.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.

The Golden Rules for everyone at Alert Level 2

Do everything you can to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission – we all have a part to play in keeping each other safe. 

  • COVID-19 is still out there. Play it safe.
  • Keep your distance from other people in public.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.
  • If you have symptoms of cold or flu call your doctor or Healthline and get tested.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, regularly disinfect surfaces.
  • If you have been told to self-isolate you must do so immediately.
  • Keep a track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen.

Funerals, churches and other events 

It was encouraging to hear that the Government listened to people's concerns around numbers of people being able to attend funerals, with the number extended from 10 to 50. 

The Government's original narrow-minded approach to people's right to mourn a death in their families resulted in tremendous additional grief and trauma for many families. 

From tomorrow, funeral directors can obtain a dispensation to allow up to 50 people to attend a funeral, up from the Government's earlier decision to contain it at 10 persons, as long as the Ministry of Health is satisfied that a range of public health measures can consistently be met, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and no food and drink congregations afterwards. 

I know that for many families, this is great news however for many it has come too late.  My condolences for your loss. 

What has not as yet been resolved however, is the right for people to attend church and other religious gatherings, which is currently limited to 10 persons.  We urgently need the Government to acknowledge the right of people to come together to worship and churches and other religious gatherings should be trusted that they too, like clubs, bars and restaurants can ensure compliance to the strict social distancing and health and safety regulations that we are all facing.

Another area that requires urgent Government reconsideration, is the events industry.  The cancellation of thousands of events back in March was sudden with serious and complex ripple effects on the events industries.  Management companies had little or no opportunity to prepare and plan and they need urgent additional Government support while gathering numbers are still capped at 100.

It is non-sensical that you can attend a rugby game of Super Rugby where 30 people are in close contact on a rugby field, but you can't compete in an open-air, outdoor event that stretches across 60 km through fresh air, forests and mountains, and in a controlled events management environment, with the required health and safety requirements.

The Government has signalled they will be reviewing these measures and decisions.  I'll be following Cabinet's upcoming determinations closely and keeping you updated on outcomes. 


Getting NZ Moving - Simon Bridges speech to BusinessNZ 

In just over a week the Government will deliver its third Budget. There are very few years in New Zealand when the Budget is not the most significant economic event on the horizon, but this is one of those years when it is.

National's Plan has five core elements:

  1. Getting out of lockdown by getting NZ working again
  2. Delivering an effective stimulus to a stalled economy by creating an upward curve of growth and jobs
  3. Creating productivity in a 2-metre world
  4. Unleashing private sector investment
  5. Investing in things that will guarantee New Zealand will succeed in the post-Covid world

Read more here


Further job losses in our local towns 

It was devastating to hear about Bunnings' announcement of the proposal to close two stores in Cambridge and Putaruru.  The past few weeks have already been hard for people with many job losses in the region as a result of the economic downturn under COVID-19.  To hear that 40 more people in our towns may lose their jobs must be a terrible prospect for those families affected.

I am deeply sorry to hear about Bunnings’ proposals, however it does point to a larger issue.  Organisations were already doing it tough before COVID-19 and the economic devastation brought about by COVID-19 means business owners must make some hard decisions about their immediate and longer-term futures.

Sadly, for those families affected it means facing an uncertain future too.  The Government must act now to protect jobs in our region.

The Mental Health Foundation has a free resource on grief and loss during COVID-19 available here.


Other matters in the spotlight

Schools and ECEs

With school going back next week, some of you have been in touch with concerns around schools' ability to enforce social distancing regulations in open-plan classes and on school buses. 

If you are one of those parents with concerns, I encourage you to get in touch with your school early to discuss these before your child returns to school.  

The Ministry of Education has released guidance around what education will look like at Alert Level 2.

ECEs can also find a special edition update at https://mailchi.mp/education/special-edition-7-may-2020-covid-19-update 

Department of Conservation

Some good news for those of us who enjoy the outdoors. Under Alert Level 2 the Department of Conservation is reopening tracks and huts for public use and overnight tramping.

Physical distancing must be maintained, with a maximum of 10 people permitted in a hut at a time. Visitors will need to bring their own cleaning materials.  More information here.


Upcoming opportunities for you to connect with me and office opening hours

I will be hosting Post-Budget sessions via Zoom meeting on 25 May 2020.  If you would like to join one of those sessions, please get in touch with my office at louise.upstonmp@parliament.govt.nz for meeting login details.

Another opportunity for you to connect with me is through one of our Community Engagement Sessions, again to register your interest please email my office and we will send you a link to the online meeting.

Finally, we are planning to open up our Cambridge electorate office on 25 May operating under strict health and safety guidelines and I will share some of those details with you in our next newsletter at the end of next week.

 

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