New Zealand announces Royal Commission of Inquiry into Covid response

Sydney, Australia, Dec 5 (EFE).- The New Zealand government, which imposed some of the world’s strictest policies against Covid-19, announced on Monday a Royal Commission of Inquiry to learn lessons from the pandemic and to prepare for future health crises.

“Every country in the world has grappled with Covid-19 and there was no playbook for managing it,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement, announcing the creation of the highest form of public inquiry.

This Royal Commission, led by the epidemiologist Tony Blakely, will examine the public health strategies and economic measures that were put in place between February 2020 and October 2022, according to the terms of reference published Monday.

The investigation’s scope includes border closures, lockdowns and vaccines, but the commission – which will begin work on Feb. 1, 2023 and must deliver its final report by June 26, 2024 – will exclude the monetary decisions of the Reserve Bank and specific aspects of the epidemiology of the virus and its variants.

“It had been over 100 years since we experienced a pandemic of this scale, so it’s critical we compile what worked and what we can learn from it should it ever happen again,” Ardern said.

“New Zealand experienced fewer cases, hospitalizations and deaths than nearly any other country in the first two years of the pandemic but there has undoubtedly been a huge impact on New Zealanders both here and abroad.”

New Zealand, praised worldwide at the beginning of the pandemic for its strategy against the coronavirus, locked down its population on several occasions despite a very low number of infections.

It closed its international borders in March 2020, locking out many of its own citizens that were unable to secure a mandatory quarantine hotel room. Borders opened in phases starting in February.

The hardline measures and the immunization required for several critical labor sectors provoked thousands to protest on Wellington’s parliament grounds between February and early March.

New Zealand registered less than 100 daily cases of Covid-19 in January and accumulated only around 100 deaths, but it began to report more than 20,000 infections per day with the reopening of its borders a month later.

With more than 90 percent of the eligible population vaccinated, the country has accumulated some 1.9 million cases and more than 2,230 deaths since the start of the pandemic. EFE


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