Author: Zane Small

A group of 50 of New Zealand's leading infectious disease and public health scientists are urging political leaders to cooperate on COVID-19 as the Greens ask "some leaders" to stop spreading doubt. 

An editorial published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, signed by high-profile microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, urges politicians to "resist the temptation to scaremonger in an attempt to score points" in the media.

"Instead, they should use their moments in the spotlight to amplify messages of our health system's preparedness and how New Zealanders can individually make a difference at this critical time," the editorial said. 

"We need our politicians to avoid cluttering the media landscape with political messages and undermining the life-saving information coming from the government, health professionals, scientists and public health officials." 

The editorial recognised the teams of infectious disease, public health and primary care experts who have been advising the Government on the best way to deal with the COVID-19 threat. 

"These experts are monitoring the rapidly changing situation, looking to what is being done and what is working in other countries, and giving pragmatic, evidence-based advice on a regular basis," it said. 

"Politicking and criticising these professionals who are working hard on behalf of the country does nothing more than undermine them and public confidence in our system."

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles is one of 50 health experts in New Zealand to sign a letter urging politicians to cooperate over COVID-19.

Auckland has been put into alert level 3 lockdown for three days after COVID-19 was discovered in the community and the Opposition parties have been questioning how much the Government knew beforehand.  

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said on Thursday it is "particularly incumbent on leaders from all stripes" to support and back a strong community health message.   

"I have been disheartened to see some leaders cast doubt on the developments and associated decision-making over the last 48 hours," Shaw said. 

"To create confusion and suspicion quite frankly could result in reduced trust from our communities in the very institutions we rely on most to keep us all safe. This could lead to less willingness to pitch in to stamp out the virus," he added. 

"This puts us all at risk."

Greens co-leader James Shaw is urging "some leaders" to stop spreading doubt.

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee on Wednesday questioned the timing of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit to a mask factory and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield getting a test, suggesting it was an "interesting series of facts". 

ACT leader David Seymour also questioned whether the Prime Minister knew about COVID-19 in the community before she revealed it on Tuesday night and told the public she found out about it a few hours prior. 

"I take the Prime Minister at her word... But if it was ever found that actually they've lied about that I think she'd have to resign," Seymour said on Wednesday. "But I don't think there's any evidence they knew otherwise."

The Prime Minister on Wednesday rubbished the speculation.

"The idea that we would keep information back from the public - when that is critical to us being able to look after their health, financial wellbeing and jobs - is just nonsense. This is the last I'll say on it." 

ACT leader David Seymour questioned whether the Prime Minister knew about COVID-19 in the community before she revealed it.

Seymour is now calling on the Government to "show transparency" about the latest COVID-19 test results and be open with the public about how it will make a decision on ending or extending the current restrictions. 

"News of community transmission has devastated people trying to run their businesses and households. There is real despair with some saying that if they are closed by a lockdown they will never reopen," he said. 

"Three days of restrictions are not as bad as the uncertainty created, and the nagging sense that three days is just an opening gambit. The only antidote to anxiety and despair is transparency and certainty from the Government.

"Transparency Day is the day the Government must tell the New Zealand people how close it is to isolating the virus so the restrictions can be lifted and people can get back to running their businesses and households."

Article: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/50-new-zealand-health-experts-urge-political-leaders-to-resist-temptation-to-scaremonger-over-covid-19.html
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