Act Party leader David Seymour says the Government's focus on zero Covid-19 cases is no longer viable, and is calling for vaccinated travellers to be able to come home by Christmas.
The party released its Covid 3.0 strategy this morning, saying with the Delta variant the Government needed to move away from what it called an "eradication" strategy, and suggested five changes of focus.
The Government has said rather than eradication it is pursuing an "elimination strategy", which is premised on zero tolerance to cases, not zero cases in itself.
Seymour said these terms had been confusing and Act's plan would take the focus away from zero cases and move towards harm minimisation.
Act's plan meant doing away with lockdowns as a whole and moving "from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate".
To enable this there also needed to be a move away from "chronic fear and uncertainty" towards freedom; a shift away from government-knows-best towards openness and involving business; and an overall strategic shift away from public health to wellbeing.
This plan was premised around the vaccination programme being defined as "complete".
Seymour said based on the current rate of about 50,000 doses a day, most eligible people aged over 12 should have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated by mid-November.
With some allowances, it was possible to say everybody could be vaccinated by mid-December.
By then Act's plan says the vaccine rollout could be deemed complete.
MIQ requirements would be dropped in time for people from low-risk countries who've met suitable testing and private isolation requirements to be allowed to return to the country for Christmas.
Asked about inequities in the rollout based on geography and socioeconomic factors, Seymour said along with setting a date acting as a further incentive, there should be more partnerships with local organisations and they should be empowered to offer financial incentives to people to get vaccinated.
The costs of lockdowns were also unequally felt with the wealthy often coming out even better off, Seymour said.
"There are equity issues whichever way you go and I think the inequity of lockdowns is something that hasn't been addressed as much as it should have been."
Seymour said New Zealand's focus on stamping out Covid-19 had been a "successful policy", allowing long periods of freedom, but Delta had changed the game and it was time to start planning for life beyond lockdowns.
The plan would see the emphasis shift to minimising the harm of Covid while accepting that it was "impractical to keep the virus out completely, and the cost of trying is unaffordable".
"The ultimate policy goal should be to ensure that people do not die from Covid. Measures to reduce transmission and hospitalisation, especially to vulnerable populations, will do much of this work. Vaccination is again the most effective tool, but treatments, and ICU surge capacity should also be expanded."
The "isolation policy" would move from lockdowns to isolating travellers, the infected and the vulnerable, with strict protocols for retirement villages.
There needed to be more of a culture of inviting criticism, away from fear, and industry should be invited to co-design self isolation, social distancing measures and contact tracing solutions.
The plan also followed modelling released last week by Te Pūnaha Matatini at the University of Auckland showing if 80 per cent of the population over the age of 5 was vaccinated 7000 people a year could still die from the virus and 60,000 could end up in hospital.
Even at much higher vaccination rates additional measures such as mask-wearing and rapid antigen testing would be needed to avoid lockdowns.
Seymour said their plan assumed higher vaccine effectiveness, which last week's modelling showed dropped the death rate substantially.
Act released its Covid-19 policy a day before National launches its own Covid-19 plan.
Seymour said this was intentional as he wanted the party to have a "full range of ideas" for their plan.
It also came after former prime minister and National leader Sir John Key re-entered the fray on Sunday, criticising the Government's Covid-19 response and offering his thoughts on how to re-open to the world.
- additional reporting RNZ