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New Zealand's COVID Inquiry: Broadening the Scope

Wednesday 26 June 2024, 1:44AM

By Expert Briefing

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The New Zealand Government has announced the next phase of the Royal Commission into COVID-19, which will feature new commissioners and an expanded scope.

The second phase, set to begin in November, will focus on issues of ongoing public concern such as vaccine efficacy and safety, the impact of extended lockdowns in Auckland and Northland, and the disruption to New Zealanders' health, education, and business.

The commissioners, Professor Tony Blakely and John Whitehead, will step down in November after presenting their report on the first phase.

The new commissioners and detailed terms of reference will be announced in August.

The second phase will include public hearings and is expected to conclude in February 2026 with a final report.

The expanded inquiry aims to address vaccine mandates, lockdown impacts, and the use of technology and international practices in the pandemic response.

Cabinet has agreed to the below points as an indicative scope of the terms of reference for the second phase;

  1. the use of vaccines during the pandemic, specifically, mandates, approval processes and safety including the monitoring and reporting of adverse reactions; 
  2. the social and economic disruption of New Zealand’s response policies, specifically, the impacts on social division and isolation, health and education, and on inflation, debt and business activity, and the balance of these impacts against COVID-19 minimisation and protection goals; 
  3. extended lockdowns in Auckland and Northland, specifically whether similar public health benefits could have been realised from shorter lockdowns;
  4. the utilisation of partnerships with business and professional groups; and 
  5. the utilisation of new technology, methods, and effective international practices.