On 8 July 2021 Lobby New Zealand filed an Official Information Act (OIA) request seeking all communications between the Ministry of Health (MoH) and education providers, regarding the ongoing Respiratory Syncytial Virus outbreak.
In a response to the request, it has been made clear that both the MoH and the Ministry of Education (MoE) enacted too slow in their responses to the outbreak. According to the MoH, the first communication that the Ministry had with the MoE was dated 9 July 2021 – one week after the outbreak initially made news headlines.
In the OIA response from the MoH, communications between MoH Senior Media Advisor Lucy Hall and MoE Senior Communications Advisor Natasha Dingle were outlined, with all communications dated and quoted. On 9 July 2021, Lucy Hall wrote in an email sent to the MoE Media Responses team that said, “I’ll be working on some national communications on RSV next week [two weeks after the outbreak made news headlines], to support the public health response to RSV.”
Lobby New Zealand is deeply concerned with both of the ministries’ responses to the RSV outbreak. Lucy Hall’s email to the MoE, explaining that a public media campaign would begin two weeks after the virus made national headlines, paints a bleak picture for concerned parents nationwide, who were given no advice on the said outbreak. It is Lobby New Zealand’s belief that it is essential that both parents and education providers are kept informed in regards to any viral outbreak that primarily affects children.
To confirm this information received from the MoH, Lobby New Zealand sought after a separate OIA request filed with Ilam School on 8 July, seeking information as to whether the education provider had received any information regarding the RSV outbreak. Ilam School’s Executive Assistant Marlene Roets replied, “Ilam School have not received any information regarding RSV.”
All relevant Official Information Act requests and responses are available in the links below.