Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Sir Ian Taylor – My plan to help open NZ’s borders safely

Prime Minister, it was great to see you’ve set up a self-isolation trial for 150 businesses, and I’d like to offer a trial to run alongside yours which we are calling #151 Off The Bench.

I will be #151 and this trial would be completely funded from The Bench. It will introduce some of the latest technologies available in the world to ensure that I will not re-enter New Zealand with Covid-19 which, after all, is the reason for MIQ in the first place.

We will also bring complete transparency to the trial as NZME has offered its platform to share daily progress reports so others can submit ideas for improving the process with technologies and protocols they may already have in use.

Our goal is to establish a self-managed isolation protocol that can be used to give companies the tools to effectively manage their staff in isolation facilities and provide the data that may be needed if, or when, you need to audit them.

As you may be aware, as a company we have built an international reputation based on our ability to simulate a wide range of situations, from predicting what will happen to a cricket ball after it’s hit the pad, where a golf ball is likely to land, what effect wind could have on a baseball, what would happen if you tacked a yacht earlier, to Air Traffic Control and F1 simulators for training.

Another word for this is “modelling” which has been an important tool in your armoury for dealing with Covid.

Our modelling has shown that my original proposal to travel to Sydney would not work because it would require your officials to negotiate with Australian officials to get permission to even run the trial. That would take time that we simply don’t have in the business community so, instead, I will travel to the US for a week.

The modelling also shows that the testing protocols we have in place will give us the highest probability that I will return from the US, without Covid. It will set a standard far higher than the one that saw someone who tested positive with Covid this week being allowed to check out of a hospital and go home.

My itinerary would be: Dunedin, Auckland, LA, San Francisco, LA, Auckland.

It will take a week and I will have two meetings. One with Fox Sport in LA and another with Major League Baseball in San Francisco. Both are important to advancing the opportunities we have created with our remote operation during the pandemic.

How it will work?

Along with everyone else in our company, I have been vaccinated.

I will do a Lateral Flow (LF) PCR test 72 hours prior to flying to Auckland from Dunedin. While this is not necessary in our current Covid state in Dunedin, #151 Off The Bench is designed to consider future scenarios where this level of testing may be required.

At the domestic terminal in Auckland, I will do a saliva-based PCR test using the MicroGEM NZ portable device that has been developed in New Zealand with an investment of $115 million, half of which has come from the US Govt. The test takes 25 minutes and only detects infectious Covid. The device is currently in the process of FDA approval.

Once cleared, I will walk to the international terminal where I will catch my flight to LA.

On arrival in LA, I will undertake another 25-minute PCR Test organised by MicroGEM NZ before being taken to my hotel. I will conduct my business in LA and San Francisco with support from Mainfreight in the US and the global network of expat kiwis in the KEA Network who have offered to support this trial in any way they can.

During my week in the US, I will undergo regular antigen tests. Two days before flying out I will do an LF PCR Test and on the day of my flight, by way of comparison, I will do another 25-minute PCR test organised by MicroGEM NZ. The key is to ensure that I do not board the flight with Covid.

If, as I expect, I return a negative test, I will board my flight to Auckland.

If, by chance, I test positive, I will face at least two weeks in isolation in LA – with the associated costs. But that also means I won’t take up a highly sought after MIQ slot in New Zealand on my return. The incentive to stay Covid-free in the US is extremely high and we have the protocols in place to ensure that.

On my return to Auckland, I will go through a similar process to all passengers on board, except I will be taken aside to be given another 25-minute PCR test and only taken to my approved self-isolation hotel when I prove negative. The hotel is part of a major chain with experience in both MIQ and self-isolation facilities. I have been offered a residence in Auckland, again someone coming off The Bench to help, but our modelling showed us that we need to find ways to work with hotel chains as well because that’s what we will need to do when we expand this protocol to include larger groups of people.

I will stay in this hotel for two weeks wearing a device provided by another player off The Bench that will geo-fence me in that hotel and track me 24 hours a day for the duration of the stay. This data will be held at our offices in Dunedin and shared with government officials if they request an audit of our processes. I will undertake any tests required by your medical officials; alongside the testing we will do daily with the saliva based MicroGEM rapid PCR test.

Our hope is that during this process we will be able to demonstrate that this level of fast testing, and the audit tools we have available, will mean that Self-Managed Isolation might be able to be reduced from two weeks to a matter of days. Whatever the decision on that may be, the fact that we can plan with certainty is the biggest win for all of us.

I can complete this trial, in full view of the public, in three weeks. The process can then be reviewed to explore how we expand it to cover other organisations, like sports teams, film crews, government officials, politicians and others who are currently taking up valuable MIQ spots that should be prioritised to get people home who have been stuck overseas for months without the resources that groups like those mentioned can, and should, bring.

Prime Minister we are here to help! We started this process less than three weeks ago and it’s ready to roll.

Let’s do this. Let’s save lives and livelihoods.

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