New Zealand announces review of its handling of COVID-19 pandemic


FILE PHOTO: A medical worker administers a COVID-19 test at a testing clinic during a lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Auckland, New Zealand, August 26, 2021. REUTERS/Fiona Goodall

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The New Zealand government said on Monday it would launch an inquiry into the country's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic so future governments could learn from the experience.

A Royal Commission, a public inquiry of the highest level in New Zealand, would look at the overall response, the government said in a statement. That would include considering economic measures, such as fiscal and monetary policy responses but without reviewing particular central bank decisions.

The aim would be identifying lessons that could be applied in a future pandemic.

"It had been over 100 years since we experienced a pandemic of this scale, so it's critical we compile what worked and what we can learn from it should it ever happen again," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

A one-time poster child for tackling the coronavirus, New Zealand's swift response to the pandemic and its geographic isolation kept the country largely COVID-19 free until the end of 2021, winning Ardern strong domestic support.

But anger over vaccine mandates for people working in sectors such as health and education and strict border closures prompted protests earlier this year. The government's financial response is also now being blamed by some political opposition parties for contributing to three-decade high inflation.

The review will be concluded in mid-2024, the government said.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

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