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A COVID Inquiry conflict of interest? Chair Tony Blakely’s direct role during the pandemic raises concerns that the government is marking its own homework

Summarised by Centrist

Epidemiologist Tony Blakely, the chair of New Zealand’s COVID Royal Commission of Inquiry, claims his advice to key policymakers during the pandemic was informal. Yet, recent disclosures suggest otherwise. 

The NZ Herald’s Kate McNamara notes that “Blakely’s involvement in the pandemic response as it unfolded is of consequence; he now chairs the country’s main exercise in sober second thought. Its terms of reference [are] narrow and arguably blinkered in scope…”

The Official Information Act (OIA) disclosures also reveal Blakely’s close relationships with key players in the COVID response, including Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and Professors Michael Baker and Nick Wilson. 

Far from informal, Blakely’s role was crucial in government decision-making regarding the highly controversial managed isolation and quarantine system (MIQ). His advice was cited in Cabinet documents and a judicial review. 

The appropriateness of having one of Labour’s “insiders” now head the inquiry threatens to cast the Commission into disrepute. Internal Affairs Minister Brooke van Velden has twice declined to confirm her confidence in Blakely, and there are calls for his resignation. 

McNamara writes that, “New Zealanders are still deeply divided by the momentous trade-offs made during the pandemic, when efforts to protect public health exacted a mighty cost across almost every area of life.” 

Editor’s note: Read “NZ COVID Inquiry is broadening its terms of reference – Here’s our take on what needs to happen” here.

Read more over at The NZ Herald (Paywalled)

Image: NZ Royal Commission

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