Trump White House ‘pushed back on COVID advice’; New Zealand mulls ‘managed retreat’ amid climate threat; Israel to open up government data: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 05/05/2022 | Updated on 05/05/2022
A photograph of Donald trump holding a coronavirus briefing when he was US president
Then US president Donald Trump coronavirus provides a COVID-19 update briefing on Wednesday 8 April 2020 Photo Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of all the news you need to know but might have missed

Trump White House pushed back against COVID-19 advice of government scientists

Senior White House officials questioned proposals for government coronavirus guidance to advise Americans not to attend church or other religious services due to the risk of passing on the infection.

Documents released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis last week revealed that officials said guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on religious service attendance was “problematic” after it urged churches and other entities hold virtual services.

As reported by Government Executive, White House associate counsel May Davis emailed colleagues saying she had proposed removing “tele-church suggestions”. Another official, Paul Ray, who was the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House, said that the planned guidance would “raise religious liberty concerns”, and said he would recommend “striking the offensive passages”.

CDC subsequently posted the guidance without mention of virtual services, instead saying that the “CDC is continuing to work with state, tribal, local, and territorial leaders to provide technical assistance and resources that can help support decisions to protect health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 consistent with the free exercise rights of people of faith”, but highlighting that “there are several published reports of COVID-19 outbreaks sparked by large gatherings, both non-religious and religious in nature”.

Read more: Trump officials found to be altering scientific reports on COVID-19

New Zealand lays groundwork for ‘managed retreat’ from areas facing climate change threat

New Zealand has published its first national adaptation plan for climate change that sets out how the country will “live and thrive in a changing climate”.

The plan, which has been published for consultation, sets out the 10 most significant risks the country faces as a result of climate change, and steps to tackle them across five categories – natural environment, human impacts, economy, built environment, and governance.

Among the priority actions is a focus on reforming institutions “to be fit for a changing climate”. Changes needed include reforming the country’s resource management system to better prepare for risks from natural hazards, and better mitigation of emissions contributing to climate change. It is also proposed that the government set out plans for a “managed retreat” policy that would enable people to strategically relocate assets, activities, and sites of cultural significance away from areas at risk from climate change and natural hazards.

Read the document in full here.

Read more: Trust and teamwork: Hannah Cameron on how New Zealand dodged the COVID bullet

Israel to open up government data to private research and development

Israel has announced a plan to make government data more easily accessible for researchers and private sector firms.

In a joint statement the country’s Ministry of Finance, National Digital Agency, and Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology said that it would aim to make government and public databases accessible to researchers, manufacturers and other persons of interest with the intention of unlocking innovations. The government has launched a tender for bids on how to make the data accessible while maintaining information privacy, ethics and safety.

Read more: Israel developing national artificial intelligence strategy

Australian competition chief calls for collaboration

The chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has called for strong collaboration between international regulators for complex mergers across jurisdictions.

Speaking at an international event for competition regulators in Berlin, reported by The Mandarin, Gina Cass-Gottlieb highlighted that collaboration across borders both helped with competition investigations and improved regulations.

“The ACCC sees collaboration with our international counterparts as a key component of our effectiveness as a regulator,” she said.

“Each competition regulator will have their own individual approach to resolving issues in their local jurisdictions, but support between global partners only strengthens our ability to achieve a result that is satisfactory to all.”

Listen: Stepping into the unknown, and embracing her flaws – and strengths – as a leader: GGF’s latest Leading Questions podcast with Australia’s governance chief Stephanie Foster

About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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