A few days before the country was locked down Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the four levels.
As has happened so many times she was congratulated for good communication.
But a little more than five weeks later, Cactus Kate points that if what was said about what happens at which level still held, we wouldn’t be stuck in level three now.
You are already there.
You are already there
You are already even here.
We’ve been repeatedly told the reason for the hard lockdown is the goal of elimination of the virus.
As the definitions for yesterday’s word of the day, showed elimination for those of us who speak English means getting rid of something.
Epidemiologists and politicians speak another language and it was only a few days ago that we learned that elimination doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to us.
And on Monday, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and the PM told us that we had, by the epidemiological definition, eliminated Covid-19.
But yesterday we were told that wasn’t the case:
At yesterday’s daily press conference Dr Bloomfield was asked whether New Zealand had achieved elimination.
It was his answer that “we’ve achieved [elimination] through alert level 4” – and the Prime Minister chipping in that New Zealand “currently” had eliminated the virus – that resulted in yesterday’s confusion.
Realising the waters had been muddied, Dr Bloomfield arrived at Parliament today armed with a clarification.
Asked whether he accepted yesterday’s remarks had given the country and the rest of the world a false impression, and whether he was concerned New Zealanders would be breathing a sigh of relief at a time they should still be vigilant, Dr Bloomfield didn’t mince his words.
“I can just clarify we haven’t eliminated it, and we haven’t eradicated it.”
He said elimination is about having a low number of cases, and a knowledge of where they’re coming from and identifying people early.
Then it’s a case of stamping out the virus and continuing to maintain strict border restrictions to be sure no new cases are being imported.
Elimination is by no means eradication and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this is a situation of entering into the world of epidemioligist-speak.
“And they know well what each of these terms mean in a health sense, but of course in an every day sense they mean, often, something different.
“Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping Covid out until there’s a vaccine,” she said. . .
It’s not good enough to blame the jargon.
Good communicators put jargon into everyday language, using words that we all understand and whose definitions fit our understanding.
National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said Dr Bloomfield probably felt the need to clarify on behalf of the Prime Minister.
“This underscores the importance of talking in plain English. The public are not epidemioligists, they don’t have the same information the Prime Minister has and it’s really important they get on the same page, talk in English, and make it clear to New Zealanders where we’re at and how we’ve got to stay there.” . . .
I think we’re now clear that elimination doesn’t mean what we think it means but, we are no clearer on what the levels mean.
We’re told there’s no evidence of community transmission and that the disease is contained. It’s not quite so clear whether no evidence means there’s no risk of community transmission or if we’re now down to the risk of only household transmission.
But if we can take the information on alert levels to mean what it says, it ought to mean we can go down to level two, if not one.
But yesterday we only went to level 3 and while there’s the expectation this will last no more than a fortnight, there’s no certainty.
Given that the information on levels is different from what’s happening, there’s even less certainty.
The communication on this is confused when it needs to be clear.
Good communication isn’t just about getting your message across, it’s also about ensuring the people to whom you’re communicating understand what you’re saying and clarifying any confusion when they don’t.