Yesterday we got the welcome news that no new cases of Covid-19 had been detected.
That follows several days of new cases in single digits.
To most of us that looks like it would be safe to drop to Level 2 or may even Level 1:
At Level 2:
The disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains.
- Household transmission could be occurring.
- Single or isolated cluster outbreaks. . .
At Level 1:
The disease is contained in New Zealand.
- COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
- Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand. . .
So why aren’t we moving down at least one level, or at least knowing when we will?
The government has explained that elimination doesn’t mean no cases. That means that at whatever level we’re at there will almost certainly be some new ones.
But the health risk now appears to be less serious than the risk to the economy:
National Party leader Simon Bridges admits moving to pandemic alert level 2 could result in more COVID-19 cases, but says this could happen under any level and the lockdown has to end for the sake of the economy. . .
While the unprecedented restrictions have been successful in dramatically reducing the number of new infections of the virus – which has killed hundreds of thousands of people overseas – they’ve also taken a toll on the economy.
Bridges says there are 1000 jobs being lost every day under level 3, based on new applications for the Jobseeker benefit. This is similar to the rate of new applications under level 4, when far fewer businesses were able to operate – there were 30,000 applications in the month to April 17, despite the Government’s wage subsidy being paid out to organisations employing 1.6 million people.
“This has gone on too long,” he told Newshub. “We need to get New Zealand working again. Quite simply we’ve got to end lockdown because it’s so much easier to keep someone in a job.”
He said officials “from Ashley Bloomfield down” have said COVID-19 is “eliminated”.
“Having flattened the curve, let’s not flatten the economy as well. We have to come out at some point. We can’t just wait until there’s a vaccine.” . .
A thousand jobs lost a day is 1,000 people a day at risk financially and at risk of poorer physical and mental health as a consequence of that.
It’s not just jobs but whole businesses that have been lost and the longer we’re stuck at Level 3 the greater the risk and the greater the economic and social costs which also have health costs.
Compounding the frustration is the continuing dearth of information on what will happen and when it will happen.
We were initially told we’d be at Level 4 for four weeks. That turned into nearly five.
We were then told we’d be at Level 3 for at least two weeks. Given we’re not going to know until next Monday if there’s going to be a drop in levels, it’s likely that we’ll be stuck at Level 3 for at least a few more days longer.
Uncertainty about the legality of police action isn’t helping:
New Zealand Police’s decision to arrest Kiwis during alert level 4 despite being advised they had little legal basis to do so “undermines the rule of law” in New Zealand, the former Attorney-General believes.
The comment from Chris Finlayson comes just hours after leaked emails to NZ Herald revealed that police were told by Crown Law that they had little to no power to enforce lockdown rules.
Finlayson, a former National MP who served as Attorney-General for nine years between 2008 and 2017, says it’s clear the police have acted beyond their powers during the coronavirus crisis. . .
The refusal to release Crown Law advice makes it even worse.
Incumbent Attorney-General David Parker has thus far refused to make public the advice, despite mounting pressure from the Epidemic Response Committee and MPs to do so.
Finlayson believes Parker’s refusal means there are parts of the advice “he may not like” – but says that shouldn’t change whether it’s released or not.
“There’s an overwhelming public interest, for people whose freedoms have been curtailed over the last few months, to know exactly the legal basis upon which certain decisions were made,” he said. . .
Last week the government accidently passed legislation that differed from the Bill MPs had seen. That undermines confidence, but Jenée Tibshraeny writes:
. . .The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion.
Oddly, I can dismiss Thursday’s passing of the wrong legislation as an extraordinary genuine mistake.
But the lack of transparency around decision-making and incoherent way of announcing a billion-dollar policy change, are inexcusable.
The government has imposed unprecedented restrictions on us at an enormous economic and social cost.
The willingness of most of us to abide by the lockdown requires a social licence which must be based on trust.
The government’s refusal to give us all the information we need, and to which we are entitled, is undermining trust and straining that social licence, and that is putting strict compliance at risk.