Straining social licence

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.

Risk assessment

    • Household transmission could be occurring.
    • Single or isolated cluster outbreaks. . . 

At Level 1:

The disease is contained in New Zealand.

Risk assessment

    • 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.

6 Responses to Straining social licence

  1. adamsmith1922 says:

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    This government is being very authoritarian


  2. Andrei says:

    I think the penny may have dropped among the higher echelons that the lockdown has been a mistake of gargantun proportions and they need a way out of it without loosing face.

    The problem is of course for a poliician to admit they are wrong would be a miracle matching that of the parting of the Red Sea

    Wont happen

    Meanwhile in Europe the epidemic is clearly on the wane. – All but gone from the Faroes, where nobody died, Iceland and Norway where the numbers of people supposedly dying of Covid are absorbed into the normal background number deaths and come from a demographic where dying is not an unexpected event

    In Belarus where the Government’s policy coud be summed up as keep calm and carry on people are dying at a rate that is slightly lower than the average rate for the past few years.

    What this shows IMHO is the MOH suffered from tunnel vision and couldn’t come up with a viable strategy to protect the Hospitals and old peoples homes from this virus and spread unnecessary panic and fear to try and crack a walnut with a sledgehammer.

    And while J. Ardern maybe the patron saint of New Zealand today tomorrow she will be a figure of derision – celebrity is fickle.

    Ask Peter Whittle about that


  3. Murray Roxburgh says:

    Yeah Andrei but but Whittle was a “criminal” who needed to be hung from a gas station roof.
    The Greens, DoC and Angry Andy’s union mates were all totally blameless along with the sad man who lost a son and was responsible for health and safety at the always disaster headed mine.


  4. Andrei says:

    My point was Murray, that though this is now long forgotten by just about everyone, while that particualar disaster was unfolding Peter Whittl was a hero and people were vociferously suggsting he be nominated for “New Zealander of the Year” but that all quickly changed when all hope of rescue was lost and he rapidiy attained villain status.

    The thing about large failures that receive public attention is that a scapegoat is required and that any hard questions that might involve politians or ‘crats sharing some of the culpability get buried,

    There are already signs that things that might embarrss the Government are being suppressed

    I personally know of two suicides and while people I have been aquainted with have committed suicided before two in such a short period is highly unusual

    And three people I know have died during this lockdown, none in themslves unusual or surprising but three in such a short period is.

    For example the lady across the road from me was moved to a rest home – “for her own good” the Monday before we went to level four and died on the Wednesday – coincidence? Or loss of the will to live?

    In the UK the weekly death rate has gone through the roof and the jump coincides with the lockdown but the increase cannot be entirely attributed to Covid-19, even with the definitions for a death from Covid-19 being generously assigned (i.e. artificially inflated by assuming it in all cases of death from viral pneumonia without actually testing for it)


  5. Murray Roxburgh says:

    Agree Andrei, the suicide facet is already apparent but suppressed by the triumvirate and their enablers, I am aware of two and doubt they are in your references.
    Add in deaths from denial of treatment, early detection of serious illness, and the Iceberg alluded to in a post at No Minister by my colleague Tom, are all yet to surface for viewing by those relying on government pressers used as a substitute for news by what we have masquerading as reporters, it is all still coming down the line.


  6. Teletext says:

    I agree that panic seems to have set in amongst the COL and everyone is ducking for cover.

    The Ministers of Health and Tourism are conspicuous by their absence, not that they could add anything worthwhile anyway, the Minister of Finance is talking about creating a Big Brother State where neighbour spies on neighbour and kids spy on parents and vice versa.

    The Minister of Economic Development wants to stifle it by having Councils increase rates on all businesses and ratepayers under threat of losing co-funding from government if they don’t.

    While all this is going on the Minister of Education hasn’t got a clue about what is going to happen in the future for all the thousands of kids out there, especially those in Years 12 and 13 who have life changing decisions to make this year plus the exams that will affect so many futures.

    Is it a wonder that the suicide rate will show a significant increase over this period, if and when they decide to release the figures. I feel they will hide them away for as long as they can.

    It will be very interesting to see what happens to the two most prominent faces of the campaign of the levels once all the “fairy dust” fades away. I have a suspicion that the esteemed doctor at the coalface may be getting set-up to take the massive fall on behalf of his cohort the “Fairy Princess”.


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