Why are we waiting?

24/08/2020

The daily 1pm Covid-19 broadcast has just updated us on the number of new cases – eight confirmed and one probable.

Cabinet will have had this information since around 9am.

They ought to have had any other information needed to make the decision on what changes, if any, will be made to alert levels.

Why then are we having to wait until 3pm for that announcement?

Could it be to give more time for speech writers and the Prime Minister’s preparation for what will be another thinly disguised party political broadcast?

Does anyone want to take a bet on how many words will precede the only bit most of us are interested in – whether or not Auckland will be unlocked from alert level 3 and the rest of us from level 2?

Oamaru Rotary was to have opened its popup Bookarama on the day we went to level 2. We can’t open until we’re back at level one. That’s an inconvenience for the volunteers who staff it who can’t make plans until we know if and when we’ll be needed.

There are a lot more people for whom it is far worse than inconvenient.

People can’t hold funerals, weddings and other such functions; some can’t get to family and friends in need because they can’t get into, through or out of Auckland and most seriously for the financial, social and health impacts, jobs and whole businesses are at great risk.

Waiting a few hours more to learn if and when any changes in level will be made won’t make any difference to the outcome, but it would be good to know if there is a far better reason why we’re waiting than allowing preparation for the speech to which many of us don’t want to listen.


Level 1 must be this week should be today

08/06/2020

Jacinda Ardern will announce that we will be moving to level 1 alert level this week.

Her choice not to deter protest marches before they happened last weekend and the admission by Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield that protesters didn’t need to self isolate because there’s no community transmission of Covid-19 gives her and her government no choice.

That cost them the social licence to continue restricting what we can do and where and with whom we can do it.

If people can protest in their thousands the rest of us can operate businesses at capacity and have more than 100 people at weddings, funerals, worship and sporting and social events.

Many have already moved to level 1.

We flew to the North Island three weeks ago. Passengers were pretty good at maintaining distance from each other. We made the same flight last week, and passengers were far more relaxed about distancing.

We had to sign in to the farmers market yesterday but the supermarket had no queues, no-one at the door restricting entry and cleaning trolleys; and the two-metre dots to indicate social distancing spaces had gone.

The argument for keeping us at level 2 was growing weaker as day by day no new cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed. It disappeared completely with the protest marches.

We should have dropped a level at least a week ago.

The only question about today’s announcement is, when will we get most of our freedom back?

It must be this week and it should be today.

If it’s not today, the political capital the government has built up will be eroded the way its social licence for continuing constraints has been.


Contradictions and confusion

03/06/2020

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the social distancing breaches at the weekend’s protest marches was irresponsible.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the marches breached the rules.

That was yesterday, after the event. Both were silent before the event when they might have been able to persuade people to protest in ways that didn’t breach the rules.

The PM gave us repeated warnings and guidelines for Anzac Day, why didn’t she speak up before the protests?

That she only voiced an opinion after the event is contradictory and confusing for those of us who thought we knew the rules and were keeping to the requirement to have no more than 100 people at an event and to maintain social distance.

But there’s more contradiction and confusion from DIrector General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield:

“There’s currently no evidence of community transmission in New Zealand so at this time, quarantine for 14 days after attending one of these outdoor events is not required.”

If that’s the case why are we still at Level 2 which is handicapping businesses which in turn is costing jobs and livelihoods?

But he says it’s still important that Kiwis remain “alert to symptoms and seek advice if they’re at all concerned”.

“Whatever the alert level in New Zealand, it’s clear COVID-19 will continue to be a global threat for some time and it’s important we remain vigilant – both as individuals and as a country,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“This means continuing to observe physical distancing to keep yourself and others safe, seeking appropriate heath advice, and most importantly staying at home if you’re unwell.”

Continuing to observe physical distancing – unless you’re at a protest or the PM or DG:

Photographs have emerged of the Prime Minister and director general of health posed for pictures close to wellwishers, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a National Party MP warned by police for doing the same.

It has led to an admission from the Prime Minister it was a struggle to maintain “appropriate distancing” with people approaching wanting “handshakes and hugs”.

It’s been a struggle for the rest of us to maintain “appropriate distancing” at funerals and with family and friends but most of us have managed it.

Bloomfield also confirmed he was in a photograph with strangers but said it was only for a moment.

Northland MP Matt King produced the photographs after facing public criticism when he posted to Facebook photographs of himself with staff from a restaurant in Paihia where he had dined.

King told the Herald today coverage of the photograph led to a phone call from a senior Northland police officer who reminded him of social distancing rules.

“I felt sorry for the cop. He was a senior cop. He said: ‘This is not a formal warning – you’re standing too close‘.” . . .

It doesn’t help that there’s contradictory statements coming from the PM and her deputy:

With businesses hemorrhaging money by the day, the Government should be discussing the move to Level 1 now, not in a week, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Prime Minister and her Cabinet could have discussed the move to Level 1 today. It’s not good enough that all they did was agree to meet again next week to make a call.”

National is demanding the Government immediately release the secret Cabinet papers on which it decided last week to stay in Level 2.

“Divisions between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters are causing confusion about what the secret papers say about how safe it would be to move to Level 1,” Mr Muller says.

“The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have both read the same Cabinet papers but one is telling us it is too dangerous to move to Level 1 while the other says it would be perfectly safe.

“Moving to Level 1 as soon as it is safe is of the greatest importance to small businesses and the thousands of Kiwis losing their jobs each week.

“The public deserves to see the same advice Ms Ardern and Mr Peters are publicly disagreeing about.”

We also need to know the criteria for moving to Level 1 because it obviously isn’t what is on the Ministry of Health’s website or we’d already be there.

Alert Level 1 — Prepare

The disease is contained in New Zealand.

Risk assessment

    • COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
    • Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand. . . 

Instead we’ve got confusion and contradiction over which gatherings can have more than 100 people and which can’t; between what the DG of Health says and what we’ve been told about Alert Level 2; and between the PM and her deputy and what’s on the website and what’s happening in practice.

The social and economic cost of this is far too high for anything but the clarity and certainty businesses need to make decisions and all of us deserve if the social licence the government lost at the weekend is to be regained.

Without it, more and more people are going to flout the rules in the certain knowledge that they, like the protesters, will be left to do as they will.

 


And still we wait

02/06/2020

The last case of Covid-19 which was thought to result from community transmission was on April 2. That’s more than eight weeks ago.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

There have been no new cases Covid-19 for 10 days.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

There is one active case of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2 lockdown.

Many Covid-19 testing stations are closing down.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

People are losing 1000 jobs a day.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

New Zealand is facing the largest decline in GDP in 160 years.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

Thousands of people assembled to protest  the murder of Minneapolis man George Floyd. That murder was atrocious but no excuse for flouting the rules when still only 100 people can attend weddings and funerals and we’re all supposed to be social distancing, festivals and events from the National Fieldays to church fairs can’t be held and many businesses cannot operate at full capacity?

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

The Government needs to explain to New Zealanders why it won’t consider a move to Alert Level 1 for another week, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“Kiwis have made enormous sacrifices to flatten the curve, but if their efforts still aren’t enough to move to Level 1 then the Government must explain why.

“It has been more than a week since the last confirmed case of Covid-19. There are fewer cases now than there was before any restrictions were put in place.

“The Government has a duty to speak with one voice on such a critical issue, but all Kiwis are hearing now is mixed messages from the Prime Minister and her deputy.

“Businesses on the brink of closure have been left in limbo too long. It’s time for the Government to be clear about what conditions need to be met for the move to Level 1.

“Level 1 should mean businesses can return to full capacity, transport networks can resume without constraints, marriages can be properly celebrated and loved ones can be appropriately mourned.

“The sooner small businesses know what Level 1 will look like, the easier it will be for the backbone of our economy to start repairing itself.”

Most of us co-operated with the Level 4 lockdown requirements.

Most of us co-operated with the Level 3 lockdown requirements.

Many of us are confused about exactly what we can and can’t do at Level 2 – protests are unlimited but work, church, funerals, weddings festivals and social gatherings are restricted?

And still we wait to drop down from Level 2.

But why?

The Ministry of Health’s criteria for  Alert Level 2 is:

The disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains.

Risk assessment

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

The criteria for Alert Level 1 is:

The disease is contained in New Zealand.

Risk assessment

    • COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
    • Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand.

By those measures it should be safe to go to Level 1.

And still we wait to drop from Level 2.

But we’re sick of waiting.

The social licence that is needed for us to keep the rules was torn up and stamped on yesterday.

If protesters don’t have to wait for a drop down from Level 2, why should the rest of us?


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