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.
- 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.