Complacency incompetence & control freakery

30/11/2021

Sir Brian Roche has yet another report criticising the government’s Covid-19 response:

Sir Brian Roche warned lockdown tolerance was waning, the vaccine rollout was failing Māori and MIQ was causing social and economic harm, a document dump released on Friday shows.

The esteemed advisor also told the Government the “current outbreak has revealed the very poor level of preparedness of hospitals for Delta”.

Sir Brian reviewed the Delta outbreak and its impact on reopening the borders. He sent his advice to ministers on September 23 – two days after Auckland moved to alert level 3.

Tolerance and goodwill for lockdowns and closed borders were being challenged, Sir Brian warned.

“The current Delta outbreak has, to a significant extent, exposed urgent issues with respect to New Zealand’s preparedness for reconnecting.

“Delta has fundamentally changed the model of preparedness and response and we must adapt accordingly. We do not have a do-nothing option.” . . 

The lack of preparedness for Delta is matched by being ill-prepared for opening the borders:

Sir Brian also wanted the Government to begin opening the international border “to address escalating economic and social harms”, but said before doing so there needed to be a means for vaccination verification, “coherent and fit-for-purpose plan” for MIQ alternatives with saliva and rapid antigen resting rolled out widely “as quickly as possible”.

“Rapid antigen testing is a critical prerequisite – we cannot afford the delays in its introduction that have been experienced with saliva testing.”

The Government only rolled out vaccine passes on November 17 and announced changes to MIQ alternatives and rapid antigen testing this week – two months after getting that advice.

To address the issues Sir Brian wanted a fit-for-purpose COVID agency or response unit because the current model “is failing and will fail” when the country reopens.

“We recommend that this unit is put in place before the end of the vaccination rollout as the current arrangements put the country at unnecessary risk.”

The lack of preparedness is partly due to complacency – all the time wasted last year that led to the delay in the vaccine strollout.

There are also elements of incompetence, especially around the delays in saliva testing and rapid antigen testing.

The costs of that have been compounded by control freakery:

Newshub can reveal Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield advised the Government “the rest of New Zealand could move to Alert Level 1” back in September. 

The Government dropped a heap of documents related to the COVID-19 Delta outbreak response on Friday, revealing behind-the-scenes advice from the Ministry of Health that informed alert level decisions. 

In a document dated September 12, Dr Bloomfield advised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Cabinet that Auckland could shift to alert level 3 while “the rest of New Zealand could move to Alert Level 1”.  . . 

Keeping Auckland at level 4 and the rest of New Zealand at level 2 for longer than advised  has been very expensive in both economic and human terms.

All sorts of events have been cancelled, businesses have failed, wedding services and funerals have had restricted numbers or been postponed because of restrictions on what can operate and how many people can gather.

The financial losses and emotional strain of this are incalculable.

But the biggest cost could yet be political.

The government has told us time and time again it’s following medical advice but this information dump shows that at least in this case it wasn’t.

So what was driving this very costly decision?

It wasn’t complacency, it might not have been incompetence – it looks very like control freakery as does yesterday’s traffic light announcement.

 


Paying cost for incompetence

25/11/2021

Kate MacNamara asks: Did scandal-mired former Health Minister David Clark ignore Pfizer’s vaccine meeting request?

Labour Minister David Clark was sent a key Pfizer letter on June 30 last year, in which the drug company pressed the head of New Zealand’s “vaccine taskforce” to meet and discuss its vaccine candidate.

Taskforce officials, however, were not equipped at the time to begin talks with the drug company, and over six weeks elapsed before a first meeting took place.

The Cabinet finally armed the taskforce with funds both to contract specialist negotiation expertise and to make vaccine purchases on August 10; officials signed a non-disclosure agreement with Pfizer on August 13 and a first meeting with the company took place the following day, on August 14.

Clark, the then Health Minister, refused to answer questions about the letter, including whether he read it at the time and whether he made any effort to hasten the readiness of the taskforce to begin meetings and negotiations with the drug company. . .

Clark’s press secretary, Sam Farrell, said Clark, now reinstated to the Cabinet with four portfolios, including Commerce and Consumer Affairs, will not answer questions about the Pfizer letter because, “[he] no longer has ministerial responsibility for the health portfolio …” . . .

But he did have responsibility at the time.

Pfizer’s June letter noted: “We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021. . . 

Once we came out of the first lockdown the government rested on its laurels, basking in praise for no community transmission (well apart from that which locked Auckland down again, and again . . ); and responding to criticisms that we needed vaccines sooner by saying other countries needed them more.

Chris Bishop, National’s spokesman for Covid-19 Response, said Clark’s “inaction” showed “unforgivable incompetence from a minister clearly distracted by other things at the time.”

“He should have been moving with speed and alacrity to get a meeting with Pfizer as quickly as possible. The fact that the Pfizer meeting took over six weeks clearly set us back in 2021,” Bishop said. . . 

At the very least it shows a lack of focus and poor prioritisation.

It’s unclear whether earlier engagement with Pfizer could have secured a larger quantity of early vaccine doses for New Zealand.

If in June 2020 Pfizer was telling the government it could supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of the year, it almost certainly would have done so had the government not delayed responding.

By October, New Zealand lagged many of its peers in signing so-called bilateral advance purchase agreements with drug companies for vaccine candidates.

In March the Government signed a second agreement with Pfizer to secure a further 8.5 million doses, likely on a delivery schedule for the second half of 2021.

The Government has declined to release the Pfizer contracts, citing commercial confidentiality. The first doses arrived in New Zealand in February, 2021, following Medsafe approval, and the Ministry of Health’s schedule shows that 1.5 million doses had arrived in the country by early July, 2021.

New Zealand has subsequently incurred a roughly estimated cost to the economy of some $10 billion through lockdowns and the Government has pinned reopening to very high levels of vaccination. . . 

Had more people been vaccinated sooner the latest lockdown could at least have been shortened and possibly avoided.

Instead we were all locked down for three weeks and Aucklanders have now been locked down for more than three months.

Delays in vaccination have been very expensive in both human and financial terms, and recovery from both the social and economic impacts will take years.


MIQueue misery ‘obscene’

15/11/2021

An Auckland man with Covid-19 spent six days isolating in his car while tens of thousands of double vaccinated travelers who tested negative are still forced to face the misery of the MIQueue lottery:

Auckland businessman Murray Bolton says he has been “inundated” with requests for assistance from desperate, double-vaccinated and COVID-negative Kiwis trying to get through New Zealand’s broken MIQ system after his own successful court challenge, but that MBIE remains obstructive and “refuses to face reality”.

“My lawyers have been absolutely inundated with requests for assistance from people from all walks of life, both trapped in New Zealand and overseas,” Mr Bolton said. “A number of people clearly have grounds for self-isolating on their return which fit with the purposes of the government’s health orders and the law as outlined by the High Court in its decision on my judicial review. But they are still facing an obstinate bureaucracy that refuses to acknowledge the law or the reality of the virus in New Zealand.”

“The stories are heart breaking. There are so many accounts of personal loss brought about by this broken system, the furthest thing you would ever expect to see from the kind of society we like to think New Zealand is.”

Mr Bolton said he has personally signed off a number of requests to fund New Zealanders’ legal assistance in navigating the MIQ exemption system through his lawyers, Martelli McKegg who are working as quickly as possible to help those they can. This may extend to further legal action to hold the government to account.

“I have also shared my extensive investment in legal research on this issue with numerous people bringing their own actions, including Grounded Kiwis.”

“Let’s call this situation what it is — obscene,” Mr Bolton said. “Scarce room spaces and our overstretched health workforce are tied up babysitting perfectly healthy returning New Zealanders, while hundreds of vulnerable Aucklanders battling COVID are left to fend for themselves.”

“As of today there are 1382 New Zealanders who caught COVID in Auckland isolating at home,” Mr Bolton said. “And we know now that many are falling through the cracks, isolating in garages or cars, or suffering with severe symptoms but unable to get the attention of the health services. These stories are appalling, and particularly unforgiveable with the resources being wasted on MIQ.”

“Professor Michael Baker, one of the most principled and consistent independent expert voices since the beginning of the pandemic and certainly no COVID-appeaser, said today MIQ is ‘redundant’ for any double-vaccinated arrivals into Auckland.”

“Every Kiwi who has contacted us for help is double-vaccinated,” Mr Bolton said. “But they have had to endure, lottery after lottery for MIQ spots and been left disappointed and hopeless. People’s loved ones are sick and dying and they cannot get back to see them.”

“I also heard about people’s incredible business innovations and opportunities for the New Zealand economy, to keep going against the tide of the pandemic or to push forward into new frontiers,” Mr Bolton said. “But MIQ means business people are unable to get out of New Zealand. Others, who left in order to keep their businesses alive overseas, have been stuck outside the border and unable to get back for more than six months. Many of these people have empty homes sitting in New Zealand that they can easily and safely self-isolate in and be no burden whatsoever to the health system. Other people have obtained spots on global programmes, with potentially invaluable networks between New Zealand and the world, but are unable to be able to take them up because they cannot get home if they leave the country.”

“MBIE have not made any amendments to their website to reflect the outcome of the judicial review decision,” Mr Bolton said. “They are living in denial and trying to keep New Zealanders in the dark about their rights. There is no information reflecting the law that allows exemptions from MIQ on grounds other than “medical” grounds. MBIE is still rejecting applications with pro forma responses, plainly not having even considered them, telling desperate people that they have to submit information they are not legally required to, and even rejecting out of hand plainly eligible exemptions.”

Obscene is the right word for this broken system.

An email from National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop says:

Did you know that right now there are just 35 people with COVID in MIQ in New Zealand (out of over 4000 people), while there are 1773 people with COVID isolating at home?

The New Zealand government is overseeing a ridiculous situation where people who actually have COVID isolate at home, not in quarantine, but fully vaccinated travellers who don’t have COVID have to go into MIQ.

This situation needs to change – not at some vague point in 2022 which is the government’s timeframe, but right now. By ending MIQ for fully vaccinated travellers to New Zealand, we can free up space in quarantine for people with COVID who actually need it. You may have seen the tragic stories in the last week of people isolating and passing away at home.

It’s not just National who says this is absurd. Professor Michael Baker and his colleagues agree that Public health would be better served by having MIQ rooms available for community cases, when their homes are not suitable for home isolation. . . 

MIQ for incoming travellers was sensible last year when the aim was to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand.

But now with so many people stranded off shore and with the disease wide spread in Auckland and leaking through the borders, it is no longer working.

When there’s such a shortage of  MIQ beds they should be left for people with the disease who can’t self-isolate safely and double vaccinated travellers who have had negative tests should be able to skip MIQ providing they can self-isolate safely at home.

National’s petition seeking this has received nearly 90,000 signatures. You can add yours here.


MIQueue must go for most

05/11/2021

National has launched a petition to end MIQ:

The time has come to end the lottery of human misery that is MIQ, says National’s Covid Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“We have today launched a new petition so that Kiwis on and offshore can tell the Government in no uncertain terms that it’s time to end MIQ.

“We now have a farcical situation where fully vaccinated New Zealanders, with no Covid, who win the MIQ lottery have to spend 14 days in MIQ in Auckland, while more than 1300 people with Covid or who are close contacts of Covid cases isolate at home in Auckland.

“This makes no sense. It is unfair, callous and illogical.

“Tens of thousands of Kiwis have been shut out of their home country because of the MIQ system. The stories that fill MPs’ inboxes are truly harrowing.

“The MIQ system is not politically or morally sustainable. It is legally questionable.

“This isn’t the Kiwi way. It isn’t kindness. It isn’t compassion. The Government is now engaging in wilful, state-sponsored cruelty on an industrial scale.

The government grandstanded on Australia’s treatment of illegal immigrants. Its treatment of its own citizens who can’t get home is far worse.

“It’s time to end MIQ and allow Kiwis stuck offshore to come home for Christmas.

“Fully-vaccinated travellers to New Zealand present negligible risk. Since we started collecting MIQ vaccination data from August 23, just two fully vaccinated travellers in MIQ have tested positive later than day eight in MIQ.

“National is launching this petition to demand the Government put an end to MIQ. Clearly we need quarantine facilities for some community Covid cases, but we must move to a system where fully vaccinated travellers who return negative pre-departure tests can enter New Zealand without spending time in MIQ hotels.

“National’s ‘Opening Up’ plan envisaged travellers from lower risk jurisdictions – such as Queensland – not entering isolation at all, while travellers from higher risk places such as New South Wales would spend a week in isolation at home. Under both scenarios, MIQ would cease and there would be no state-imposed limits on travellers to New Zealand.

“Ending MIQ would reunite families, end the enormous anguish at the heart of the system, boost tourism, and help fill skill shortages in New Zealand.

“We can’t remain stuck behind the walls of Fortress New Zealand forever. We have to reopen to the world, and a good place to start would be getting rid of the lottery of human misery that is MIQ.” 

People are stranded overseas after losing, or finishing, jobs and packing up their homes.

They are locked out of the country after mercy visits to the ill and dying and for funerals.

Others are stuck here unable to go overseas for such mercy visits or business for fear they won’t be able to get home again.

This is inhumane.

There is more risk of getting Covid-19 from Aucklanders than there is from double-vaccinated travellers who have had a negative test before boarding a flight home and again on landing.

If people who have Covid-19 are being trusted to self-isolate at home, double vaccinated returnees could be too.

A friend’s daughter recently moved to Japan. For two weeks she had to isolate in her apartment. Several times a day at irregular intervals she was phoned to check that she was where she was supposed to be.

If that works there, why couldn’t it work here?

You can sign the petition here.


Can’t get in, can’t get out

04/11/2021

Aucklanders’ hopes of being able to get out of the city by Christmas have been dashed:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s admission on radio today that the hard border around Auckland is set to remain in place over summer to unvaccinated people proves she’s prepared play The Grinch in order to mask her Government’s failures, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

She came without packages, she came without bags, she went on the radio, to make Christmas hopes sag.

“Speaking to ZM, the Prime Minister said: ‘We are looking at how, if you are adding on a testing regime, how you would manage that number and that scale of people being tested, but also, yes, using vaccine certificates is part of that, so, while we are still working on it if anyone wants to make sure they are able to leave over the summer, it’s another reason to get vaccinated’.

“The PM should be explicitly clear on whether Aucklanders will be free travel this summer.

“She says there are still issues being worked through on, if and how Aucklanders will be able to travel this Christmas.

“This just isn’t good enough. 

“National has called for easing MIQ so that Kiwis can come home for Christmas. Now we hear that Labour might not even allow Aucklanders to travel for Christmas.

“There are no excuses for the Government to still be working on major aspects of their so-called traffic light system.

“New Zealanders need certainty. People are planning their summers now. Families want to know if they will see each other at Christmas. If they don’t know what the situation at the Auckland border will be many people simply will not plan a family Christmas or summer holiday.

“Not only will that keep loved ones separated, a closed border will be dire for the tourism industries of places such as Coromandel and Northland that rely on visitors from Auckland.

“Most Kiwis have done the right thing and got vaccinated. We can’t lock up Auckland forever because the Government has set a vaccination target that is more ambitious than anywhere else in the world.

“National’s ‘Back in Business’ plan calls for regional boundaries to be abolished once an 85-90 per cent vaccination milestone is met, or December 1, whatever comes first.

“Labour’s target of 90 per cent for every single DHB is impossibly high, and some DHBs are so far behind it’s impossible to see the target being met anytime soon.

“Kiwis need a path back to normality. Summer is what we’ve been looking forward to. But it seems the PM wants to play The Grinch and keep us locked up forever.”

Tens of thousands of people can’t come home because of the shambles that is MIQueue and now Aucklanders aren’t going to be able to get out of their city when they want to:

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint the government is considering the option that Aucklanders have an allocated time slot to leave the region over the summer holidays.

The measure would reduce the risk of queues of traffic at the boundary checkpoints, as vaccination certificates are checked. . .

Reduce queues? How would that work? Another lottery like the MIQueue for people trying to get into the country? And what about the people from north and south of Auckland wanting to get through the city to and from Northland and Waikato?

What was he thinking? Was he even thinking?

National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop told Checkpoint he thinks the potential time allocation for Aucklanders to leave the region in holidays is “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard”.

“MIQ is bad enough, with the lottery of human misery for Kiwis to come home to their own country. The idea that Aucklanders will be allocated by the government a week away or something, when I first saw it on Twitter… I actually had to reread it about three times. I couldn’t believe it. . . 

This government hasn’t the logistical expertise needed to enable New Zealanders to come home. How on earth do they think they’ll be able to get a workable timetable for Aucklanders to leave their city?

 


Too little, too slow

29/10/2021

Yesterday’s announcement of the prospect of shorter stays in MIQ will give little comfort to those enduring the MIQueue misery.

The Government’s changes to the cruel MIQ system are a start but they need to go much further and much more quickly, says National’s Covid spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“As I revealed last week, fully vaccinated travellers to New Zealand, with a negative pre-departure test, pose negligible risk.

“Just two fully vaccinated travellers out of 20,000 or so people who have been through MIQ since August 23 have tested positive on day eight or later, indicating MIQ could be reduced immediately to seven days without any real risk.

“While fully vaccinated travellers with no Covid have been spending 14 days in MIQ, more than 200 people with Covid have been isolating at home in Auckland.

Even if only those travellers who could self-isolate in that city where the disease is already widespread in the community, were permitted to do so, it would relieve some of the MIQueue pressure.

“The tragedy is that these changes could and should have happened much sooner. The Government only started recording the vaccination status of people arriving into MIQ from August 23. Why didn’t this happen sooner? The Government has never given an adequate explanation as to why it didn’t bother to collect the data earlier than August 23.

“If we had the data from vaccinated travellers in April or May, potentially tens of thousands more people could have come safely through the border much earlier than now.

“The Government’s changes should also go much further. This is about the bare minimum that the Government could have done, and it won’t help Kiwis offshore desperate to return home. The stories of human misery and hardship that populate the inboxes of Members of Parliament are harrowing. The sooner we can end this lottery of human misery, the better.

“We need to quickly move to a situation where fully vaccinated travellers from low-risk jurisdictions do not have to isolate at all, assuming they have a negative pre-departure and post-arrival test. National would introduce this once New Zealand is at 85 per cent fully vaccinated, which is only weeks away. This would mean thousands of travellers from places such as Queensland could be home for Christmas.

“National’s ‘Opening Up’ Plan also calls for travellers from medium-risk locations, such as parts of the US, the UK and some states of Australia, to be allowed to skip MIQ and isolate at home for seven days.

“It’s time we reopened to the world. We can’t remain shut behind the walls of Fortress New Zealand. Today’s news is a good start, but there is so much more to do.”

Halving the time people are required to stay in MIQ will free up some rooms – but many of them will be taken up with people from the community who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 so the change won’t do much to improve the changes of the tens of thousands of people forced to take their chances with the MIQueue lottery.

That includes business people, one of whom, challenged the government in court:

A High Court judge has ordered the government to take a second look at an Auckland richlister’s bid to bypass the MIQ system by self-isolating at his gated home following a high-stakes business meeting in the pandemic-ravaged United States.

Justice Geoffrey Venning issued the brief ruling from the bench on Thursday. He is expected to issue a full written ruling on Friday. . . 

Bolton, who is 73 and has received both Covid-19 jabs, sought a judicial review after the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) rejected his MIQ exemption application. The landmark case argues that the system unreasonably limits citizens’ freedom of movement and breaches the Bill of Rights Act.

Part of his proposal was to take a private jet to and from the United States so as to reduce his risk of being exposed to Covid-19. Upon return, he and his partner would stay at their gated home in the swank Auckland suburb Herne Bay for two weeks – the same amount of time people are required to stay at MIQ facilities, if they’re lucky enough to get a spot – and submit to all testing requirements.

High-profile lawyer John Billington QC argued that his client would be more likely to catch Covid-19 if in an MIQ facility rather than following his own proposed plan. The Crown, however, argued that the biggest risk would be attending the board meeting in Boston. . .

Would the risk at the board meeting be very different from that of buying groceries or any of the other activities permitted in ‘pandemic-ravaged’ Auckland?

The government has made us fearful, boasting of the months of freedom we enjoyed while others were locked down last year, but unwilling to loosen control to enable us to enjoy some of the freedom those overseas have now.

As Russell Coutts says:

The fact is that people are living with Covid offshore and although some people, perhaps many, rightly remain cautious, life has largely returned to normal in many places. But that is not what we are being told here in New Zealand.

The erosion of our freedom of choice, freedom of speech and the loss of precious time with family and friends and all the other negative aspects of a lockdown should be balanced against the health risk of Covid. Imagine if we had invested the 1 billion plus spent each week on lockdowns on improving our health system, education or roading (we had 8 road deaths in NZ last weekend).

It seems totally insane that double vaccinated people are terrified of meeting unvaccinated people. Is that how it’s going to be for the rest of our lives? What about the people that have health issues and can’t get vaccinated? Are they going to be banished from society? (for the record I’m double vaccinated).

Finally the fact that the NZ government has now said that even if Auckland achieves 90% double vaccination that it’s people may likely still be restricted from traveling at Christmas seems like a total nonsense. (For those overseas people reading this, Auckland already has 93% first dose and 82% second dose vaccinated – the entire country has 87% first dose and 72% double dosed).

It’s also total nonsense and contradictory that double vaccinated people that have negative covid tests are being locked down for 14 days in MIQ whilst people with Covid are being allowed to self isolate in the community.

How New Zealand, a country where it’s people greatly valued freedom off choice…..how we even got to this stage of blindly accepting this sort of unilateral rule, power and dictatorship from our government is deeply troubling indeed.

 Fear was part of what got us here  – fear of the disease, fear of overwhelming the health system, fear of death.

As more of us get vaccinated, as many people with Covid-19 are at home rather than in MIQ or hospital, and with better treatments for the disease available, is that fear justified or has it become an overused  political weapon?


From elimination to confusion

05/10/2021

The government has managed to upset people across the political spectrum with yesterday’s pronouncement from the podium of truth which took us from the elimination strategy to the confusion strategy.

From the left:

From someone whose politics I don’t know:

And from the right:

 

 

 

Time has run out on the government’s strategy:

The Government’s incoherent and timid approach to the Covid pandemic shows it lacks the courage required to make tough decisions for the benefit of New Zealand, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

“Today’s announcement confirms what most New Zealanders – especially Aucklanders – have come to learn only too well over the past seven weeks of lockdown: The Government is completely out of ideas.

“Elimination has failed but, while the Prime Minister says we’ve now moved to a ‘transition’ stage, the strategy is fundamentally unchanged.

“The Prime Minister’s supposed roadmap to recovery is nothing more than a vague wishlist she tinkers with as dictated by the situation she reacts to. Where is the vision?

“The fact is that Jacinda Ardern has no answers to problems that she and her Government promised us were under control. The situation is now, very clearly, out of control and worsening every day.

“As a result of their incompetence and their incoherent supposed ‘strategy’, New Zealand is stuck in a lockdown limbo with no answers and no way out.

“Enough is enough. Time has run out. The PM must admit she and her Government have failed. Own up to your mistakes. Change direction. Be bold. There are choices.

“We will help in any way we can. Indeed, our ‘Opening Up’ plan, if immediately adopted, could see an end to lockdowns and Kiwis able to travel again by Christmas.

“The country deserves answers and a clear way past Covid. We have provided this to you. Take it onboard. New Zealand needs it more than ever.

“We can open up with a vigorous suppression strategy. This shifts our focus from the border alone to one where technology like rapid antigen testing is used to quickly identify and isolate cases.

“Had this approach been used at the Auckland boundary it’s highly unlikely the virus would have spread into the Waikato and beyond.

“The Government’s approach is the worst of both worlds. We have the all the costs and harm of a lockdown without the benefit of eliminating Covid.

“Kiwis need to see the Government’s detailed plan now. It is not fair to ask more than two million people to live in a lockdown conditions without an end goal in mind.

“If the goal is get 90 per cent of eligible Kiwis double-vaccinated, then we are looking at least another six weeks of lockdown. This can’t be the Government’s only plan.

“Adopt National’s Opening Up plan. Use new technology and treatments to avoid lockdowns and supress Covid, while turbocharging our vaccine rollout.

“The Government’s one-dimensional approach is costing the country more than $1 billion a week. Businesses are being shuttered at breakneck pace. The numbers of people on benefits have exploded. Mental health services are swamped. This is a crisis.

“Do the right thing, Prime Minister, and be kind to Kiwis who are desperate for answers.”

It wouldn’t be hard to do better than the vague pronouncement:

In the absence of a coherent strategy or plan from the Government to deal with the ongoing outbreak in Auckland other than abject surrender, National’s Chris Bishop says there are a number of actions the Government can take immediately to enhance the Covid response.

“The Prime Minister has belatedly realised the significance of vaccination. It would have been good if she had come to this realisation in the first six months of the year when New Zealand made an explicit policy decision to have the developed world’s slowest vaccine rollout.

“First, Aucklanders deserve to know at what level of vaccination restrictions can be loosened. Today’s roadmap was vague, confusing and will cause even more stress for Aucklanders.

“The loosening of restrictions should be explicitly tied to particular vaccination rates. This will help motivate people to go out and get vaccinated.

“Ideally the Government would open up more activities to vaccinated people more quickly. This would act as a spur for people to go and get vaccinated and reward people who have done the right thing. But the Government’s incompetence in rolling out the vaccine authentication means this isn’t an option for now. The Government must move immediately to give New Zealanders a digital vaccine authentication tool so people who have been vaccinated can prove it, and enjoy the benefits of having done so.

“Second, we must vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. National has put forward 11 useful ideas to supercharge vaccination in our Opening Up plan and we urge the Government to act on them.

“Some sensible ideas that could be actioned straight away include allowing patient data held by DHBs and Primary Health Organisations to be automatically accessed by Whānau Ora providers like the Waipareira Trust so they can be contacted by those providers about getting the vaccine, mandating that all currently vaccinating GPs and pharmacists can vaccinate for COVID-19, and ramping up pop-up clinics, walk-in centres, 24-hour drop-in clinics for essential workers and vaccination buses.

“Third, it is clear that there is Covid in the community but surveillance testing via nasal PCR testing is just not picking up cases quickly enough. The Government should immediately contract private sector saliva testing companies like Rako Science to conduct surveillance testing. This would significantly increase testing capacity and make a real difference.

“Fourth, the Government should drop its ill-considered ban on rapid antigen testing and roll it out more widely to essential workers, particularly those crossing the Auckland boundary. The case of the Covid-positive truck driver is a perfect example of why rapid antigen testing is needed. He was infectious from September 28 but had his last test on September 24. Daily rapid testing would likely have picked it up sooner.

“Finally, given the cases now appearing at hospitals, there needs to be regular surveillance testing at our public hospitals. Private hospitals have been regularly testing staff for some time now but there is no coordinated, comprehensive plan in our public hospitals. This should be an urgent priority.

“The Government’s rushed and incoherent plan needs bolstering and we urge the Government to pick up National’s ideas to make suppression work.

And let’s not forget why we’re in this position:

Don’t hold your breath for an apology from the government that didn’t rush the roll-out and thereby didn’t allow us to protect ourselves soon enough.

And don’t hold your breath for something a lot more coherent and helpful than yesterday’s pronouncement.

The government was very good at telling us what to do but once again is showing it’s not nearly as good at doing what’s needed itself.

Given that anyone who hasn’t got vaccinated should follow this advice:


Quotes of the month

01/10/2021

Our Parliament has never before been unilaterally shut by the Speaker. Open Democracy reports that 31 authoritarian governments have used Covid to shut or limit parliaments. Now the list is 32 countries.  –  Richard Prebble

There seems to be a strange alliance developing between the urban environmentalists on the one hand and huge financial interests on the other. The environmentalists want “green” technology not so much to preserve the environment, for whose aesthetic aspects they care little, but as evidence that they “care.” A 600-foot white windmill in a beauty spot does not offend them, on the contrary, they rejoice at it; they see not a bird-slaying eyesore, but an almost religious symbol of salvation, much as crosses used to be placed in the countryside in once-Christian countries. As to the actual effect on the environment, whether the windmill saves or expends energy overall is something that very few of them would be able to compute, but is beside the point, which is to demonstrate compassion toward the biosphere. Meanwhile, subsidies make millionaires. No subsidies, no windmills.Theodore Dalrymple

Intention these days is nine-tenths of virtue, and intention is measured mainly by what people say that their intentions are. After all, each of us is expert on his own intentions, perhaps the only subject on which he is really expert; and therefore if I say I want more 600-feet windmills because that is the only by which the planet be saved, who can gainsay it? – Theodore Dalrymple

I concede, however, that many people feel differently, and regard their car as a symbol of their freedom to be mobile. Voluntary servitude is a well-known condition, but let it not be electrified into the bargain.Theodore Dalrymple

Indeed, looking backwards is a big part of New Zealand’s current predicament. The puttering start to the vaccine rollout while other countries sped ahead. The obvious shortcomings with our managed isolation and quarantine facilities. The Ministry of Health’s failure to stress-test its contact tracing capabilities or even develop workable Bluetooth tracing capability. And the constant repetition of tired slogans from 2020. All this smacks of excessive satisfaction with past success. – Roger Partridge

Looking backwards, elimination has served us well. And New Zealand’s low vaccination rates means the country has no feasible alternative but to use strict lockdowns to try to stamp out the current incursion.

But how sustainable is this strategy going forwards? –  Roger Partridge

The economic costs of lockdowns are not measured by the cost to the taxpayer alone. The real financial costs are to people’s livelihoods. Economist Michael Reddell calculates that last year’s lockdowns wiped $12b from GDP last year. The current lockdown will add billions more to that. Once again, business opportunities will disappear, firms will fail, and jobs will be lost. –  Roger Partridge

Just as the financial costs of lockdown are cumulative, so too are the human costs. Curtailing freedoms comes at a high price. Medical appointments missed. Education foregone. Friends and families cut off from each other, even at times of acute emotional stress during births and bereavements. Even the loss of everyday recreational activities like a day at the beach or in the mountains takes a heavy toll. – Roger Partridge

There are no good options with Covid. But an elimination strategy that was undoubtedly optimal for the first part of the Covid journey, looks much harder to justify for the journey ahead.

A change of course would bring significant benefits. Families separated by the closed borders would have an opportunity to be reunited. Kiwis stranded overseas would have a better chance of returning. Businesses would be able to meet offshore customers and suppliers. – Roger Partridge

More than that, a new course would mark an end of an authoritarian state that at times has seemed more willing to limit our liberty than to learn from its own mistakes. – Roger Partridge

Looking back, few Kiwis would have swapped their experience during the first year-and-a-bit of the pandemic with anyone else’s around the world.

But whether the road ahead requires the same approach is another matter. There are plenty of reasons for Kiwis to question both the driving and the direction of travel. – – Roger Partridge

Anyone who accidentally creates discomfort—whether through their teaching methods, their editorial standards, their opinions, or their personality—may suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of not just a student or a colleague but an entire bureaucracy, one dedicated to weeding out people who make other people uncomfortable. And these bureaucracies are illiberal. They do not necessarily follow rules of fact-based investigation, rational argument, or due process. Instead, the formal and informal administrative bodies that judge the fate of people who have broken social codes are very much part of a swirling, emotive public conversation, one governed not by the rules of the courtroom or logic or the Enlightenment but by social-media algorithms that encourage anger and emotion, and by the economy of likes and shares that pushes people to feel—and to perform—outrage. The interaction between the angry mob and the illiberal bureaucracy engenders a thirst for blood, for sacrifices to be offered up to the pious and unforgiving gods of outrage—a story we see in other eras of history, from the Inquisition to the more recent past.  – Anne Applebaum

There’s another thesis to be written on the contrasting Covid-19 strategies adopted in Australia and New Zealand, and their strikingly different outcomes. Whoever writes it might like to consider, among other things, why New Zealand appears more amenable to lockdowns. Setting aside contrasting political structures, I think it’s another reminder that despite all our superficial similarities, the two countries are culturally and socially quite distinct. Some might say it’s the difference between a larrikin country with lawlessness in its DNA (that would be Australia, in case you’re wondering) and one whose people are meeker and more compliant – or if you prefer, more inclined to pull together in pursuit of a common goal. But I won’t stick my neck out by going any further than that.Karl du Fresne

I’m valuable enough to work in healthcare, but not valuable enough to be a resident. – Yvette du Plessis-Uys

We migrants are not burdens to this country. We are contributing to the country … but are treated like, even less than second class citizens.Thao Joy 

Lack of clarity of goals is a recipe both for inefficiency and an opportunity for bureaucratic overgrowth. Practically nothing goes uncontested; all is confusion. The police are unsure whether their job is to keep public order, prevent and detect crime, or engage in social engineering, by, say, eliminating expressions of hatred or joining in local carnivals by dancing in them. Are teachers supposed to impart certain basic skills and knowledge to children, or turn them into right-thinking mental clones, incapable of bad thoughts? Absurdities proliferate, generating heat but no light. – Theodore Dalrymple

The secret of success, it seems, is an intellectually modest, but very clear, goal in the national interest. In such circumstances, organizational complexity can be managed. It is ideological confusion of purpose that conduces to incompetence.Theodore Dalrymple

Chief Human Rights Commissioners, however, are supposed to uphold the secular character of the New Zealand state. As public servants, they are not entitled to talk like Archbishops. They may tell us what is lawful and unlawful. They may even reiterate the purposes of the Act of Parliament which created their office. But they have no mandate whatsoever to instruct New Zealanders on what is “Right” and what is “Wrong”. – Chris Trotter

Criticism of Ardern is not that she again locked down the country on August 17. Everyone accepts she had no choice, given the circumstances. The criticism is why those circumstances prevailed.Matthew Hooton

Being angry about the Ardern Government’s operational failures is not the same as opposing her objective, strategy or individual decisions. In fact, it is essential those failures be highlighted and those responsible be held to account — in real time by the media, promptly by the Auditor-General and Brian Roche’s continuous monitoring committee, and ultimately by the inevitable Royal Commission into New Zealand’s Covid response and — if necessary — by the judiciary. – Matthew Hooton

Most importantly, academics, the media, the Opposition and the public have a responsibility to continually put the blowtorch on Ardern to ensure her Government prepares for the end of the elimination era a hell of a lot better than it did the arrival of Delta. Cheerleading any government is the most likely way to make it lazy and sloppy.

With Covid, that risks costing people their lives.Matthew Hooton

Current legislation is based on a false interpretation of the original Treaty documents signed by an overwhelming majority of Iwi leaders that clearly stated the terms of the deal reached between the Crown and Maori.

The fact that parts of that agreement were, in subsequent years ignored by the Crown – although reprehensible, does not in itself justify the creation of a separatist society in compensation for the “sins of our Pakeha forebears.” – Clive Bibby

This lockdown feels different. Taking the temperature of friends and colleagues, there seems less stoicism and more grumpiness. There is a weariness about people’s responses when you ask how they are going. Part of it is the novelty wearing off. Making your own bread might have been fun the first time around, but the third or fourth time, not so much. Another part is the sense that we shouldn’t be here.

No matter how much the Government spins, people know it is the low and slow vaccination rate which has meant there is no other option besides lockdown, just as it has been in the eastern states of Australia. Then there is the loss of control over your own life. That sense of frustration and powerlessness and an inability to make plans. For many, that loss of personal agency is debilitating.Steven Joyce

It doesn’t help anyone that there is no sense of direction about what comes next. The Government is playing its cards too close to its chest. Whether they haven’t thought things through or have a fear of subsequently being proven wrong, ministers aren’t saying anything substantive about the future. – Steven Joyce

People need hope. They need to know what is coming next. They need a sense of positive momentum.

And they also need to see a change in approach. There has been too much bumbling around, too much dissembling, and too much poor delivery for things to continue the way they have been.

The Government needs to start by setting a clear vaccination target and a date. It is surely now apparent people are willing to get their vaccinations. Notwithstanding the PM’s comment, the problem is supply, not demand. The Government should set a target for the country to achieve by the end of the year, and go all out to achieve it. That would give everyone something to work towards.Steven Joyce

The game-playing at 1pm also needs to stop. The Government’s management of the message risks insulting the intelligence of voters. The Ministry of Health should provide the data earlier in the day, and ministers should call press conferences when they have something significant to say. – Steven Joyce

Whether it’s a bunker mentality or ideology, it is ridiculous how many talented people who don’t work on the public payroll have been excluded from the pandemic response.

Whether it’s vaccine procurement, provision of MIQ facilities, saliva and antigen testing, contact tracing, hospital preparedness, or dragging the chain on letting pharmacies and GPs give the jabs, two-thirds of the country’s capability has been left on the bench. That has to change. Doing so would visibly give the public confidence that the Government is open to new ideas and new directions.Steven Joyce

And finally, ministers should halt their health reforms. These were designed for another time. It is ludicrous they have continued to trundle along during the pandemic, and each passing month makes it more so. It is generally a bad idea to reorganise an army while it is fighting a war, and that surely applies here.

There is no evidence from the pandemic that greater top-down centralisation of the health sector will achieve better results, and in fact the reverse. From clipboard Charlies preventing pharmacies from providing vaccines to opaque dissembling with information, there is nothing in the ministry’s recent performance that gives confidence that a national health service would do a better job than a local one.

The health sector does need reform in the future but not this reform and not now. Rip it up and let’s start again later. Put the money into the front line. – Steven Joyce

 I just hope this is another time in our country’s history where we come together to show that love is stronger than any hate.Kerre McIvor

Yet the state’s failures in other areas has been shocking. It appears no provision has been made to increase ICU capacity, despite 18 months to prepare. There is no Plan B and Plan A is failing.

Perhaps Delta has been a gift in accelerating the rate of vaccines as well as driving home the message that, in this pandemic, as in mate selection, demanding purity is an unobtainable standard that leads only to disappointment and isolation. – Damien Grant

Violence in the name of ideology is the polar opposite of free speech. It is the ultimate attempt to silence those who do not share your worldview.

Differences of political and religious opinion must be navigated with reason and dialogue. Never through violence. Never through fear.

Those who refuse to resolve ideological differences with words are the ones who turn to violence. Those who refuse to respectfully engage in civil dialogue with those they disagree with are the ones who become hateful extremists in the first place.

Freedom of speech — the fundamental human right to peacefully express one’s opinion — is an inherently non-violent principle. This is why we seek to protect it. –  Free Speech Union

But this act of terrorism is also unthinkable because it was utterly predictable.

Yet it happened anyway. No amount of finger pointing will change that.

But we deserve to know why it went so wrong. – Tracy Watkins

The same people who won’t take a vaccine that has been given to billions to people around the world – an extraordinarily safe vaccine – are willing to take a cow medicine and a cow dose, but their argument against the vaccine is that it’s not safe?Kurt Krause

As things stand, an unvaccinated employee has greater rights than her vulnerable co-worker. It is like banning non-smoking workplaces while prohibiting workers from complaining about the smoker at the next desk. – Eric Crampton

Leadership is about doing not talking. 

There are almost three million Australians directly benefiting from the doing and not a single New Zealander benefiting from the talking. – Mike Hosking

Awareness without access to mental health support is kind of like noticing you’re thirsty but having no water. Noticing the thirst may help you seek out the water, but if you are in a situation where there is literally no water, then you are probably better off trying to forget about the thirst. I’m not sure I can stomach another Mental Health Awareness Week where people are encouraged to reach out, get into nature, but absolutely nothing is done to help those people who have been desperately trying to do that, those people who have been coming up against closed doors. For some people in New Zealand, awareness is still valuable (and there are many appropriate resources available for people facing less severe mental health challenges), but there are many people who are well past awareness and what we actually need is some help.  – Lucy McLean

Twelve months later, it is no longer heretical to question the Ministry of Health’s pandemic management. Indeed, it is mainstream. The litany of the ministry’s failings is too long for questions about its fitness for purpose to be decried. The delayed start of the vaccine rollout. Ongoing border testing bungles. The inexplicable delays with saliva testing. The failure to scale up ICU capacity. The constant refrains about failures being “frustrating” or “not what we expected”. The list goes on and on. Roger Partridge

Gorman and Horn observe that the proverbial “Man from Mars” would puzzle at biosecurity in New Zealand and Australia. Both countries have sophisticated and proactive biosecurity agencies to protect against pests and diseases that threaten their agricultural sectors. Yet, when it comes to biosecurity arrangements that protect their populations from pandemics, both have been found wanting.

They have a point. Indeed, the Martian visitor might also wonder why the Government ever tasked the Ministry of Health with operating managed isolation and quarantine facilities. The ministry’s areas of expertise are in policy, procurement and regulation. It is not expert in complex logistical operations. Little wonder the Government eventually concluded the ministry was not up to the MIQ task and enlisted the army’s assistance.

Yet the Government repeated the mistake when entrusting the ministry with managing the national vaccine rollout. Is anyone surprised the rollout got off to such a poor start? – Roger Partridge

It used to be that each village had an idiot, but now those village idiots can converge online in communities, which create echo chambers that reinforce those beliefs. But if social media provides the oxygen, what about the initial spark?Jarrod Gilbert

Among the prime minister’s significant political skills is the ability to appear to answer a question without really answering it at all.  – Luke Malpass

However, it’s all very well laughing at this nonsensical verbosity, but the implications are serious. What it reveals is an inability to be honest and admit a cock-up, as the Australian PM did and apologised to the nation for, but worse, screaming incompetence and abysmally poor judgement.Bob Jones

The single greatest thing any New Zealander can do right now is go and get vaccinated; I cannot stress how important that is. The vaccines are the single greatest investment this Government, or indeed any government, will make in the economy. – Chris Bishop

The Government doesn’t believe that argument on its own rhetoric. They’re saying other countries needed it more than we did so it’s fine to be last in the world while simultaneously saying the vaccine rollout is going really well.’’

“If it’s true that the moral thing to do is for New Zealand to be second to last in the OECD, then why not give away all our vaccines now and hand them over to the developing world? There’s plenty of African countries not rolling out the vaccine, on their own rhetoric that would be the moral thing to do but we’re not doing that. Chris Bishop

I think they’ve done a pretty good job overall with Covid, but they’ve slipped into complacency and self-congratulation mode at the expense of preparation. We sat back and said, ‘We’re the best in the world, we’ve got freedoms that nobody else has, Six60 is playing at Eden Park and it’s so amazing’ (if you like Six60, which apparently people do). – Chris Bishop

The PM likes to say, ‘We were last to get Delta so we could be prepared’, but where’s the evidence that New Zealand actually spent the time being the last to get Delta, looking overseas and saying, ‘You know what, maybe we need to change up our approach here’. Chris Bishop

The two most powerful emotions a government can engage the public with are fear and hope. This Government has been superb on fear. – Mike Hosking

The messaging has been so effective, a few still think that the 26 who originally died pre-vaccine is a stat worth re-quoting ad nauseum, almost as though the world hasn’t moved on, hasn’t got a vaccine, and hasn’t worked out how to live with Covid.

It’s been so effective some still think this lockdown, although brought about solely through ineptitude in terms of failing to prepare for the inevitable outbreak by not hiring enough contact tracers, not expanding health capacity and not getting enough vaccine at a time we actually need it, is to be defended.

Yes the lockdown this time was the right thing to do, only because it was the only thing to do.  But it was the only thing to do because preparation, foresight, planning and delivery fail this government in a way I have not seen in the modern political era. – Mike Hosking

My fear about the fear is this government doesn’t like hope because it involves aspiration and promising stuff it might not be able to deliver.

Delivering fear is easy, we’ve lived it for 18 months.

If you look at the world now versus 18 months ago and look at us now versus 18 months ago, one is dramatically different and yet one isn’t.

And the one that isn’t is the one crippled by fear, not driven by hope. – Mike Hosking

When a government decides to stop citizens saying what they think, it never ends well for democracy.  – Matt McCarten

The proposed solution is far worse than the problem. Do we really feel we have to be protected from someone espousing nonsense or even venom?

When the state thinks it needs to decide what ideas can be said or heard, it’s inevitably used to suppress voices that the powerful don’t want us to hear. – Matt McCarten

So when my mates on the left say we need legislation to stop hate, my response is: we don’t. The current changes will stop people from saying what they think. Frankly, that’s worse.

Ideas we don’t like can make us uncomfortable. Every change in society requires debate. People say stupid things. Only through discussion can we win the hearts and minds of others, and then, eventually, society adopts these new ideas as a new norm. Do people really believe we should have censors determining what we can say and hear?

Suppressing voices is always worse than having a few idiots mouthing off. Matt McCarten

Anyone with knowledge of history knows that suppression laws will eventually be used by the powerful against the weak. Free speech is not a left versus right debate. It’s about protecting democracy and civil society.  – Matt McCarten

The Ministry of Alphabetical Truth seems to like creating the illusion of men not needing women in order to produce children. Motherhood is erased, and perhaps we are to believe that it is replaced by obliging rainbow storks. Not a woman in sight. – Gary Powell

The white heat of domestic politics can be quick to defeat high-minded virtue. – Claire Trevett

When I joined the Department, I was a committed protectionist, believing that controlling imports the way we were was the right thing for New Zealand. But after a few months of seeing the system at work and having on an almost weekly basis visits from senior business leaders begging the likes of this fresh-faced official for import licences so they could carry on or expand their businesses, I realised its folly and became the ardent supporter of free trade and open markets I remain today.  – Peter Dunne 

The thought that major building and construction industry players are having to go cap in hand to junior officials in MBIE to plead their case to be allowed to resume business seems like import licensing all over again. The sole concern here should be whether it is safe for a business to reopen in a Covid19 environment. There should be nothing more to it than that.

It is most certainly not for MBIE to decide whether this product or that is necessary or desirable. Junior government officials, often with little life experience, making major decisions about when and how significant businesses can operate seems just as ludicrous now as it was when I was doing import licensing. And it will surely prove to be just as an inept and uneven approach. The best people to understand business conditions and the demand for specialist goods and services are those involved in the businesses themselves, not an official with no direct business experience sitting behind a desk in Wellington, or, now more likely, working comfortably from home. – Peter Dunne 

One of the major reasons for import licensing’s ultimate failure was that the assumption and practices which underpinned its administration fell out of step and way behind current business practice of the day. Yesterday’s solutions were no longer fit for purpose for dealing with today’s challenges. Yet setting up a business continuity licensing regime, which is effectively what is occurring at present, run by faceless officials with no practical experience is the modern equivalent of the failed import licensing system.

MBIE’s approach, endorsed by Ministers, amounts to subtle re-regulation of the business sector in a way not seen since Muldoonism of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In line with the axiom, “history repeats itself”, it is likely to be just as spectacular a failure and will have eventually to be unwound and balance restored. But given that the current government seems to think that anything that happened before it came to office in 2017 is ancient history and therefore not worth taking any notice of, that is likely to be some time away. – Peter Dunne 

There are intangible reasons to justify say a year or two at university as a bridging experience between childhood and adult status. But otherwise, unless studying for a traditional career such as medicine or law, to a very large degree trusting and unworldly kids attending university today are victims of a gigantic fraud. –  Bob Jones

The modern university is today largely a scam, exploiting the vulnerable with its ever expanding range of non-intellectual bullshit degrees.Bob Jones

Nothing good comes from the politics of fear and hate.  – Matthew Hooton

The only real way to get out of the debt position New Zealand will find itself in “is to grow the economy like billy-o – Andrew Bayley

If suffering confers moral authority, greater suffering confers greater moral authority; and everyone wants, and believes he has, moral authority, the more of it the better. Hence it is necessary to claim to have suffered enormously, in short to be a survivor. Suffering must be magnified and lengthened: it is no good having suffered if you have merely got over it by, for example, pushing it to the back of your mind and getting on with life. And such is the nature of the human mind, that wonderfully flexible instrument, that you can magnify and lengthen your suffering at will, as much and as long as you wish, or as much and as long as necessary to obtain the desired kudos. At the same time you can disguise from yourself that fact that this is what you are doing.

Moreover, you can be a hereditary sufferer, so to speak. It is not necessary for you to have suffered anything personally to obtain the moral authority of suffering and sufferers. It is only necessary that you should belong to a group that, historically, has been wronged and suffered as a result. The glory of this is that you can claim to have suffered enormously while having, in fact, led a very privileged existence. Your membership of the group that has suffered, or suffers still, turns you into an honorary victim; and as we know, amateurs are often better than professionals. They have a more genuine attachment to their role. – Theodore Dalrymple

If 2021, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put it, is the year of the vaccine, then 2020 was the year of the vaccine purchase agreement. And it bears remembering that the former has been delivered in accordance with the terms of the latter. – Kate MacNamara

But it’s important to note that Medsafe’s approval was later than other countries’ regulatory agencies in large measure because New Zealand’s original vaccine purchase was late. Initial data was submitted to Medsafe by Pfizer for the vaccine approval on October 21, only after the first purchase agreement was in place. Kate MacNamara

So the late timing of Pfizer doses was in train much earlier than the Government likes to imply. In addition, scope for reopening deals and paying more for early vaccine delivery certainly existed, though perhaps that window of opportunity was not open as late as February-March of this year. Kate MacNamara

It wouldn’t matter much except vaccination, the Government promises, will restore some normalcy, save billions of dollars, and free us from the blight of lockdowns. Kate MacNamara

Yes, our government stuffed it up big time. It moved too slow due to sluggish administrative, regulatory & bureaucratic processes in Wellington. That’s why we’re all locked down today. It was a $10 billion mistake – and counting – by the Ministry of Health. And the economic costs of moving oh-so-slow amount to half of this country’s entire annual health budget. – Robert MacCulloch

 If there is any risk that the media is skewing their representation of the performance of government, then we are indeed on shaky ground. In fact I suggest that there is nothing quite as dangerous in any democracy as a media that is beholden to the Government.

And there is no doubt in my mind that this Government, as it lurches from clumsy mistakes to avoidable crises, is currently getting an easy ride from the majority of the media operators. – Bruce Cotterill

A free and independent press is a critically important foundation to any democracy. Without it, governments can go unchecked and the rule of law will suffer. – Bruce Cotterill

Sadly, our media does not appear to be as independent and free as we should prefer. We seem to show a lot of photos of the Prime Minister smiling and the opposition leader frowning. – Bruce Cotterill

But reporting what you see and hear is not journalism. Journalism involves questioning what you see and hear. Is it true? Is it right? Who did it? Who said it? Why do you think that? Where is the supporting information and evidence? 

That’s what we’re missing. – Bruce Cotterill

I recently spoke to a senior journalist based in Wellington. He is someone whose opinions and writing I respect. I asked why the questions from the press gallery didn’t seek to dig deeper into what are often flippant answers from our government ministers. He simply said the following; “If you are too tough, you don’t get invited back”. – Bruce Cotterill

Some call this censorship of the press. I call it a denial of access. If the media is threatened with a lack of access, or in other words, if access is used as a negotiating tool or a bargaining chip, then we have a challenge to our democracy that is greater than anything we have had to previously consider.Bruce Cotterill

The media must be free. Free to ask, question, challenge and investigate. Free to publish its findings. Free to hold governments to account. And not just governments.

Businesses, sporting organisations, and high profile personalities, all by virtue of their position in society, need to be held to an appropriate level of conduct and behaviour. – Bruce Cotterill

In a democracy it is very important that a government and indeed members across the political spectrum are able to get their messages out to the people in a way that provides a fair representation of their policies and their activities.

However, it is also equally important that the media question those policies and activities in a way that seeks greater clarity about what those policies are meant to achieve, and greater accountability in regard to their execution and effectiveness. Bruce Cotterill

There is a message in all this. The media who have put out their hands and cheerfully pocketed taxpayer funds they don’t need have only themselves to blame if the public smells a rat and begins to doubt their message. – Michael Bassett

It is possible to build applications that serve our needs, and save lives by providing evidence of vaccinations while also protecting personal privacy.

But it is vital activists, civil society, Parliament and the courts are allowed to carefully scrutinise new measures to ensure that even in the midst of a health panic, we aren’t giving up what we can’t take back. – Andrea Vance

We’ll never know the true cost of 9/11, the cost of the lost of the thousands of lives, what they might have created, what their children might have created, and how much richer humanity would have been for it.  It was an attack not just on them, but on an idea.  The idea that free people can choose how they live, to work, to trade, to enjoy life, and to not have their lives owned by others, by self-serving authority bowing to an ideology that shackles them to the literal interpretation of some aged religious tracts. The idea that Government should be to subordinate people to the will of theocratic bigots, rather than exist to protect their rights and established by the people to protect them from those who wish to take away those rights.  – Liberty Scott

I never once believed —  nor do I now —  that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly. Peter Boghossian

This isn’t about me. This is about the kind of institutions we want and the values we choose. Every idea that has advanced human freedom has always, and without fail, been initially condemned. As individuals, we often seem incapable of remembering this lesson, but that is exactly what our institutions are for: to remind us that the freedom to question is our fundamental right. Educational institutions should remind us that that right is also our duty.  – Peter Boghossian

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynaecological cancer, and kills more women than New Zealand’s annual road toll and more than melanoma. Yet it remains underfunded and largely ignored. Jane Ludemann

Women need to advocate for themselves, to not be afraid to stand up and say ‘No, I’m not happy with that diagnosis, I want further investigation’. For this to happen, we need to make women aware that these cancers exist, and show them what to look out for. If they don’t have this information, they can’t connect the dots. – Sara Ingram

Having a cancer diagnosis changes everything. Now I do the things that make me happy. It’s about always looking forward, not having regrets and accepting mistakes. Everybody has to deal with tough stuff. It’s about taking that stuff and seeing that something great can be born out of it.Sara Ingram

My point is that even though the decision was wrong, it was made for the right reasons. Our immigration authorities might appear to be incompetent, but they are neither bad, corrupt nor venal. – Damien Grant

This is a law that needs to be changed but a person cannot be deprived of their liberty because what did they should be illegal, if what they did wasn’t illegal. Damien Grant

By upholding the rights of the worst amongst us, we protect the rights of us all. Rights apply to all residents of these islands and are not subject to removal by executive whim. – Damien Grant

These rights are enjoyed by all of us only because they are enjoyed by the least of us. The trade-off between liberty and safety is necessarily high.

It is tempting to consider that less violence would have occurred had we given the state a freer hand, but if you want to understand what the state does with a free hand ask the Waikato Māori. Ultimately, our civil liberties are to protect us from the Crown, who has, unfortunately, a nasty history of abusing its subjects.Damien Grant

The war on terror has eroded our liberties in many small ways, but we have retained a bedrock of institutional restrictions that limit the arbitrary power of the state.

We should remember this as we navigate our way in the months, and possibly years, ahead. The principles that were applied to this terrorist’s rights were developed over 800 years; first laid down in the Magna Carta and refined, expanded and fought for over many centuries.

We should not give them up lightly, or cheaply. We should not give them up at all. – Damien Grant

This is only one event that got across the border and look at the mayhem, one month lockdown, a billion dollars a week that’s just not sustainable in the long term and all the pressure that people are under … the family issues, the schools, the devastation to the economy and the extra health issues.

People aren’t getting their colonoscopys, getting their skin checked for melanoma, heart checks up, all those things are really important health issues.Graham Le Gros

I think that’s where the economic, the other health issues and the social pressures really start to come into play and I think that if you’ve got 70-80 percent vaccinated even with the one jab you’re in a pretty good situation to be able to withstand the major effects of this virus.

I’m not throwing elimination out just yet … but you’ve also just got to face facts if the virus has got away and it’s just staying underground until it pops up again then let’s just focus on vaccination and learning to live with the virus. – Graham Le Gros

The Government’s been caught short again – this time, lacking a clear strategy to get us out of dodge. 

On the one hand, they’re saving Kiwis’ lives. On the other, they’re eliminating businesses and harming mental health. 

Like sunbathers on the beach watching a tsunami roll in, we have not yet – 18 months on from the first outbreak – left the comfort of our beach towels on the sand to build a single managed isolation and quarantine facility outside of Auckland. Ryan Bridge

Jacinda Ardern’s Year of the Vaccination became her year of vacillation, that is until her mate ScoMo across the ditch scouted around his buddies abroad and got some additional vials of the stuff. –  Barry Soper

To use the word corruption is unchallengeable, when any government pays media outlets to propagandise the public — with the same outlets untruthfully claiming to be independent and trustworthy — while basically being bribed to follow a far-Left agenda. That this should happen in not (quite yet) a totalitarian régime, but in what was once thought of as a democracy, with a free press, is quite staggering.  

Ardern’s government is blatantly taking over the media, an important part of any plan to destroy a democracy. It is more than shameful for those at the top of media management to be accepting these bribes, with the inevitable resulting pressure on all journalists to conform. It is to the great credit of those few who are increasingly reluctant to do so –- but who are now at risk of losing their livelihoods.  – Amy Brooke

Xenophobia is, regrettably, not a new strain in the national psyche, more an endemic seasonal virus that has circulated since time immemorial. However, the prevailing attitude, expressed through policy and the rhetoric of our leaders, to New Zealanders outside the border – ranging from frosty indifference to outright hostility – is very much a new development.Ben Thomas

However, since Covid, New Zealanders’ circle of empathy seems to have been pulled tight, like a knot, around the territorial boundaries of the country.

New Zealanders caught outside, or the families of foreign visa holders here doing often essential work including nursing and teaching, feel very much like they are looking in. In some respects, the pandemic has made the country smaller. Our families, our co-workers’ families, our friends, now show up in the public discourse mainly as risks to be managed or, more likely, excluded. – Ben Thomas

In order for values to count as character, they have to endure in good times and bad. Is the New Zealand national identity we treasure a reflection of who we really are, or of the benign times we have lived through until now? With the imminent effects of climate change and the movement of mass refugees from the hell of Afghanistan under the Taliban, these are questions we may be answering soon. – Ben Thomas

Well, you can’t fight a war by hiding under your bed. Deluding itself about a low covid death count the government ignores the soaring suicide numbers, the numerous deaths through inability to access hospitals, the widespread depression as any GP or pharmacist will confirm and the huge toll in families split by the idiotic closed borders.

We look with envy at Europe and North American nations run by grown-ups who are getting on with life. Their covid death tolls are almost totally half-wits who for diverse reasons refuse to be vaccinated. Future historians will record the current government in scathing terms. They remind me of the last 3 years of the Muldoon government, denying reality and lacking the courage to confront a necessary new world order. – Bob Jones

So far, the Wellbeing Budgets have promised many things but I fail to see what they achieved. The Government’s obsession with “wellbeing” comes at the cost of abandoning economic growth and a relatively poor economic performance. – Dennis Wesselbaum

Looking back, the Wellbeing Budgets have never been anything other than a successful public relations exercise.

Sadly, they all fall short of effectively supporting important areas like education (from kindergarten to universities), health, research, housing, and infrastructure and they abandon fostering economic growth.

There is nothing left from the initial worldwide hype around the Wellbeing Budgets. The Ardern-led governments have wasted the chances they had to make New Zealand stronger in the future and missed their election and budget targets.

It would be much better if the Government would stop looking beyond GDP and instead look at developing a proper economic growth strategy. After all, jobs earning decent wages are the foundation of wellbeing. – Dennis Wesselbaum

As time drags on, more and more travel begins to look essential. Cancelling an annual trip home from Oz or the UK is one thing, but a whole generation of overseas Kiwis now face a future disconnected from their friends and families, never knowing their nieces and nephews. After a few years of being grounded, holidays to visit family become essential travel too.

All of this is to say that the Government will fast run out of excuses for why its ministers and officials should travel, while the rest of the country is more or less grounded.Thomas Coughlan

There’s no vaccine against stupidity. James Rifi

It is the way you conduct yourself and if there is a lie, you speak against it. If you see injustice, you try and stop it. If you can’t do it by your action, you do it by your words. This is my life, that’s the way I do thingsJames Rifi

And I want to thank – that fellow Down Under. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. Appreciate it, pal. – Joe Biden

The costs of Covid-19 extend well beyond the illness itself to continuing impacts of both the virus and our response to it on the rest of the health system, mental health and well-being, and family ties. Sadly, such impacts extend to family violence and economic insecurity as well as ongoing and negative effects on our economy, education, innovation opportunities, international business relationships, and our diplomatic footprint.Sir Peter Gluckman

When will such high vaccination rates allow the balance to tilt from efforts to exclude the virus to a different management strategy?  This cannot be far away. But it too has costs and risks, especially for those who are not vaccinated. Are incentives now needed to get as many as possible of the hesitant and resistant vaccinated? What else needs to be in place? Do we need both internal and external vaccine passports (with strong legal protections on how they would be used)? Should widespread use of rapid self-testing – now well used in Europe – be adopted? Should employers be able to require masks and/or vaccines, and does that need legislative protection?  These questions, which all have ethical and “social licence” dimensions, go hand in hand with the more obvious ones of border triage, rapid testing at the border, modified entry management, ensuring adequate health facilities, and location of quarantine facilities.

Neither science nor politics alone can answer such equations. Whatever choices Government makes will involve trade-offs and time-sensitive decisions. These will necessarily be made in the face of incomplete knowledge and contestable perspectives and values from different elements of our community. “Social licence” and trust will be necessary for whichever choices are made. – Sir Peter Gluckman

 Fear can undermine democracy. Parliament’s 2020 Epidemic Response Committee – a truly democratic innovation receiving much international interest – played a major role through its transparency, contributing to broad public acceptance of trade-offs required in following the elimination route. Similar levels of truth and transparency will be key for future choices. The Government’s challenge is to ensure trust in the pragmatic decisions it must soon make.Sir Peter Gluckman

It is much more challenging to ‘open up’ than ‘close down’. In crisis and risk management, the concept of the ‘Red Team’ has emerged. Comprising a group of experienced and skilled people who have no responsibility for managing the crisis but have access to the same data as those who are, it can ask tough questions of the decision-makers, in real time. Given the complexities and the need to get beyond political point-scoring, trust could be enhanced for our ‘team of five million’ through using such a process. After all, we want our Government to continue to do the best job possible on all our behalf. – Sir Peter Gluckman

In a world of fully vaccinated people, the virus would still cause harm, but at a much lower level. By then, it would have become one of many other dangers such as drowning, falling from ladders, or getting injured in a traffic accident.

Society accepts such risks, even when they can theoretically be avoided, not least because a “zero-harm” approach would be prohibitively expensive. For example, the idea of lighting all country roads, imposing a general 30 km/h speed limit, and only allowing five-star rated cars is absurd. Sure, it would reduce the road toll. But it would also defeat the purpose of promoting mobility. –  Oliver Hartwich 

If we had never gone down the path of Covid elimination, we would regard the virus in just the way as we think of road accidents. Sure, nobody likes accidents, but we would not go to extremes to avoid them. Similarly, while no one wants to get sick or die from Covid, we would not surrender our lives to achieve that aim.

However, this is where our “sunk-cost fallacy”kicks in. Having spent billions on elimination, for many people, the calculus looks different. Even minor health hazards associated with Covid now appear to be unbearable. After all the sacrifices we have made, why should we accept any illness or death in our community? Can’t we just stay with “Zero Covid” forever?   –  Oliver Hartwich 

New Zealanders may view the phrase “learn to live with the virus” as cynical since some will die from it.

But to the English and the Danes, such a connotation does not exist. Because the virus was never eradicated in either country, people have always died from it.

Neither had England and Denmark invested vast amounts and efforts into the goal of elimination. There are no “sunk costs” they now believe they need to protect. As a result, both the English and the Danes can treat the virus as an everyday health risk.Oliver Hartwich 

New Zealand will hopefully reach the same immunisation rates as England and Denmark in time. Perhaps we will get even higher since our compliant population may yield higher vaccination participation than other countries.

And (here is hoping), we will soon realise that our hospital system requires an upgrade (not just to deal with Covid). Having more capacity will also enable us to cope with outbreaks.  –  Oliver Hartwich 

How has the Talibanization of Western mentalities happened? How is it that so many young people have now adapted Henry Ford’s great dictum (to change briefly the source of inspiration of young intellectuals), that you can have any color you like so long as it’s black, to matters of opinion, such that none other than the sanctioned one may get a hearing? How is it that the Taliban’s example in destroying the statues in Bamiyan was so soon copied by the students in those madrassas of the West known as universities? 

The most obvious explanation is the expansion of tertiary education beyond the capacity of those who receive it to derive any mental, spiritual, or even vocational benefit from it. Far from increasing their mental sophistication, this education severely limits it. The numbers following courses in the so-called humanities and social sciences exploded since the 1960s, with the inevitable hollowing out of what a university education meant. All that they are left with is a distorting lens through which to view the world and focus their anger.Theodore Dalrymple

It is true that a deception has been practiced on them: In large part, they have been tricked into indebting themselves to pay for their own unemployment. Politicians whose brains are composed of a combination of those nerve centers that exist in lizards’ nervous systems and tinsel encouraged ever-increasing proportions of young people to attend university in the way that the Soviet Union in its propaganda used to boast about ever-increasing production of pig iron. In a world in which procedural outcomes is much more important than real outcomes, where governments set targets and bureaucrats arrange to meet them, usually by legerdemain, it matters not that the students left university worse educated than when they entered. – Theodore Dalrymple

It is impossible to put a precise date on a social process such as the degradation of our educational system (other than, of course, the day Eve gave the apple to Adam), but it has now continued for so long that many of the university teachers themselves are just as indoctrinated as the students they indoctrinate. In art schools there cannot be a return to teaching such skills as drawing because the teachers themselves were never taught them and therefore cannot teach them in their turn. The best they can do is denigrate them as retrograde or reactionary. 

The Taliban have a ministry for the suppression of vice and the promotion (or imposition) of virtue. I think that they could find many suitable civil servants—and no doubt executioners—in our universities. We produce them, in fact, by the thousands. Of course, there are some slight differences: The Taliban want women to have as many children as possible, while our students are so anxious about the fate of the planet that they think it immoral to bring children into the world.Theodore Dalrymple

People who take risks and are prepared to have a go have made this country what it is, and their energy and courage will take it further still.

Which is one reason why the impacts of these lockdowns trouble me so much. The impact on the people who own so many businesses prevented from operating, who are Kiwis just like you and me, is more immense than it is for most.

If you are in a government job, work for a big corporate that shuffles data for a living, or in the professions, lockdown has been a pain and it has certainly cramped your style, but your income keeps coming in the door. For these people it doesn’t.  – Steven Joyce

Maybe it is hard to imagine if you have never been there. Taking responsibility for paying the rent, the power bill, and all your suppliers, whether or not you have customers or revenue coming through the door.

To feel personally responsible for the incomes of your staff, and for their families’ wellbeing. To have to call the bank to ask for a bigger loan or overdraft, or a bigger mortgage because your house is the only collateral the bank will take.

To postpone your dreams five years or abandon them completely after years of hard work, because that’s how far these lockdowns have set you back.Steven Joyce

The powers that be have reactivated the Covid wage subsidy and that’s good, as far as it goes. But it was always intended as a Band-Aid to keep workers attached to their place of employment.

It doesn’t cover the rent, the rates, the electricity, the HP on the equipment, the vehicle lease, or the spoilt food. And if that wasn’t enough there are new headaches.

The doubling of paid sick leave in July this year, the big annual hikes in the minimum wage you must pay for your newest workers, and the post-Covid prospect of your wage bill and conditions being set in far off Wellington by people that have never set foot in a shop in Dargaville, Palmerston North, or Timaru. – Steven Joyce

The arbitrary pettiness of the lockdown rules drive some business owners bonkers. The small food shops that can’t open while supermarkets can, ostensibly because their public health systems won’t be robust enough.

Of course we trust them to sell perishable food at other times. Or the arbitrary restrictions on the number of people in your cafe in towns that haven’t had Covid for months and months.

One extraordinary example of bureaucratic silliness this week was the news seasonal fruit-pickers from Covid-free countries (note that bit) will no longer be allowed to enter New Zealand without quarantine as had been planned, ostensibly because of Delta.  – Steven Joyce

It is ironic for a country that has been trying to diversify its exports for 30 years that the only exporters able to operate their businesses over lockdown are our primary industries.

The rest of us sail serenely along in our bubbles. We’ve inflated our economy so much with debt and printed money the people in economic pain are almost completely invisible to us.

We have a zero tolerance for Covid health casualties, but not so much for the economic casualties.  – Steven Joyce

The small businesses, the tiny businesses, and the niche exporters, are all carrying a massive share of the cost of this pandemic. That needs to be acknowledged and responded to more by everyone else, from the Beehive down.

We all didn’t choose to have the pandemic disrupt our lives. But these people are paying in a far more brutal and long-lasting way than most.  – Steven Joyce

We’ve had our moments … but negativity just feeds negativity. We’re in a position it’s not going to wipe us out and it’s not going to be our worst year. We’ve got to remain positive and carry on. – Ian Riddell

You genuinely want people to be blessed by your flowers. People buy them for themselves to cheer them up, they give flowers away to cheer up other people. All that cheer got left here.Ian Riddell

Although she is not a daughter by blood, she is a daughter of my heart now. – Mr “Smith”

Oranga Tamariki is broken. You can’t fix an organisation that has fallen into such depravity that Judge Peter Callinicos exposed. It won’t be, of course. It will continue to damage families for many decades to come; driven by ideology and unchastised by this rebuke.

But for the moment, we should take a moment to appreciate that we have decent, bold and courageous people such as these successful caregivers who were prepared to make a stand for the daughter of their heart. They are the heroes of this story. I wish them and Moana all the best. Damien Grant

Murder is carried out by uneducated thugs with a lump of wood or an illegal firearm (weren’t they all handed in?). It’s carried out by psychotically violent men over perceived wrongs or a botched drug deal. It’s messy and nasty and leaves families shattered. Dead bodies don’t lie peacefully on a deep pile carpet in a perfectly manicured room; they bleed out on the front lawn, or into the gutter near a smashed bottle while other drunks continue fighting around them.

That’s where real murder lives; the gutter. There’s nothing fancy about it. Children get killed by those who should be protecting them. It’s gutting and mind-boggling and never seems to stop. – Angus McLean

It is not surprising, then, that one’s opinion on matters social and political has become for a considerable part of the population the measure of virtue. If you have the right opinions you are good; if you have the wrong ones you are bad. Nuance itself becomes suspect, as it is in a tabloid newspaper, for doubt is treachery and nuance is the means by which bad opinions make their comeback. In this atmosphere, people of differing opinions find it difficult to tolerate each other’s presence in a room: the only way to avoid open conflict is either to avoid certain persons or certain subjects. Where opinion is virtue, disagreement amounts to accusation of vice. – Anthony Daniels

The extreme importance now given to opinion (by contrast with conduct) in the estimation of a person’s character has certain consequences. This is not to say that in the past a person’s opinions played no part in such an assessment, and no doubt there are some opinions so extreme or vicious, for example that some whole population should be mercilessly wiped out, that in any day and age one would hesitate to associate with someone who held them. But before, even when someone held an opinion that we considered very bad, we still also assessed the degree of seriousness with which he held it, the degree to which it was purely theoretical, the importance it played in his overall mental life. The holding of such an opinion would not redound to his credit, but if lightly held and with no likely effect on his actual behavior, it would detract only slightly from our view of him. He might still be a good man, albeit one with a quirk, a mental blind spot. – Anthony Daniels

For one thing, the elevation of the moral importance of opinion changes the locus of a person’s moral concern from that over which he has most control, namely how he behaves himself, to that over which he has almost no personal control. He becomes a Mrs. Jellyby who, it will be remembered, was extremely concerned about the fate of children thousands of miles away in Africa but completely neglected her own children right under her own eyes, in her house in London. –Anthony Daniels

The overemphasis on opinion as the main or only determinant of a person’s moral character thus has the effect of promoting irrationalism, and all argument becomes in effect ad hominem. If a person holds one opinion, he is good; if another, he is bad. Everything is decided in advance by means of moral dichotomy. Nuance disappears. –Anthony Daniels

There is a positive-feedback mechanism built into opinion as the measure of virtue, for if it is virtuous to espouse a particular opinion, it is even more virtuous to espouse a more extreme or generalized version of it. It then becomes morally impermissible for a person to hold the relatively moderate opinion; he is denounced with the peculiar venom that the orthodox reserve for heretics. When J. K. Rowling, a feminist once in good odor with the morally self-anointed, delivered herself of an opinion couched in moderate terms stating something so obvious that it will one day (I hope) astonish future social or cultural historians that it needed saying at all, namely that a transsexual woman is not a woman simpliciter, she was turned upon viciously, including by those who owed their great fortunes to her—or at least to her work. She had committed the cardinal sin in a world of opinion as the criterion of virtue of not having realized that the moral caravan had moved on. How easily sheep become goats! Anthony Daniels

 

Taking opinion as the hallmark of virtue has other effects besides provoking dichotomization, bad temper, and the exertion of a ratchet effect in the direction of ever more extreme and absurd ideas. It tends to limit the imagination, moral and otherwise. For example, once something tangible is declared to be a human right, which no decent person can thenceforth question or deny on pain of excommunication by the virtuous, the good procured by the exercise of that right ceases to be a good for any other reason than that it is a right. The recipient has no reason to feel grateful for what he receives, because it was his right to receive it, though he may, of course, feel rightfully aggrieved if he does not receive it. A United Nations rapporteur recently condemned New Zealand for its breach of human rights because it did not provide decent housing for all its citizens (and other inhabitants); rents were expensive and there was overcrowding as well as some homelessness. The New Zealand government, which had committed itself to the view that there was a human right to decent housing, meekly promised to try to do better. It had not promised to treat housing as if it were a human right, but to treat it as a right itself; it was therefore skewered by its own supposed virtue. –Anthony Daniels

The supposed moral quality of the objector trumps the possible validity of his objections, which therefore do not have to be considered. Far from the objector lacking imagination, however, it is the proponent of the human right who lacks it: he fails even to try to imagine what the consequences of what he advocates might be. Words are the money of fools, no doubt, but also of people who desire unlimited powers of interference in the lives of others. Anthony Daniels

The importance accorded to opinion—correct opinion, of course—as the criterion of virtue has another strange effect, besides increasing intolerance and limiting imagination, for it conduces both to a new dictatorial puritanism and a new libertinism whose equilibrium is forever unstable. –Anthony Daniels

Even in my childhood, we used frequently to recite the old proverb in response to an intended insult, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” No more: in a world in which opinion is the measure of Man, words are poison, dagger, Kalashnikov, hand grenade, and atomic bomb, and no one now gains a reputation for moral uprightness who does not sift the words of others for the wickedness they may contain.

No one could possibly deny the great importance of words and opinions in human life, of course, or their power to give offense and even to provoke violence. Words and opinions may inspire people either to the best or the worst acts, but we do not usually absolve people of their responsibility, or fail to praise or blame them, on the grounds that they were inspired or influenced by the words of others. –Anthony Daniels

Where opinion is virtue, the strength of offense taken is a sign of commitment to virtue, which then sets up a type of arms race of moral exhibitionism, in which my offense taken at something must be greater than yours because only thus can I prove my moral superiority over you. Shrillness then becomes a token of depth of feeling, and no one can feel anything who does not parade his outrage in public. – Anthony Daniels

The danger comes when the most dubious, even fatuous, social theories and reforms in the name of virtue become the cynosure of the moral life of a large and influential sector of society, namely the intelligentsia that is ultimately the determinant of a modern society’s history. This is so even, or perhaps especially, when the intelligentsia in question is ignorant, foolish, grasping, power-hungry, and unrealistic.

The effect, if not the purpose, of the overemphasis on opinion as the whole of virtue is both to liberate and to control. The liberation—from restraint on personal conduct—is for the persons with the right opinions; the control is for, and over, the rest of society. The intelligentsia is thus like an aristocracy, but without the noblesse obligeor the good taste that to some extent justified the aristocracy. – Anthony Daniels

That so many Aucklanders have been going to work over the last month underlines that lockdown is largely a middle-class phenomenon. While white collar workers get to work from home or pretend to, those in healthcare, social services, agriculture, forestry, fishing, manufacturing, distribution and retail have been showing up at their workplaces right through. Across the country, over 500,000 essential workers kept the real economy going through the 2020 and 2021 national lockdowns. We should applaud them. – Matthew Hooton 

One thing is inarguable: the vaccine works. It may not stop all Covid transmission, but it stops it from killing you or your loved ones, or you or them getting very sick. According to the Ministry of Health, of the 1071 people who tested positive for Covid, 83 per cent were entirely unvaccinated and just 3 per cent fully vaccinated more than two weeks earlier. Any political pollster or health researcher will tell you that legitimate conclusions can be drawn from a sample size of over 1000.Matthew Hooton 

The data shows that not a single person who had had even their first jab more than two weeks earlier wound up in an intensive care unit (ICU). Not a single person who was fully vaccinated more than two weeks earlier even ended up in hospital, and just one whose second dose had been administered in the previous two weeks had to be admitted to an ordinary ward.

In contrast, if you are unvaccinated and over age 11, the data from the outbreak suggests you have a 13 per cent chance of being hospitalised, and nearly a 3 per cent chance of dying or ending up in ICU. – Matthew Hooton

It’s official. The Government’s impossible Covid elimination strategy has been scrapped, although don’t expect it to admit to that. Just like it would never accept the alert level 4 lockdown in Auckland hasn’t been anything but a raging success. – Barry Soper 

This lockdown isn’t working.  It never was.  We’ve had 8 people turn up at Middlemore with no idea where they got covid, it’s cropped up in the mongrel mob who aren’t known for obedience to the law, it’s been exported over the Auckland border.

One of the strictest lockdowns in the world, couldn’t’ get us back to zero.  – Heather du Plessis-Allan

It is awful having to constantly tell the Government what they’ve done wrong, but then again someone has to do it, that’s why it’s called leader of the opposition, not leader of the cheerleaders. – Judith Collins

The Government don’t want a points system it seems for the simple reason, or excuse, that’s it too complicated. As in too complicated for them to work out how to do it.

Obviously, there is queue from the tech sector who would solve it by Thursday. So, the system is held hostage to a degree by a government that hasn’t got the slightest aspirational gene in its makeup. Nor, tragically, do they have the wherewithal to recognise that and ask for help.

So, for the foreseeable, tens of thousands of New Zealanders are stuck, business is hamstrung, funerals are missed, and sports people can’t make a living. There’s a massive queue of misery and desperation.

Of all the cock ups of this pandemic, behind the abject failure of an urgent vaccine rollout, MIQ would be the biggest. Their fix? A foe lobby followed by a numerical conformation of how screwed you are when you enter. – Mike Hosking

But here it would appear that while New Zealanders are renown for their “can do” approach, our bureaucracy’s response is “can’t”. – Fran O’Sullivan

 The only urgency we’ve seen for months is an enthusiasm to lock down our country, lock up our people and lock out our citizens who are overseas. – John Key

Some people might like to continue the North Korean option. I am not one of them. Public health experts and politicians have done a good job of making the public fearful, and therefore willing to accept multiple restrictions on their civil liberties which are disproportionate to the risk of them contracting Covid.

Another problem with the hermit kingdom model is that you have to believe the Government can go on borrowing a billion dollars every week to disguise that we are no longer making our way in the world. – John Key

A lottery is not a public policy. It’s a national embarrassment. Whether you get to see your grandchild, or your dying mother, or your sister’s wedding, depends on whether or not your number comes up. This is a lottery that is gambling with people’s families and futures. John Key

Meanwhile, those brave New Zealanders who have started or bought a small business are sleepless with worry – as are their workers – because lockdowns are an indiscriminate tool that stops commerce as effectively as it stops Covid. The true harm is being concealed by an economy propped up by borrowing. – John Key

For those who say it’s too hard, or too risky I ask this: one day, when the largest part of the Minister of Finance’s Budget pays only the interest on the debt we are racking up now, and you can’t have the latest cancer drugs, or more police, because New Zealand can’t afford them, what will you think?

Will you wish that in 2021 the Government had acted with the urgency and creativity that Nasa showed when suddenly having to rethink its approach to the Apollo 13 mission? Nasa succeeded. It proved that to get a different outcome, you need a different strategy. John Key

The current setting is to vaccinate as many people as we can while keeping the virus at bay. If we succeed, by this time next year we will have a population with minimal exposure to Covid and with declining vaccine effectiveness.

Why would we do that?

Isn’t this like putting on a raincoat and then staying indoors in case it rains? There isn’t much point in teaching celibacy whilst handing out prophylactics. If we are aiming for 90 per cent vaccine coverage, the latest ad hoc policy in 18 months of ad hoc policy, perhaps the state would care to explain what is going to change if we get there. – Damien Grant

 In an endless series of good bureaucratic intentions creating bad outcomes, we vaccinated the elderly and vulnerable first. They are now the most exposed to breakthrough infections, while the young and healthy have fresh protein spikes coursing through their bloodstreams.Damien Grant

At this point I don’t really care what the plan is, so long as I know what it is. I have a life I want to lead. I have a business that needs direction. I have a family that wants to enjoy the pleasures and joy that are still permitted. – Damien Grant

Behavioural experts say the pandemic has brought about a rise in xenophobia and nationalism, and could mean expat and domestic communities struggle to coalesce beyond the pandemic. The messaging around the “team of five million” could be to blame. –  Ashleigh Stewart

The anti-expat rhetoric started when the government pushed every expat out of the ‘team of five million. Messaging like that has fed the mob online to hurl insults shamelessly towards us. It feels like this resentment has been simmering away for a long time, and now it’s acceptable to scream to ‘close the borders’. Clint Heine

It’s not just that it’s a cruel and inhumane lottery that keeps families and friends and loved ones apart while the Wiggles are waved through; or that it’s cut us off from the rest of the world – or even that it has become a convenient excuse for kicking the can down the road on critical economic decisions.

No, the worst thing is that it seems to have fundamentally changed who we are.

We’ve gone from a nation of travellers and adventurers, to an inward looking and angry mob, cut off and isolated from the rest of the world, and fearful of “strangers” at the border, whether they’re foreigners, or fellow Kiwis rendered stateless by a pandemic that was none of their doing.

We pat ourselves on the back for getting through the first lockdown by being kind – then close our hearts when a dying man pleads for permission to die at home.

We tear down high-flyers who dared to pursue their dreams overseas, and tell them they’re no longer welcome in the country where they found their wings.

And we spit bile at people who want to come home for Christmas with their family, cheered on by the government, who it suits to paint expats as gadabouts and summer holidaymakers. As though wanting to be with family, or ageing parents, over Christmas is not a fundamental human desire.Tracy Watkins

But our success at keeping Covid out for so long has bred complacency.

Hospital ICUs are still critically understaffed and in no shape to cope with a wave of sick Covid patients; we’ve failed to implement rapid advances from overseas, like saliva testing or self-testing, and MIQ is still a hastily knocked-up system of modified hotels, the bulk of them in our most populous city, all but guaranteeing that any breach will have the worst possible outcome.

But questioning it has become akin to heresy – even though no-one is seriously advocating we abandon quarantine and testing as the cornerstone of any new system, especially not with the parlous state of our ICU system, and low rates of vaccination. – Tracy Watkins

There has been no shortage of ideas from New Zealand’s most innovative thinkers on how to improve the system, while still keeping people safe.

But those ideas all go seem to go nowhere. Why? They keep hitting the same wall of bureaucratic and government inertia. There is no political will to make MIQ work better – and that’s because there is no public appetite to open the tap, even with safeguards.

Whenever change is proposed, or the Government’s models questioned, an angry mob steps in to shout it down as treason.

Whatever happened to the number 8 wire Kiwi? Or are they all stranded overseas? – Tracy Watkins

Our world is about to be split into two very definitive tribes; those who have the vaccine and those who don’t. Those who have the jab won’t enjoy the freedoms of the past, but they will be able to travel, while those who don’t have it won’t be able to. That may well become the ultimate decider for the vaccine-hesitant. It may be “my body, my choice” when it comes to vaccination, but only if you can enjoy the freedom that everyone else does. – Janet Wilson

What’s really alarming with this is, there has been millions of dollars spent on consultants and what have we really got? We’ve basically shown Government doesn’t understand how local councils operate. Sam MacDonald

Nonetheless, New Zealanders continued to excel at home and globally in disproportionately large numbers. . . So how is it we have become willing lapdogs, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Hovering around daily briefings in the hope our captors will throw us a bone?- Paul Henry

Regardless of whether the news is good or bad, we feel comforted that those who know what’s best for us keep us from harm’s way. Protecting us from the violation that freedom would otherwise bring. We listen for the responses to banal questions that all but the most ignorant citizen would already be able to answer.

In short, we have for the most part surrendered our lives through fear. We accept that our own citizens should be forced into lotteries in order to come home from their adventures and that we may well be refused a seat next to a dying parent. – Paul Henry

What the world did not know then – but has since found out – is New Zealand had moved into phase two of its unofficial Covid strategy, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We went hard and fast on borrowing. And borrowing is fine as long as you borrow to invest. But not us.

Did we use our hard-won, Covid-free months – almost a year – to invest in health infrastructure, both hardware and staffing? No.

Did we vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate? No.

Did we invest in money-making initiatives that exploited our Covid-free status? No.  – Paul Henry

We have squandered our leading edge for the lack of a plan. And having lost the lead we undoubtedly had, we are now racing to the back of the pack.

Our economic policy is akin to a reverse mortgage, as we live quite well whilst building debt. Unfortunately, in order to be sound, reverse mortgages require that you die quite soon.

Maybe that’s the third phase of our strategy. Paul Henry

The government has an ideology-driven desire for centralised bureaucratic control. They do not care if it divorces providers from the communities they are supposed to serve and reduces accountability. In doing so they are taking the opportunity to indulge a sectional political constituency at the expense of the principles of democracy and the community. – Gray Judd

Bloody Friday tragically saw 1500 sheep sacrificed in protest. Forty-three years on, and the boot is on the other foot. It’s the farmers themselves who don’t want to be sacrificial lambs on the altar of Ministers David Parker and James Shaw. Jamie Mackay

So add this voice of reason to that of Sir John Key’s, to Sir Ian Taylor’s, to Rob Fyfe’s – these are not people who are mad granny killers, who want to throw New Zealanders to the wolf of Covid.

They just see a government who does not seem to be able to pivot the way it has asked businesses to do, a government that is bereft of ideas, that is anything but transparent and that only knows one simplistic way to manage a crisis.

And that’s to shut everything down.   – Kerre McIvor

But Aucklanders, on the whole, don’t feel better about things.

I think many of us resented the latest lengthy lockdown and blamed the government for it.

We’ve more than done our bit as citizens and businesses and we’d come to the conclusion, by the end of this latest lockdown level 4, that it was pointless and dragging on. As is this level 3 we’re in right now. Why? And why was the South Island at an alert level at all?

Why restrict businesses now with such petty but costly barriers when privately the government has abandoned the Covid elimination strategy and has instead settled on managing the pandemic and keeping hospitalisation numbers down. They won’t admit this, of course, but look at their actions for confirmation. – Duncan Garner

Truth is, this government has to keep hospitalisation numbers down because our hospitals wouldn’t cope with a mass outbreak.

It’s this scenario that mostly keeps those running our pandemic response awake at night.

And it’s been made worse by the huge holes in staffing numbers and a lack of specialist staff. We never had enough ICU beds and when we went all those months Covid free last year, the government failed to build any meaningful increase in capacity in ICU. Just six new beds were created.

How was that ever acceptable to senior ministers and the prime minister? Did they push it? Did they ask questions? Did they even know? The best ministers keep their departments accountable and on task. If that’s happening regularly with this government, it’s not immediately obvious.- Duncan Garner

But, clearly, ‘being kind’ has waned as a phrase. We are rightly furious with the government’s vaccine debacle, which has left us vulnerable. It put cynical political spin ahead of telling the truth about its failure to secure enough vaccinations.

What’s worse is they positioned us as being at the front of a queue that it appears we were never in. It meant we relaxed and we all became complacent – led by a government who appeared to think the job was done. Celebrating daily zero cases was put before long-term planning.  Duncan Garner

The Covid cushion is losing its stuffing, lockdowns usually sees the party getting a sympathetic bump in the polls from a frightened, insecure public. But with one death in 1185 cases in the current outbreak it isn’t creating the climate of fear that they’ve relied on.  – Barry Soper

But neither the new nor the old system were sophisticated enough to prioritise those whose needs were greater or who had waited the longest. The emergency allocations are for a very limited group of people. For everybody else, the sorter doing the prioritising is Lady Luck. – Claire Trevett

Difficulty securing a spot in MIQ may indeed be “reasonably foreseeable” – but it should not be – or at least not beyond the Christmas rush – and not anymore.

It is a government created system and they are government created rules. The system does not allow people to book MIQ rooms months and months in advance, so long-term trip planning is impossible.

People have been forced to take a chance by the system itself – they should not be blamed when that system fails to deliver.

It has also been “reasonably foreseeable” that MIQ was not catering for the numbers it needed to for some time. –   Claire Trevett

The issue is not last year, or those who made it back. It is now, and those who cannot get back. –   Claire Trevett

Thus far, the Government and officials have always been able to muster up a lot of excuses for saying no: usually a shortage of the required health and security staff needed for MIQ facilities, or the inadequacy of ventilation or the space required.

But it did not find the same energy to find solutions for those problems or to work on refining ideas to make them workable.  –   Claire Trevett

Ardern said, when explaining why only businesspeople were being used for a trial of home isolation, it was because they had “skin in the game” so were less likely to try to sneak around the rules.

Businesspeople are not the only ones with skin in the game, Prime Minister. All of us do.

Fix it.  Claire Trevett

It’s a pretty sad day when you sit inside reading an article in a popular farming paper and it’s talking about carbon farming.

Who would have ever thought we could get paid for air? – Mike Firth

Picking and choosing when you listen to science is no way to treat people or their livelihoods, and hopefully people will see the charade for what it is. 

The elimination strategy they’ve fancifully been chasing will suddenly not be so important anymore; they’ll spin us a yarn about how it’s worked out just as they wanted it to, but the numbers will tell the real story. Kate Hawkesby

Labour governments typically have two standard responses to a political problem, or even the mere perception of one. They either throw vast amounts of money at it, or they create an unwieldy, centralised bureaucracy to give the impression something is being done. Sometimes it’s both, since these solutions often overlap. – Karl du Fresne

Once again a centralised, opaque governance structure will be created that will give grossly disproportionate power to unelected Maori, sweep away local representation and discard generations of local knowledge, investment and experience.

Arguably the most offensive aspect of Three Waters is its audacious dishonesty. Rather than solving a problem, the government has invented one. – Karl du Fresne

All this is all intended to create the illusion of decisive, meaningful action, but it’s merely the announcement of a plan that has yet to be formulated. It contains nothing substantive or concrete – not even any goals or targets (they’ll come later, presumably).  It will provide work for lots of highly paid consultants and hangers-on but do nothing in the short term to help people suffering from mental illness. In short, it’s a disgrace and a travesty. – Karl du Fresne

Responsible governments decide what needs to be done then work out what it’s likely to cost. But this one appears to work backwards, plucking a sum out of the air then wondering what to do with it. – Karl du Fresne

 


Opening safely

29/09/2021

The National Party has launched a plan to open the country safely, and let us get back to normal life:

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins today launched National’s comprehensive plan to tackle Covid-19, end lockdowns and reopen New Zealand to the world.

Titled ‘Opening Up’, National’s plan outlines a pathway to avoid nationwide lockdowns and then allow most fully vaccinated travellers to and from New Zealand to travel much more easily, either without any isolation at all, or with seven days at home.

“The Government has taken its eye off the Covid-19 ball in 2021,” Ms Collins says.

“New Zealand started the year in a good position but the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world for most of this year and a lack of planning meant we were forced into a long lockdown in August and September, one that is still ongoing in Auckland.

“Instead of investing in contact tracing, ICU capacity and purpose-built MIQ, the Government frittered the Covid Response Fund away on art therapy, cameras on fishing boats, and Three Waters reform.

“The plan outlines ten steps we need to take, such as supercharging the vaccine rollout, buying vaccine boosters and next generation treatments, using saliva testing and rapid antigen tests and building purpose built quarantine.

“It is imperative we reach a milestone of 70-75 per cent of the 12 and above population to stop socially and economically damaging nationwide lockdowns.

“The Government has no real plan beyond a belated admission that vaccination is important. The Prime Minister says there is no vaccine target while Ministers throw around numbers willy-nilly.

“The Prime Minister also says her ‘reconnection’ ideas are still government policy while her COVID-19 Minister says they are being reconsidered.

“A 150 person trial for businesspeople to self-isolate at home before Christmas isn’t a plan, it’s an insult.

“Kiwis have done the hard yards. They have willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other Covid-19 restrictions and, increasingly, they have been vaccinated for the common good. It’s time for them to be offered a vision and a plan about how their hard work will pay off.

“New Zealanders now have a clear plan from National. Delta is here, it may not be possible to eliminate it, and it would almost inevitably arrive into the community again. Whatever happens, we need to reopen to the world and National’s plan outlines how we can do that.

“Once we reach a milestone of 85 per cent of the 12 and above population, National believes we should start to allow fully vaccinated from low risk and medium risk travellers to come to New Zealand without going through MIQ. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be prohibited from travel to New Zealand.

“National’s plan would reunite Kiwi families split apart overseas, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle.

“Under National, Kiwis can come home for Christmas. Under Labour, they can’t.” 

The plan has 10 steps for suppression of Covid:

The time will soon come for New Zealand to pivot from an elimination strategy to one of vigorous suppression, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is at a tipping point. Delta is in the country right now and may never leave. Even the Government admits it may not be possible to get cases back to zero and if we do Delta will be back again anyway.

“The Government is being intellectually dishonest in maintaining the fiction that borders can reopen while New Zealand simultaneously maintains an elimination strategy. In a world with Delta, that is impossible.

“National is the only major party being upfront with New Zealanders. The time will soon come when we need to pivot to vigorous suppression of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

“This is a strategy where New Zealand aims to keep the number of Covid-19 cases very low, but not necessarily at zero. There will likely be cases of infection under this strategy, but the aim is to rapidly respond when they occur and minimise the number of people infected.

“Once we reach a milestone of 85 per cent of the country vaccinated, vigorous suppression becomes possible when supplemented with National’s ten steps to tackle Covid-19.

“National has outlined ten steps we urgently need to take to respond to Covid-19 and set ourselves up to begin to reconnect with the world. They are:

    1. Supercharge the vaccine rollout
    2. Order vaccine boosters
    3. Upgrade our contact tracing capability
    4. Roll out saliva testing at the border and in the community
    5. Roll out rapid tests for essential workers and in the community
    6. Create a dedicated agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri, to manage our Covid-19 response based in Manukau not Wellington
    7. Build purpose-built quarantine facilities
    8. Launch a digital app for vaccination authentication
    9. Invest in next-generation Covid treatments
    10. Prepare our hospitals and expand ICU capacity

“These 10 steps are important measures New Zealand needs to take to evolve our response away from lockdowns and help us open up to the world.

“If we implement these steps, we have options for our future. Kiwis can then look to reunite with family, travel overseas for business and pleasure and we can welcome tourists and students for international education.

“Once we reopen to the world, the future is in the hands of New Zealanders.” 

One of the reasons we keep having to lockdown is fear of overwhelming the health system. An important part of National’s plan is to strengthen the health system:

National’s Covid-19 Plan, ‘Opening Up’ includes a strong priority on improving our hospitals, expanding our ICU capacity and funding treatments for Covid-19, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti and Associate Health spokesperson Simon Watts say.

Dr Reti says New Zealanders did the hard yards last year to stamp out Covid-19 and expected the Government to invest wisely in the health system to prepare it for future outbreaks.

“Instead of investing in ICU capacity, the Government frittered the Covid-19 Response Fund away and has focused on restructuring the entire health system in the middle of a global pandemic.

“The number of ICU beds has actually fallen since the end of April 2020 through to September 2021, no new ICU bed spaces have been provisioned since Delta first appeared in MIQ and urgent alterations had to be made at the start of the recent outbreak to hospital wards in Auckland.

“In the first three weeks of the recent outbreak 62,829 inpatient procedures were cancelled. A delayed procedure can have a significant impact on a person’s health and their ability to recover once the surgery does proceed. In some cases, delaying a procedure is putting a life at risk,” Dr Reti says.

Mr Watts says National’s plan involves urgently implementing a specialist healthcare workforce migration plan.

“We would select the 3000 doctors and nurses out of the expression of interest pool and process them urgently. We would also prioritise and fast-track resident applications for critical healthcare workers, setting aside dedicated MIQ spaces if required.

“National would offer conditional residence class visas upon arrival to specialist, experienced nurses who have the qualifications and experience needed to immediately start working in New Zealand.

“We would also fast-track the building of new hospital wards to increase bed capacity. In Auckland, there are business cases for projects at Waitakere Hospital that could be progressed immediately,” Mr Watts says.

National’s Plan also invests in next generation Covid-19 treatments.

New Zealand is now well behind other countries in approving and ordering exciting new Covid-19 treatments like Ronapreve and Sotrovimab. These monoclonal antibody treatments are used to treat Covid-19 and have shown real promise in clinical trials.

“Ronapreve has been licensed for use in 20 countries and the EU has bought 55,000 doses. Sotrovimab has just been approved for use in Australia, which has bought 7700 doses,” Dr Reti says.

“New Zealand has not bought any doses of either treatment or approved them for use.

“National would establish a ring-fenced and dedicated Covid-19 Treatment fund from within the Covid-19 Response fund, and task Pharmac with negotiating purchase agreements with a variety of manufacturers,” Dr Reti says.

“National wants New Zealanders to enjoy more of the freedoms they have before the pandemic hit. To do this we must make sure our health system is robust enough to both deal with people who may fall ill with Covid-19 and continue day-to-day operations,” Mr Watts says.

New Zealanders can’t travel for fear they won’t be able to get back into the country and very, very few who want to return can. National’s plan allows vaccinated travel:

National’s plan to reopen New Zealand would reunite Kiwi families, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the depressing and outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Once New Zealand reaches a milestone of 85 per cent of the aged 12 and above population fully vaccinated, we should start to safely reopen to the world. 85 per cent would give us one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.

“Alongside the public health measures outlined in our plan, a milestone of 85 per cent means we can manage Covid-19 coming through the border.

“National’s reopening plan is based on a traffic light system and prioritises fully vaccinated travellers. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be banned from travelling to New Zealand.

“The low-risk (green) pathway is for travel from jurisdictions where there is either no or little cases of Covid-19, and where vaccination rates are above 80 per cent.

“Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry. Assuming all tests are negative they would be free to enter New Zealand without any isolation.

“In the first instance we expect this to apply to travellers to and from Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, the Cook Islands and possibly Taiwan.

“The medium-risk (orange) pathway is travel from jurisdictions where Covid-19 is spreading but under control, and where vaccination rates are above 50 per cent. Judgments would be made by National’s proposed dedicated Covid-19 agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri.

“Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry.

“They would then be required to spend seven days in home isolation and encouraged to take rapid tests which would be provided for free upon arrival. Enforcement would be via spot checks, and the possible use of digital monitoring apps like Singapore’s ‘Homer’ app.

“We expect this to apply to travellers to and from NSW, Victoria, Singapore, the USA, the UK and many European countries.

“People who test positive either at ports of entry or in the community would either be required to isolate at home or in purpose-built quarantine, with assessments made by public health teams.

“Under this plan, Kiwis coming through the green and orange pathways would be able to come home by Christmas.

“Kiwis have done the hard yards, they’ve willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other restrictions. It’s time they’re offered a vision for the future and a plan for how this hard work has paid off. National’s plan does just that.”

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders can’t come home, immigrants with essential skills can’t get residency and people whose skills we desperately need can’t get MIQ spaces. National’s plan seizes immigration opportunities:

Opening up to the world doesn’t just give Kiwis the opportunity to come home, but it also gives New Zealand opportunities to attract talent from overseas, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“As other countries gradually recover from the effects of Covid-19, a global bidding war for talent has emerged. Almost every advanced economy other than New Zealand has begun deploying aggressive tactics to attract skilled workers.

“Before New Zealand can do the same thing we must fix our broken immigration system.

“We currently have huge delays in processing visas resulting in a years-long backlog of residency applications, and a frozen residency pool is leaving many of our critical workers stuck in immigration limbo. They can’t access KiwiSaver or buy a house, they’re fed up and choosing to leave. It’s clear we’re in a crisis.

“Unlike the Government, National is planning for the future. Immigration will be critical to help resource our health system to deal with any future Covid-19 cases and help our economy bounce back from the effects of the pandemic.”

To resource our health system National would:

  • Instruct immigration officials to urgently reopen the frozen Skilled Migrant Category visa expressions of interest pool and prioritise processing residence applications for critical healthcare workers
  • Offer residence class visas on arrival to specialist nurses with the qualifications, skills and experience to allow them to immediately start working in New Zealand

To help our economy bounce back National would:

  • Create a pathway to residence for those migrants who have stuck with us through the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Reopen the expressions of interest pool and process these applications with urgency
  • Create a fast-tracked, streamlined process for residence applications to quickly clear the backlog
  • Offer conditional residence on arrival for highly-sought skilled workers
  • Implement a traffic light model for people arriving from overseas

Ms Stanford says National understands how important it is we rebuild the reputation of our immigration sector.

“With the world competing for global talent to help their fight against Covid-19 and support their economic recovery, we need to make sure we don’t lose our critical workers to other countries, while at the same time focus on attracting the best talent from overseas.

“If we want the best, we need to be the best. Offering a clear pathway to permanent residency will make sure New Zealand remains an attractive destination for skilled migrants to come and work at time when we need them more than ever.” 

Labour has spent 18 months saying can’t, National’s plan shows what we could do and how we could do it, and do it safely.

National’s Opening UP plan is here.


Cruel to keep so many out

21/09/2021

The enormous gap between demand from New Zealanders wanting to come home and MIQ spaces was revealed with the new booking system yesterday:

With the unveiling of the MIQ virtual lobby booking system this morning, Kiwis trying to get home are starting to wonder if they ever actually will

A few weeks ago, the announcement of a virtual lobby and queue system coming to the MIQ booking system got hopes up worldwide – from migrants trying to get to their new lives in New Zealand, and Kiwis trying to get home.

But this morning as the virtual lobby opened and sorted people randomly into a queue, it was soon realised that getting one’s hands on a room is still more easily said than done, with a group the size of Timaru also at the lolly scramble.

MIQ released 3000 rooms this morning, but with the queue reaching up to more than 27,000 people, it seems nine in 10 can expect to walk away disappointed.

That’s more than the combined populations of Oamaru and Wanaka who are either shut out of their homeland or can’t leave, even for pressing personal or business reasons, because they won’t be able to come back.

Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins told people last week they could expect next batches to be 4000 rooms.

However, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment cautioned that because many rooms had already been allocated before the recent pause and facilities may need maintenance, the timing and size of future releases is still being worked on. . . 

It’s cruel to keep so many people out and some people don’t just want to come home, they need to come home.

This morning’s debut of the new ‘virtual lobby’ system for MIQ allocation was both depressing and a debacle, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“The virtual lobby system used for the first time this morning solves nothing and has just created even more angst amongst the thousands of Kiwis trying to come home.

“What is needed is a prioritisation system based on points, as proposed by the National Party.

“How is it fair that someone sleeping in a car overseas with an expired visa is treated the same as someone who wants to come home to New Zealand for a holiday at Christmas time?

“There are Kiwis stuck offshore who aren’t legally allowed to be in the country they’re currently in, but who can’t get home to New Zealand. This is an awful situation and one entirely of the Government’s own creation.

“There are people trying to move back to New Zealand permanently with skills and experiences gained overseas treated the same as someone who is just coming for a short period.

“New Zealand should welcome back expats who have typically headed off on an Overseas Experience and who have developed their skills and gained valuable offshore experience.

“When we have a health workforce shortage, why do we treat nurses and doctors the same as other occupations when granting space? It doesn’t make sense. We should be rigorously targeting health sector skills.

“Let’s be clear – there are many good reasons for people to want to come to New Zealand through MIQ, but we need to be realistic. Some reasons have more merit than others, but the system treats everyone the same. . . 

There are emergency spaces but sports people, entertainers and politicians and their entourage get those spots ahead of people desperate to return home:

If James Shaw was giving consolation gifts to Kiwis desperately trying to get home this Christmas he’d likely give them a lump of coal, having confirmed he plans to take 14 staff with him to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Stuart Smith says.

“In answers to our written questions, Minister Shaw has confirmed he intends to take an entourage of 14 people with him to Glasgow – nine from Wellington and a further five from offshore.

“At a time when thousands of Kiwis are unable to get into New Zealand thanks to our chaotic and unfair MIQ system, James Shaw feels he needs an even bigger entourage this time around than the one he took to COP25 in 2019.

“It is astonishing that the Minister is going to COP26 in the first place, let alone taking up 10 MIQ spots for himself and his onshore staffers when they return. . . 

“We have heard countless stories of New Zealanders wanting to come home but who are locked out because they can’t get MIQ spots.

“But that won’t be an issue for Minister Shaw and his entourage – they’ll be home in time Christmas with their families.”

A points system would help prioritise applicants, but it wouldn’t solve the underlying problem of demand for MIQ spaces outstripping supply so badly.

More MIQ facilities are needed – preferably purpose built and away from the centre of Auckland.

Planning and building them would take many months but there is a much simpler and less expensive option that could start immediately.

It would be possible to reduce demand for the scarce spaces by allowing some people to by-pass MIQ.

Friends in the USA were able to travel out of the country and return provided they were fully vaccinated, had a negative test before flying, and self-isolated at home on their return with electronic monitoring to ensure they stayed put.

The government could start a similar system with business travellers, who, as Sir Ian Taylor pointed out know how to keep their people safe:

What we have learned from our experience over the past year and a half is that businesses have a huge interest in keeping their people safe from Covid and they can do it faster than governments because they aren’t having to look after entire countries.

We are only ever sending small numbers away at any time. The 250 staff company I mentioned earlier has a maximum of eight people who ever have to travel abroad. It’s not an Olympic team. . . 

So, “what if” businesses didn’t need to take up MIQ spaces. “What if” businesses could apply existing technologies and protocols that would guarantee that none of their teams would have Covid when they returned to Aotearoa from their essential overseas travels.

For the upcoming Ashes Series we have half a dozen fully vaccinated staff who will travel to Australia and work in mandated bubbles.

They will operate in public at our level 3 and be antigen tested every day. If they ever test positive they will be isolated immediately but, in a year and a half, that has never happened to any of our Kiwi crew offshore.

Three days before they leave Australia to return home they will go into isolation in an approved hotel, or self-isolation location, paid for by us. There they will be tested each day, including the day they fly.

On return to New Zealand they will be booked into an approved hotel or self-managed isolation location, again booked and paid for by us, where they will remain for three to five days, again being tested every day before returning to work. We have built our own tracking app which will be used for audit purposes.

Variations of this model could be used by any company needing to plan overseas travel with certainty.

Do we really need to do another trial when there are already models in play? Why can’t we come off the bench and just make this happen? It’s working now. . .

No there doesn’t need to be another trial.

What is needed is for the government to get over its control freakery, realise that it and its bureaucrats don’t always know best and open its mind to other ways of allowing New Zealanders to come home safely.


How did we get from short & sharp to longest lockdown?

15/09/2021

The lockdown was supposed to be short and sharp, Chris Bishop explains why it’s turned into the longest:

Yesterday the Level 4 lockdown in Auckland was extended for another week. The Prime Minister said on August 17 it would be “short and sharp” but after another week, it will be the longest lockdown yet in our battle against COVID-19.

(Note from Chris: Here is an opinion piece which I pitched to Stuff and the NZ Herald. Neither decided it was worth publishing. At a time when the PM commands the airwaves on a daily basis at 1pm, it’s important for the National Opposition voice to be heard and for constructive criticism of the government.)

Lockdowns are incredibly expensive: it has been estimated a countrywide Level 4 lockdown costs the economy around $1.5 billion per week. That’s before you count the social cost: kids not at school, families split apart, the mental health impacts of being cooped up at home for days on end. I think almost everyone thinks we should be doing all we can to avoid them.

Sadly, it’s become clear in the government’s response to the recent delta outbreak that while Kiwis have done all they’ve been asked to do – the government hasn’t been playing its part. The “team of five million” has been let down.

Two things have become clear. First, we had no alternative but to lockdown because of our woefully low vaccination rates. Second, despite claims to the contrary, the government had done very little planning at all around how to respond to a further outbreak, particularly of delta, since the first COVID lockdown last year.

It gives me no pleasure as the Opposition spokesperson for COVID-19 to say that New Zealand’s vaccination rates, by world standards, are hopeless. For most of this year we had the world’s slowest vaccine roll-out. Chris Hipkins said at the end of 2020 we would be “at the front of the queue” but the reality is we are at the back of the pack. This is not the “year of the vaccine” we were promised by the Prime Minister.

The vaccines are safe, they work, and the data is very clear: the higher our vaccination rates, the less need there is of lockdowns. Every single person that goes and gets vaccinated brings us closer to freedom: freedom from lockdowns, and freedom to travel. That’s why the government’s ineptitude over vaccine supply matters. The government simply failed in its most important job: to get a supply of vaccines as early as possible and make sure as many people were vaccinated as possible as early as possible.

The government’s incompetence is astonishing. We were one of the last developed countries to sign contracts with vaccine manufacturers in 2020. We were then slow to approve the Pfizer vaccine. Hundreds of millions of jabs had been given by the time we approved it. We were then slow to actually order our doses, not doing it until January 29 this year. And we didn’t even bother to ask Pfizer if we could pay more to get earlier delivery of the vaccines, as other countries did. Compare the cost of paying a bit more to the cost of lockdowns, and do the maths. It’s a no brainer.

Incredibly, the government has claimed at various points it would be “unethical” or immoral to have a faster vaccine roll-out, because other countries need the vaccines more than we do. Leaving aside the internal inconsistency in this argument (other countries need them now too, but you don’t see the government giving ours up do you?), the New Zealand government’s first responsibility is to the people of New Zealand – and that means rolling out the vaccine as quick as they could. They failed.

The second failure by the government is their failure to plan for delta. The Prime Minister claimed on television this morning that delta only emerged in MIQ in June. That is completely incorrect. The first case of delta turned up in early April in MIQ and it has been raging across the world for most of this year. The government has sat ensconced behind the barriers of Fortress New Zealand and smugly looked at Australia, but they weren’t doing the work behind the scenes to prepare for when delta turned up here.

A smart government would have done an audit of all our MIQ facilities in light of delta to make sure infection control practices were up to scratch. Instead, a public walkway was allowed to share the same air as an exercise yard at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland and there was a vaccination centre right next to the Crowne Plaza. COVID positive people are still allowed to exercise in an underground car park in Wellington. Only now is the government reviewing MIQ facilities in light of delta.

A smart government would have had a plan in place for more quarantine facilities beyond the Jet Park. Instead the government had to scramble to get more quarantine facilities going like the Novotel Ellerslie – and then a COVID positive man escaped from it, putting us all at risk. It has taken over 24 hours to move many people from the community into quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, because the coordination plan between health officials and MIQ wasn’t in place.

Some of our current problems date back to the response to the first outbreak last year. Contract tracing has been an ever-present issue. There have been four expert reviews of contact tracing since April 2020. All have found it wanting but little has been done by the government. In this outbreak, it took six days for the government to second public servants from other departments to start contract tracing. By its own admission the government will fail to meet the contact tracing target metrics designed by Dr Ayesha Verrall, ironically enough now Associate Minister of Health. In this latest outbreak there are still 5000 contacts who have not even had a single phone call from a contact tracer!

A smart government would have had a plan in place around testing. Other countries use saliva tests and rapid antigen tests that return results in 15 minutes. Speed of testing with delta is critical, because the virus moves so far. But the government insists on using expensive and time consuming nasal PCR tests as our main testing technique. The result has been people who are told to get tested waiting 10-12 hours for a test or giving up and going home – or even worse, not even bothering. We should be using saliva testing much more widely – recommended to the government a year ago – as well as rapid antigen tests. Incredibly, these tests are banned in New Zealand.

There’s more I could mention. The failure to use Bluetooth tracing even though we’ve all been told for months to turn it on. The refusal to build purpose-built quarantine. The lack of preparation in our hospitals for a delta outbreak – no new ICU bed spaces have been provisioned over the five months.

The government borrowed $62 billion last year on the COVID Response Fund.  Did they spend this on contact tracing, testing capacity, and extra ICU capacity? That would have been sensible. Instead it was used as a slush fund. Instead the fund was spent on art therapy clinics, cameras on fishing boats, horse racing, public interest journalism, and school lunches. Yes, I’m serious.

Auckland is in lockdown – again – because the government failed to vaccinate quickly enough and the government failed to plan for delta.

A lot of people have found this lockdown harder, one reason for that is that it’s due in large part to government failures. Like Andrea Vance, we know the failings that let Delta loose were foreseeable.

The government didn’t implement recommendations of multiple reports they commissioned, they didn’t plan for Delta, they didn’t learn from mistakes and the fear is they still haven’t.


There’s a better way

03/09/2021

You’ve got a good job and you’re settled where you are but it’s thousands of kilometres away from your family.

You’ve done your budgeting, you can afford to pay for flights and MIQ, and you’ve got enough holidays due to have enough time in New Zealand after you’ve done those two weeks.

It’s been more than two years since you’ve been home. Your grandparents are elderly and you know if you don’t get back this summer you might not ever see them again.

You can’t call the trip urgent as it is for so many others, strictly speaking it’s a holiday but are you going to do as Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins asks and let those whose need for MIQ space is far more pressing?

Perhaps some will, but some won’t and people like the family who took their young son to Houston for cancer treatment, the woman whose own health and that of her unborn baby are at risk, and many others whose needs anyone with a heart would consider worthy of emergency spaces in MIQ will have to rely on luck.

There is a better way:

It’s clear Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) is going to be with us for some time, so it’s past time we fixed the festering issues with our current system. National is proposing five sensible improvements to the beleaguered Managed Isolation Allocation System.

“New Zealanders overseas trying to come home are increasingly fed up with the operation of MIQ,” Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says

“Unhappiness is widespread and about the only people prepared to defend the system are those who designed it, those who administer it, and the Government.

“More than 15,000 Kiwis abroad have signed a petition to make changes to the inequitable MIQ allocation but the Government has done nothing.”

National is proposing five sensible changes to improve MIQ:

  1. A ban on bots and third party providers
  2. A new prioritisation system to allocate space (a ‘points system’)
  3. The introduction of a waiting list
  4. Transparency over room release dates
  5. The introduction of a Kiwi Expat Advisory Group

“The underlying problem of MIQ is that demand generally massively exceeds the number of spaces in any given period,” Ms Collins says.

“At the moment, with the exception of a 10 per cent quota for critical workers, some contingency rooms, and a very limited number of emergency allocations, spaces in MIQ are simply allocated on a ‘first-in, first-served’ basis.

“Third party booking websites have sprung up, charging people thousands of dollars to secure a room in MIQ, and incredibly this practice is even officially sanctioned by government officials. There is also a strong suspicion that ‘bots’ and other automated booking mechanisms are being used despite MIQ officials saying that has been stopped.

“We need an immediate no tolerance policy on the use of bots and third party providers accessing the MIQ system,” Ms Collins says.

National is proposing that the ‘first-in, first-served’ basis for MIQ should be changed to a prioritisation system based on points, similar to the way in which skilled migrants are assessed for eligibility for New Zealand.

National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says at the moment the MIQ system makes little judgement about the motivations for people coming to New Zealand.

“Everyone is treated the same, and while that has superficial appeal it ultimately leads to unfair outcomes for many people.

“We believe people coming home to farewell dying family members or for urgent medical treatment should not be treated the same as people coming to New Zealand for a holiday. Likewise, Kiwis returning home to live permanently should be prioritised over people returning home for short periods of time.

“We need to be upfront about the fact that there will generally always be a shortage of space in MIQ, and we should therefore be clearer as a country about who should be prioritised for valuable MIQ space over others.

“The system should assign points to particular categories of people who could then be allocated guaranteed spaces in MIQ for a period of time once they meet the threshold for points set by the Government.”

As a starting point, the following groups of people should receive a higher number of points, meaning they get preferential treatment into MIQ:

    • Those coming to New Zealand to visit sick or dying family members or for urgent medical treatment. This would essentially be an expansion of the existing emergency allocation, which is currently too narrow.
    • People coming to New Zealand to fill skill shortages. This could and should include split migrant families who the Government has callously disregarded.

That would not only be humane, it could also help retain people whose skills we need but who will leave if their families can’t join them.

“Alongside the introduction of a points system, the Government should also introduce a waiting list for spaces, so that the system is not purely based on luck and chance.

“There needs to be greater transparency over when rooms will be released, so people can plan with more certainty. Similar to when tickets go on sale for concerts, the time and date of released rooms should be well signalled in advance.

“Finally, National is proposing the establishment of an Expat Advisory Group that MIQ is required to consult with about the overall MIQ system.

“Many of the problems in the last year have festered for some time, and many were foreseeable. The system has not been designed in a user-friendly way and ongoing consultation with expats abroad would be a valuable thing.

“New Zealanders overseas and here at home have spent more than a year dealing with a broken MIQ system. Unlike the Government, National has come up with a plan to change that.”

Another improvement would be purpose built MIQ facilities, away from the centre of cities, where people could exercise safely without risking exposure to, or spreading of, disease. That would be both safer and more pleasant for people who have to use them and the buildings could be moved or re-purposed in the future if, or when, MIQ is no longer needed.

Hotels were only just alright when the need  find somewhere to quarantine people was urgent. They are not an acceptable longer term solution to the problem that will be with us for years.

When most people in New Zealand are vaccinated some arrivals who are also vaccinated and come from countries where Covid isn’t rife, might be able to self-isolate. That will be many months away and there will still be a need for MIQ for people who pose a higher risk for a lot longer, certainly long enough to make purpose-built facilities a far better option than the temporary solution of central city hotels.

They could also provide space for a lot more people, reducing, and possibly ending, the frustration and heartbreak that people now face dealing with a system that can’t cope with the demand.

Oh and purpose built facilities would also have sufficiently tight security that no-one in isolation could escape and roam around in public for 12 hours.


Would you trust them to run a bath?

31/08/2021

Good grief again:

The Government is possibly running out of vaccines in September and it could be their own fault. 

In May Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB that Pfizer had confirmed that New Zealand would receive 8 million doses in the third quarter, saying “we will get them all by the end of September.” 

But the shipment has now been revealed to be being delivered in October, leaving the possibility of New Zealand running out of vaccines in September. 

But looking back at a June interview Heather du Plessis-Allan did with Hipkins, it revealed the delay may be the Government’s own doing. In the interview he said that while Pfizer was still committed to the September deadline, the Government was talking to them about delivering some of those doses in October and November. 

Would that be because they weren’t confident of having enough vaccinators because they hadn’t involved GPs and pharmacies in the roll out that until the Delta variant got into the community was much more a stroll out?

Auckland University Emeritus Professor Des Gorman says he’s “gobsmacked” to find that [the Government] have “been deliberately delaying or asking for deliveries to be delayed.”   . .

Sigh.

The Labour Government has recklessly delayed vaccine shipments to New Zealand, putting the health and freedom of all New Zealanders at risk, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

In June Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed he was speaking with Pfizer to deliver some of the doses that were originally supposed to arrive in September, to instead arrive in October and November.

“Because the Government unbelievably pushed back our vaccine delivery, we now risk running out of vaccines,” Mr Bishop says.

“A Delta outbreak in our largely unvaccinated population has caused the country to lock down once again, with vaccination our only pathway out of lockdown, yet the Government has been deliberately slowing down our vaccine supply.

“It’s great that Kiwis have been showing enthusiasm to go and get vaccinated, the Government should be matching that enthusiasm by encouraging Kiwis to get the jab, not calling for a little less demand, as well as making sure we have enough supply.

“Instead it’s doing the opposite.

“New Zealand’s vaccine rollout has been negligently slow, now that it’s finally ramping up the Prime Minister says demand needs to lessen because her Government slowed down our vaccine shipments.

“This is incompetence on a grand scale. Right at the moment demand is surging, the Government can’t meet it.

“Labour’s complacency has cost New Zealanders.

“New Zealand signed contracts with vaccine manufacturers late, we got around to ordering our vaccine later than other countries, we refused to offer an incentive payment to Pfizer for earlier delivery, and we still haven’t got around to ordering any booster shots.

“This lockdown happened because our vaccination rate was too slow. It could go on for a lot longer now because the Government delayed the vaccine supplies we need to get ourselves out of lockdowns.” . . 

The government has been telling us for months how important it is to be vaccinated. Radio advertisements recount sad stories of life under lockdown and how much better life, will be and the freedom we’ll enjoy when that happens.

Slowing down delivery of vaccines contradicts those messages.

Sigh again.

That isn’t a surprise from the government that’s been telling us how important it is to keep ourselves safe from Covid-19 while not implementing the recommendations of no less than four reports that would address shortcomings in areas for which it’s responsible that would make the whole country safer.

And another sigh.

Several weeks ago I was speaking to someone who has cancer, ought to have been contacted to have a vaccine but hadn’t been. I was urging her to be proactive and she responded by saying she trusted the system the government was running.

I replied I wouldn’t trust the government’s system to run a bath.

This latest revelation reinforces my fear that they’d turn on only the cold tap and forget to put the plug in.


Too much demand not too little supply?

30/08/2021

Good grief:

The Government’s incompetent and negligent vaccine contracting is coming back to haunt them as the Prime Minister warns the country risks running out of vaccines, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“The Prime Minister’s comment at this afternoon’s 1pm press conference that ‘it’s not about running out of vaccines, it’s about having a little less demand’ is unbelievable.

Does the PM really not understand basic economics?

This sounds like the housing crisis, the government version is that it’s not a problem of too little supply but too much demand.

New Zealanders have shown an encouraging enthusiasm to go and get vaccinated. Most Kiwis know that vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible is the way to avoid more lockdowns and to reconnect to the world.

“New Zealand’s vaccine roll-out has been the slowest in the developed world. Now it is starting to ramp up, there is a real risk we will run out of vaccines and the Prime Minister says demand needs to lessen.

“This is incompetence on a grand scale. Right at the moment demand is surging, the Government can’t meet that demand.

“Chris Hipkins said in May that all of New Zealand’s Pfizer stock was meant to be delivered by September. What happened to that commitment?

“New Zealand signed contracts with vaccine manufacturers late, we actually got around to ordering our vaccine later than other countries, we refused to offer an incentive payment to Pfizer for earlier delivery, and we still haven’t got around to ordering any booster shots.

“This lockdown happened because our vaccination rate was way too low. Now the Government looks like they want to slow down the very roll-out that will help avoid more lockdowns in the future.”

Not only was the vaccination rate too slow, the preparation for contact tracing and testing should the expected outbreak occur was woefully behind what was needed.

If contact tracing and testing had been better fewer people might have been infected, there would have been fewer places where infection might have occurred and we might all be looking at a much shorter lockdown.

We can’t change what wasn’t done before this outbreak but the government must ensure that it, and its agencies, are much better prepared for the next one, or we’ll be slipping even further down Bloomberg’s rankings:


Vulnerable and Vectors vaccination supercharge

27/08/2021

The arrival of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has moved the vaccination programme from its strollout setting to something better, but there’s still room for improvement:

With the Delta variant of Covid-19 having well and truly arrived in New Zealand, the National Party is calling on the Government to supercharge the vaccination rollout throughout the country with a new strategy, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

“New Zealand has been the slowest in the OECD to rollout the vaccine and the Government’s negligent approach has created vulnerabilities that Delta has exposed.

“What we need to do now, while we battle Delta in lockdown, is urgently reset our vaccination strategy and supercharge it to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. We should be aiming for at least 100,000 vaccination doses administered per day, every day.

“We also need to target our frontline border and high-risk workers, younger people who are vectors for the virus, and accelerate delivery of the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds.

“A short-term elimination strategy can only work in tandem with a far more aggressive and accelerated vaccination programme if we are to avoid future lockdowns and get New Zealand back on an even footing with the outside world.”

National’s vaccination plan is called ‘Vulnerable and Vectors’. Spearheaded by Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop, National’s plan has five main components.

1. Urgently vaccinate the vulnerable

All frontline workers most exposed to Covid while lockdowns at levels 3 and 4 are ongoing must receive priority vaccination. This includes supermarket workers and healthcare workers, as well as our hard-working New Zealand police. It is appalling that only 40 per cent of police officers have been vaccinated – more prisoners than police have been vaccinated. Police officers are out there enforcing lockdown rules but most don’t have the protection of vaccination.

It is imperative we vaccinate remaining frontline workers at our border and in high-risk settings and remove those from the frontline who aren’t vaccinated. It is scandalous that, seven months into the vaccine rollout, more than a third of all frontline port workers still aren’t vaccinated.

We also need to quickly complete vaccination of people in groups 2 and 3 – our most vulnerable Kiwis. Our plan tasks GPs with going through practice rolls and identifying who should be getting a vaccine. They know their patients and have the relationships to get people getting vaccinated, but GPs have been woefully under-utilised in the vaccine rollout so far.

2. Vaccinate the vectors

National suggests a higher priority for 20-30-year-olds. The experience from overseas, and now here in New Zealand, is that Delta spreads rapidly among younger people who are more socially active and mobile. Two-thirds of cases in the current outbreak are in people aged under 30. Younger people are vectors for Covid and it makes sense to target people in this age group. Only yesterday (25 August) was eligibility to book extended to 30-year-olds.

We must administer the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds in schools before the end of the year. The Government took two months to affirm Medsafe’s decision to approve extending the rollout to this age group and there are no plans to vaccinate children in schools before the end of the year. This is a massive wasted opportunity and planning should begin immediately to vaccinate children in the settings where they spend many hours each week.

3. Supercharge the rollout

New Zealand has been woefully slow at rolling out the vaccine – the slowest in the developed world – even though we were told we were at the front of the queue. We need a target of at least 100,000 vaccination doses administered per day from here on.

To achieve this we need to make much more use of GPs and pharmacists. Only 12 out of 400 pharmacists in Auckland have been “onboarded” into the system and there are multiple reports of GPs waiting many weeks to be approved to give vaccinations. GPs have always been critical to the rollout, yet the Government has ignored them. GPs and pharmacists need to be embraced and encouraged to do what they do best – serve their community.

It is imperative we raise urgently vaccination rates among Māori and Pasifika and as Auckland City’s Manukau councillor Efeso Collins says, we need a much more grassroots approach to partner with civil society and work with churches and community groups.

4. Plan for the future

New Zealand must immediately order vaccine boosters. It beggars belief that New Zealand has still not ordered any Pfizer boosters. Meanwhile, the United States has announced it will start its booster programme in September, while Australia and other countries have already ordered millions of doses. As it stands, New Zealand will be at the back of the queue once again.

5. Get moving on ‘true’ vaccine passports

There are multiple reports reaching National MPs of New Zealanders who have had the double dose of Pfizer vaccine but are unable to prove it to overseas authorities.

Vaccine passports are inevitable. It is clear the Government has dropped the ball on this critical component of our plan to reconnect with the world. The urgent development of a vaccine passport that can be properly relied on overseas is critical.

This is what you call model oppositioning.


Glaring border hole

10/08/2021

Weren’t we assured that all border workers would be vaccinated?

It’s deeply concerning that 60 per cent of port workers in the Bay of Plenty haven’t had a single vaccine especially when there are 11 cases of Covid-19 in a ship off Tauranga, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

As at 22 July, of the 530 frontline border workers in the Bay of Plenty, 319 haven’t had a single jab. The ship carrying 11 Covid-19 cases berthed in Tauranga for two days.

“This is incredibly concerning. Frontline workers were meant to have been vaccinated months ago. We have a glaring hole in our border.

Aren’t frontline workers supposed to be tested regularly? If they have to be tested regularly should they not be on the priority list for vaccines?

“Bay of Plenty with our largest port workforce is the worse with 60 per cent of their workers unvaccinated, that’s higher than the average for all port workers, which is still shockingly at 40 per cent unvaccinated.

“Given the extraordinarily low rate of vaccinated port workers in the Bay of Plenty, why wasn’t the crew tested before the ship was allowed to berth?

“It’s unbelievable that the Government has let six months pass and there are still huge numbers of port workers unvaccinated. New Zealand urgently needs a national plan to get as many port workers vaccinated as possible.

“The port is one way Covid-19 could enter New Zealand. Given the huge number of unvaccinated port workers in the Bay of Plenty, and the fact active cases were on board at the time, it’s not unfeasible that transmission could’ve taken place, putting the rest of New Zealand at risk.

“The Government has left a major vulnerability in our Covid-19 response. It has taken way too long to mandate that staff working at the border in a frontline should be vaccinated.

“Our vaccine rollout is still moving at a glacial pace so if Covid-19 does get through the border, our largely unvaccinated population would be vulnerable.

“New Zealand is in a precarious position particularly with the Delta variant locking many Australian cities down.

“We don’t want to be in the same situation, so making sure all of our border workers, whether they are at the airport or the seaport, are vaccinated immediately should be the highest priority.”

These workers have to undergo the uncomfortable nasal swabs regularly because the government has been so slow to approve saliva testing and now their health is threatened.

Until all border staff are fully vaccinated they’re at risk of infection.

Until most of us are vaccinated any holes at the border risk community spread and the consequent need for lockdowns.

Until the government and the Ministry of Health ensure what they say is required actually happens, their assurances can’t be relied on and the danger of our luck running out gets worse.


Late start and only a start

16/06/2021

Who’s surprised that the government prioritised border exemptions for film crews over farm workers?:

New documents show tensions arose between government departments over who should get border exemptions and how the dairy industry lost out in favour of space and film projects.

DairyNZ had its border request rejected in the run-up to calving last year, having asked for farm or herd managers already employed in New Zealand, who were overseas on holidays when the pandemic struck.

It said it was concerned the decision may have been pre-determined, and said the the logic didn’t stack up, including why fishing was favoured over dairy.

One email summary on agriculture stated: “Make sure the clear distinction between fishing ‘yes’, and dairy, ‘no’.”

Its chief executive, Tim Mackle, described the assertion in the documents that the industry could source New Zealanders for the jobs as a “pipedream”, as herd and farm managers were specialist staff with many years of experience.

“We’ve got a sector here that’s New Zealand’s largest, a $20 billion export sector, which is going to be critical to New Zealand’s recovery and we couldn’t get 40 or 50 people through that system,” he said. “That was very frustrating and farmers felt that keenly.” . . 

Last week the government announced 250 farm workers, vets and their families will be allowed in.

That’s a start, but it’s a late start and only a start.

It’s late because workers were needed months ago and not just on dairy farms. Horticulturists and viticulturist have also been desperately seeking exemptions so they could harvest fruit and vegetables.

It’s a start because a lot more workers are needed not just on farms, orchards, and vineyards but in meat works, on ski fields and in hospitality.

These staff shortages are bad for business, add to costs, reduce income and put added pressure on staff.

At least as bad as this, is the way the government is keeping the families of workers out:

The government has quietly broken yet another election promise, resulting in thousands of critical workers being unable to enter New Zealand and migrant families separated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Labour campaigned at the election on establishing a 10 percent quota for critical workers in MIQ, saying that “the allocation system will ensure a majority of MIQ places are always available for returning New Zealanders, with 10 per cent of capacity set aside for critical workers and other entrants.

“However the Government has never implemented this policy. Instead, they have been measuring the number of critical workers in MIQ as a proportion of occupied MIQ rooms, rather than total MIQ capacity.

“At the moment there are on average over 1500 rooms vacant every day in MIQ, and over 9000 MIQ room vouchers have been unused since the beginning of the year.

“If Labour was actually carrying out its promise, thousands more critical workers would be allowed into New Zealand, helping spur our recovery from Covid-19 and filling skill shortage gaps.

“The government could also easily reunite the split migrant families, some of whom have now gone over 500 days without seeing their family, thanks to Government policy that is frankly cruel.”

What’s happened to kindness? The emotional and financial burden this imposes on these families is anything but kind.

“Information on the MBIE website gives the impression that for each month this year, the Government has been meeting the 10 percent minimum. But when the spare un-used capacity is taken into account, the Government is nowhere near its original capacity commitment.

“The Government’s broken promise makes no sense in the light of excess capacity in MIQ. It is novel, I know, for this Government, but perhaps they should start implementing what they campaigned on.”

Failure to allow family members in is also forcing workers out.

Maheno dairy farm manager Mark Purugganan has “lost hope” of being able to be reunited with his family in New Zealand, and is returning to the Philippines.

Mr Purugganan has lived and worked in New Zealand since 2012. He was joined by wife Roxanne a year later, and their two sons, Keired (5) and Abram (2), were born here.

He has helped manage Quambatook, a 900-cow dairy farm at Maheno, with James and Bridget McNally, for three and a-half years.

His children suffer from severe eczema and so their mother took them back to the Philippines to let their skin recover, as it seemed to be better in the warmer and more humid climate.

“The original plan was for me to go home every six months to visit them, until they outgrow their eczema problem, and then we can all come back here together.

“And then the lockdown came.”

Mr Purugganan last saw his family in person in December 2019, when Abram was a 7-month-old baby. He has missed three of Keired’s five birthdays. . . 

It’s not just dairy workers, but nurses and other essential workers the country needs and whose skills are valued but who are separated from their families.

This policy might have been excused when the lockdown started and there was so much pressure on MIQ for citizens and permanent residents.

But that excuse can’t be used now and failure to allow these families to reunite and to allow more essential workers in is a major government failure.

 

 


Govt PR vs media, no contest

08/06/2021

Remember Jacinda Ardern’s promise to be the most open and transparent New Zealand had ever seen?

Andrea Vance writes that her promise to be open and transparent is an artfully crafted mirage:

. . . In her first formal speech to Parliament she pledged: “This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

Since then the numbers of faceless communications specialists have skyrocketed. The Government’s iron grip on the control of information has tightened.

And it is now harder than ever to get information. . .

In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced. Many of my colleagues say the same.

Even squeezing basic facts out of an agency is a frustrating, torturous and often futile exercise. . . 

Such stonewalling might be common-place in dictatorships. It’s not supposed to happen in a democracy.

Vance gives examples of the difficulty she, and other journalists have, in getting information and notes why:

It’s now very difficult for journalists to get to the heart and the truth of a story. We are up against an army of well-paid spin doctors.

Since the current Government took office, the number of communications specialists have ballooned. Each minister has at least two press secretaries. (Ardern has four).

In the year Labour took office, the Ministry for the Environment had 10 PR staff. They now have 18. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade more than doubled their staff – up to 25.

MBIE blew out from 48 staff to 64. None of those five dozen specialists could give me those figures for many weeks – and again I was forced to ask the Ombudsman to intervene.

The super ministry – and its colleagues uptown at the Health Ministry – are notorious for stymieing even the simplest requests. Health’s information gatekeepers are so allergic to journalists they refuse to take phone calls, responding only (and sporadically) to emails.

But it is the New Zealand Transport Agency that take the cake: employing a staggering 72 staff to keep its message, if not its road-building, on track – up from 26 over five years.

There’s no contest in government PR versus the media.

PR staff will be paid far more than they’d get in the media and instead of providing information they’re keeping it from journalists and so from the public who pay them.

At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information. It has not delivered on promises to fix the broken, and politically influenced OIA system.

It also keeps journalists distracted and over-burdened with a rolling maul of press conferences and announcements, which are often meaningless or repetitive and prevent sustained or detailed questioning.

In this age of live-streaming and blogging, organisations often feel obliged to cover every stage-managed utterance for fear of missing out. . . 

This isn’t openness, it’s obstruction in an attempt to hide the facts and present the fluff.

Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the nation’s journalists do not concern you. Why should you care?

Because the public’s impression of this government is the very opposite.

They see a prime minister that has captivated the world with her ‘authentic’ communication style, intimate social media postings, daily Covid briefings and proactive releases of Cabinet papers.

It is an artfully-crafted mirage, because the reality is very different. This is a Government that is only generous with the information that it chooses to share.

The government isn’t only withholding information from and manipulating it to the media, it’s obstructing the Opposition.

All of which begs the question: what are they hiding?


No regard for OPM

18/05/2021

Last week we learned thousands of school lunches are left uneaten.

Thousands of taxpayer-funded school lunches are being left uneaten by students each week.

And the Government is not counting the leftovers from one of its flagship policies. . . 

Yesterday we learned that the government is owed nearly $7 million in unpaid MIQ fees:

The Government is reducing the amount of time MIQ guests have to pay their bills after figures showed they are owed almost $7 million in overdue fees for MIQ stays.

Figures obtained by 1 NEWS showed the Government was owed $6,907,434 in overdue invoices from MIQ guests, with $3,792,298 owed by guests who stayed at facilities last year.

A total of 13,155 invoices worth $59,519,661 have been issued for stays since August, with guests having paid a total of $36,783,765. . . 

National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said “hotels don’t run honesty systems and the Government shouldn‘t run one either”.

He said the Government should be chasing people who owe money much harder.

In the last three months, $1,196,695 of the $17,025,158 worth of invoices issued was classified as overdue. . .

Both examples show what Heather du Plessis Allan says is a lax approach to our money:

They’re so desperate to convince us that they are good with money, that’s why they froze the pay of all nurses and teachers and police and so on.

But that is not going to convince us of anything, when we constantly see examples of completely careless spending. 

And we’ve seen a lot of it in the last nearly four years.

$3 billion thrown carelessly at the provincial growth fund to buy Winston’s affection, with a negligible number of jobs created.

Is it $14 billion into the wage subsidy scheme, which is a good scheme, but no real chasing and auditing to make sure people who shouldn’t’ have taken the money didn’t. Even the Auditor General called them out for that sloppiness this week.

And $100 million for marae upgrades that were supposed to create 3000 jobs but only created 158. 

This is the attitude I really object to.

And I’m sorry, but as long as Labour ministers like Chris Hipkins just don’t care whether our money is wasted in uneaten school lunches, as long as that happens, Labour will be perceived to be the party that just throws cash away.

Pay freeze the nurses all you like, that perception will stick, because it’s warranted. 

Every dollar the government spends is a dollar that has been taken from other people – taxpayers.

Every dollar wasted is a dollar that isn’t available for urgent priorities including health and education.

Every dollar mis-spent or not recouped reinforces the view that the government has no regard for other people’s money.


Only front of signing queue

12/05/2021

Remember being told we’d be at the front of the vaccine queue? Now we’re told that’s not what the government meant:

The Prime Minister’s comments today in Question Time that Chris Hipkins’ promise that New Zealand would be at the “front of the queue” for Covid-19 vaccines actually meant that we would be at the front of the queue in terms of signing contracts are baffling, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Her assertion that ‘distribution is secondary’ demonstrates how woeful the Government’s vaccination programme is. Signing a contract does not protect Kiwis from Covid-19.”

Distribution is secondary?

Tell that to the people who can’t reunite with their families. Tell that to people whose businesses are compromised because they can’t travel or who live in fear of another lockdown. Tell that to people who fear for their health or that of their family and friends.

“When Chris Hipkins told New Zealanders that we were ‘at the front of the queue’ for Covid-19 vaccines, we rightly thought that meant New Zealand would quickly roll-out the Covid-19 vaccines.

Yet again the Prime Minister is moving the goalposts. Faced with a very slow roll-out where New Zealand is the 120th slowest in the world and the second slowest in the OECD, the Prime Minister’s new line is that ‘front of the queue’ just means speed of signing contracts.

Front of the queue for signing contracts? Why would that be cause for celebration? Does she really expect us to believe that?

“Why would the Government celebrate being first in line to sign a contract to ensure slow delivery, and consequential slow roll-out of vaccines? It beggars belief.

“The vaccine roll-out is a mess.”

We’ve received pamphlets in the mail, we’ve seen advertisements in the paper and we keep hearing them on the radio reassuring that the vaccine is safe and that we’ll get it.

What we’re not getting is when we’ll get it nor are we getting confidence in the roll-out. Playing word games trying to get us to believe that front of the queue doesn’t mean now what it meant a few months ago isn’t helping.

Mike Hosking asks, when will we start demanding better from the response?

. . . Vaccinated travellers all over the world are now starting to get on planes and fly and we as of now are missing out. . .

Our issue, according to our esteemed leader who told us a few weeks ago when we asked when the borders would be opening to vaccinated travellers, said that was an open question, which is code for she hasn’t thought about it. . . 

Any mountaineer knows getting to the top of the mountain is only half way.

Other countries who were well behind us in stopping the spread of the disease are already well down the mountain while we still don’t know the plan for the descent.

At some point a level of normality will have returned and places like Britain and the states are seeing their vaccination programmes as being comprehensive enough to be able to do that

Is it really possible the fear instilled in us by a government bereft of a plan beyond a closed border is really going to let the world get back to life and keep us locked up? . . 

As each day passes it becomes clearer where this story is heading. Vaccines work, the quicker you complete your programme, the more normal you can become, the world is clearly more than happy to drop restrictions lower borders and get life on a new track.

We sit here unvaccinated, borders closed, and no decision around what is next how and when.

It seems odd and increasingly criminal we can be recognised for a solid Covid response but because of our own fear and lack of planning cut ourselves out of the joining the rest of the world.

When do we start demanding better?

There’s no doubt the government was good at stopping Covid-19 causing the devastation it did in many other countries.

But repeated mistakes and repeated breaches at the border show that at least some of the success was due more to luck than management.

It will take a lot more good management than luck to make a success of the roll-out and trusting us with the truth, rather than trying to make us believe what was meant wasn’t what was said would be a good start.


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