Good communication doesn’t confuse

April 29, 2020

A few days before the country was locked down Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the four levels.

As has happened so many times she was congratulated for good communication.

But a little more than five weeks later, Cactus Kate points that if what was said about what happens at which level still held, we wouldn’t be stuck in level three now.

You are already there.

You are already there

You are already even here.

We’ve been repeatedly told the reason for the hard lockdown is the goal of elimination of the virus.

As the definitions for yesterday’s word of the day, showed elimination for those of us who speak English means getting rid of something.

Epidemiologists and politicians speak another language and it was only a few days ago that we learned that elimination doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to us.

And on Monday, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and the PM told us that we had, by the epidemiological definition, eliminated Covid-19.

But yesterday we were told that wasn’t the case:

At yesterday’s daily press conference Dr Bloomfield was asked whether New Zealand had achieved elimination.

It was his answer that “we’ve achieved [elimination] through alert level 4” – and the Prime Minister chipping in that New Zealand “currently” had eliminated the virus – that resulted in yesterday’s confusion.

Realising the waters had been muddied, Dr Bloomfield arrived at Parliament today armed with a clarification.

Asked whether he accepted yesterday’s remarks had given the country and the rest of the world a false impression, and whether he was concerned New Zealanders would be breathing a sigh of relief at a time they should still be vigilant, Dr Bloomfield didn’t mince his words.

“I can just clarify we haven’t eliminated it, and we haven’t eradicated it.”

He said elimination is about having a low number of cases, and a knowledge of where they’re coming from and identifying people early.

Then it’s a case of stamping out the virus and continuing to maintain strict border restrictions to be sure no new cases are being imported.

Elimination is by no means eradication and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this is a situation of entering into the world of epidemioligist-speak.

“And they know well what each of these terms mean in a health sense, but of course in an every day sense they mean, often, something different.

“Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping Covid out until there’s a vaccine,” she said. . . 

It’s not good enough to blame the jargon.

Good communicators put jargon into everyday language, using words that we all understand and whose definitions fit our understanding.

National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said Dr Bloomfield probably felt the need to clarify on behalf of the Prime Minister.

“This underscores the importance of talking in plain English. The public are not epidemioligists, they don’t have the same information the Prime Minister has and it’s really important they get on the same page, talk in English, and make it clear to New Zealanders where we’re at and how we’ve got to stay there.” . . .

I think we’re now clear that elimination doesn’t mean what we think it means but, we are no clearer on what the levels mean.

We’re told there’s no evidence of community transmission and that the disease is contained. It’s not quite so clear whether no evidence means there’s no risk of community transmission or if we’re now down to the risk of only household transmission.

But if we can take the information on alert levels to mean what it says, it ought to mean we can go down to level two, if not one.

But yesterday we only went to level 3 and while there’s the expectation this will last no more than a fortnight, there’s no certainty.

Given that the information on levels is different from what’s happening, there’s even less certainty.

The communication on this is confused when it needs to be clear.

Good communication isn’t just about getting your message across, it’s also about ensuring the people to whom you’re communicating understand what you’re saying and clarifying any confusion when they don’t.


Contradictions and confusion still undermining confidence

April 14, 2020

A good news story of a wedding under lockdown has highlighted the confusion and contradictions over what is an isn’t essential:

A furore has erupted among the country’s wedding celebrants after a North Shore couple were allowed to tie the knot at their home despite the nationwide lockdown.

Jeff Montgomery, the Registrar-General for Births, Deaths and Marriages, is standing by his decision to let the couple go ahead with their special day, sending an email to all celebrants today stating it is up to them and their clients if they decide to get married during the 4-week lockdown period. . . 

But the Registrar-General emailed celebrants later saying it wasn’t up to him to decide if weddings should go ahead or not.

Weddings have occurred recently, for example when one of the couple is about to pass away, or because of religious requirements.

“It is up to the couple and the celebrant to consider how essential the wedding is and to work within the level 4 rules”.

“It is not the role of the Registrar-General to make decisions about whether or not a ceremony occurs. ‘Permission’ or ‘exemptions’ are not something that I have authority to issue and I do not make judgments on what services may or may not be essential.

“My role is to issue licences where the couple meet the requirements, to register celebrants who are expected to abide by the law, and to register relationships that have been legally solemnised,” he wrote.

That’s quite clear, so who can make decisions about whether or not a ceremony occurs?

In today’s briefing with media, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said weddings could go ahead as long as they abided by social distancing rules.

That seems clear, but what does the Covid-19 website say?

All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed.

This does not include workplaces of people undertaking essential businesses.

If a wedding celebrant was running an essential business that might be okay but:

These requirements apply to family and social gatherings such as birthdays, funerals, tangi or weddings. These gatherings can not go ahead.

We are asking you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and keep your distance from all others at all times.

So there we have it – the Registrar-General quite rightly says it’s not up to him to say if a wedding is essential.

The DG of Health says weddings could take place as long as people obeyed social distancing rules.

But the COvid-19 website says weddings can’t take place.

The confusion and contradictions over this provide more grounds for having the guiding rule for what can take place under Level 4 lockdown what’s safe rather than what’s essential.

Providing everyone involved took the proper precautions to maintain social distance and either wash their hands or use sanitiser before and after touching the pen and paper work, it ought to be safe to have a wedding with just the couple, two witnesses who were already in their bubble and a celebrant.

But under the Level 4 rules no weddings are supposed to be taking place.

Changing to safety as the guide rather than essential would not only allow very small wedding ceremonies to take place, it would allow a lot more small businesses to open again.

That could save jobs, and businesses, take pressure over businesses like supermarkets that are open, and get rid of the confusion and contradictions over what is and isn’t essential.


A pop of positivity

April 9, 2020

We passed the halfway point of the four-week lockdown last night.

There is very little chance we will get out of lockdown earlier and it is too soon to know whether it might extend beyond four weeks.

The decline, slow as it is,  in the number of new cases of Covid-19 gives reason for hope that four weeks might be enough to eliminate the disease, or at least get the spread so low it can be contained and the likelihood of that would be increased if all new arrivals are quarantined.

National launched a petition on Monday  calling for mandatory quarantining at the border and it had an unprecedented response:

. . .With the large number of cases overseas, experts, like epidemiologist Professor Sir David Skegg, say a blanket quarantine is needed to ensure Kiwis with the virus don’t return to the country and nullify any success our domestic lockdown measures have had. 

Likewise, the National Party leader told The AM Show that implementing a mandatory quarantine was about making sure the four-week lockdown wasn’t in vain.

“As we make sacrifices as New Zealanders, as dads can’t see their babies in hospital, as people can’t go to their loved ones’ funerals, let’s do some of the things that really matter,” he said.

“We know where COVID-19 is coming in from, it is offshore, that is where most of the cases are. This is urgent.” . . 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also appeared supportive of tighter border control on Tuesday.

“I agree with what Professor Skegg was saying, that, actually, if we’re going to go for the elimination approach, which is our extended keep it out, stamp it out, and for when we move down out into Alert Level 3, we need to be very confident we are not letting new cases into the country at the border,” he said. . . 

In the meantime, business not as usual goes on.

The regular newsletter from my MP, Jacqui Dean is usually full of what she’s been doing around the electorate.

The latest one is different as she is working from her lock down base.

She, like other electorate MPs, has been busy helping people in need of support, information  and advice.

She has also had time to notice the good things people and businesses have been doing:

A pop of positivity

Cardona Distillery

I visited Desiree and the team at Cardrona Distillery last year. It’s a wonderful family run business and I was impressed (but not surprised) by their offer of free hand sanitizer to locals who need it.

Prince Albert

We humans are social creatures and The Prince Albert in Wanaka has come up with a clever idea to keep their regulars connected. They’ve moved their weekly quiz night online, something I suspect could be a highlight on many social calendars in the coming weeks.

Bringing out the books

Geraldine’s new bookshop The Page and Post Booksellers has been offering a daily story time session through its Facebook page. Cromwell Community Board Chair and Goldfields School Principal Anna Harrison has done something similar by reading children’s books and posting the videos on YouTube.

Whitestone Taxis

Whitestone Taxis have offered to deliver Meals on Wheels to people in Oamaru without taking payment from Waitaki District Health Services. This news left me in no doubt that there are some absolute gems in this electorate. What a kind and generous offer.

Supermarket superstars

Frontline supermarket staff all deserve a round of applause at the moment but I’d like to give a special mention the owner-operators of supermarkets in our small towns who are going above and beyond in taking orders and delivering groceries to those who need it. I started to compile a list of the towns where this is happening and it just got too long – a wonderful reflection of community spirit.

Digital Libraries

Here’s a quote from the Waitaki District Libraries website that couldn’t be more appropriate in times like these:

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” ~ Anne Herbert

Their buildings may be closed but libraries are still there for you either on the phone, via email or social media, and you get your good reads using the digital platform.

Visit: https://library.waitaki.govt.nz/

https://codc-qldc.govt.nz/

#codclibraries #digitallibraryopen

When so much in the media is bad news, it was refreshing to read this pop of positivity and there’s plenty more.

Riverstone Kitchen chef Bevan Smith is live streaming cooking demonstrations.

Cucina chef Pablo Tacchini is live streaming cooking demonstrations too.

Netball NZ is offering free online fitness classes – Netfit.

Otago Museum has a range of activities including online jigsaw puzzles and Te Papa has online jigsaw puzzles too.

If you can add to th epop of positivity, pleaes do.


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