Oh dear

24/02/2021

Anyone with a heart would have sympathy for someone who flew to Mexico to visit family members with terminal illnesses even if official advice on the government’s SafeTravel website urges all New Zealanders to remain in the country.

But Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March opened himself up to criticism when he tried to get early entry to MIQ on his return and the case for criticism has got stronger:

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March tried not once, but twice, to get an emergency spot in managed isolation, the first time as a “critical health service” and the second time as “required for national security”. 

In a written parliamentary response to National MP Chris Bishop, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that both applications for an emergency spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) were declined.  . . 

As they should have been.

The written response from Hipkins shows Menéndez March first applied for an emergency spot in MIQ on January 13 under category 2b. 

It’s reserved for people whose entry to New Zealand is time-critical for the purpose of delivering specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential health infrastructure. 

He then applied for a second time on January 15, under category 2d, for New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens, where urgent travel is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons. 

“It is extraordinary chutzpah for a new MP to claim they are critical to delivering public health services, or critical for national security. It just beggars belief,” Bishop told Newshub. “The emergency MIQ allocation is not meant to be for MPs trying it on to come home.”

Menéndez March told Newshub he applied for the category thinking he would qualify as a public servant. . . 

Oh dear, that doesn’t say much about his understanding of his lack of importance.

A Minister wouldn’t qualify under either of those categories, a back bencher who thought he might needs some very clear lessons about his role and its lowly status when it comes to critical health services, national security, national interest and law enforcement.


Before the luck runs out

29/01/2021

Each time there’s news about shortcomings with our Covid-19 response it looks more and more as if the success is due more to good luck than good management.

The latest shemozzle adds to that suspicion and the need for improvements which several health professionals have suggested.

Writing kast year after the release of the Simpson-Roche report which showed just how bad management had been, Eric Crampton wrote that we had to block the border holes :

The University of Otago’s epidemiologists listed a series of measures that would obviously help to reduce the risk of future outbreaks. Many are simple; some would take more work. But when outbreaks cost billions of dollars, in addition to obvious health costs and distress, even a percentage point reduction in the risk of an outbreak can be worth millions.

The epidemiologists’ suggested measures work to reduce the risk of transmission, to reduce the risk of missed cases, and to reduce the costs of any missed case that does make it through.

They suggest adjusting the intensity of border control measures to the risk involved in travel from different places. It makes little sense, for example, that travellers from places where Covid is widespread and transmission is uncontrolled are treated the same way as travellers from places without Covid, like the Covid-free islands, Taiwan, and parts of Australia.

A traffic-light system, designating more stringent controls for travellers from risky places, could help.

On the simple and obvious range of the spectrum, the epidemiologists recommend reviewing testing regimes for incoming travellers.

Currently, travellers are subject to two PCR tests while in MIQ. The tests are costly and invasive, and accurate. Rapid antigen-based saliva tests have been available for months but are not as accurate as PCR tests. Good testing protocols can consider trade-offs between frequent tests that are cheaper and less accurate, and less frequent tests that are more accurate.

But, since August, accurate PCR saliva-based testing following the University of Illinois’ SHIELD system protocols have been possible. The tests provide faster results, are accurate, provide less risk of transmission during testing, and are much less expensive to process. Where a regular nasal swab test can induce sneezing, the Illinois test only requires saliva collection.

Shifting from one test per week to near-daily testing would have obvious advantages.

Faster identification of positive cases would mean that those who were infected would be more quickly shuttled to dedicated facilities where they would be less likely to pass the virus to others.

And extending near-daily testing to border staff would make it far more likely any infections would be caught more quickly, reducing transmission risk.

Border staff are now offered daily tests but they aren’t required to have them.

Other obvious and relatively inexpensive measures recommended by the Otago epidemiologists included enhanced monitoring of close contacts of border workers, wastewater testing at border facilities and in areas near border facilities, and pre-departure testing for travellers coming from risky places.

In the heat of an election campaign, National’s proposals for mandatory testing before travelling were portrayed as impracticable, ineffective, or both. But saliva-based antigen tests, like the Abbott BinaxNOW test which recently received FDA Emergency Use Authorisation, could be used right at the airport departure gate. Testing at the gate would reduce the risk that infectious people board the plane and infect their fellow passengers. It certainly would not substitute for a stay in MIQ, but it would reduce the number of arriving cases.

A negative result form a test within 72 hours of departure is now required but a test at the airport immediately before departure would be even better.

Reducing the number of arriving Covid cases, or at least preventing that number from increasing, matters. New Zealand’s health system can only handle so many positive cases, and that constraint seems to guide much of how MIQ operates.

There are many opportunities for the MIQ system to expand to handle more arrivals, safely. People arriving from low-risk places could stay in facilities that had been ruled out because they were too far from hospitals, for example, leaving more room in other facilities for travellers from riskier places.

The MIQ system has been exceptionally reluctant to consider those kinds of options. It makes little sense, unless measures that would allow more people into MIQ from risky places would mean more positive cases than officials believe the health system can safely handle.

Preventing those who are infected from boarding the plane reduces the number of positive cases arriving here, which means that more travellers overall could be accommodated. More Kiwis could safely return home, and more people could safely join us, if those with Covid were less likely to board flights here in the first place.

And that brings us to the Otago epidemiologists’ more difficult option – but one that is well worth considering. They suggest running MIQ facilities in high-risk jurisdictions; they had made similar suggestion in October. The government could set a pilot programme providing MIQ facilities in a country that is the source of many positive cases found in our MIQ system. Travellers could isolate before travel to New Zealand, reducing the risk of transmission.

MIQ in New Zealand would still be required if there were risk that passengers could contract the virus at the airport. But it would reduce the number of positive cases arriving here, enabling more Kiwis to come home safely. And an MIQ facility in the UK would also reduce the risk presented by the more contagious form of Covid now prevalent there.

It would be impossible to bolt every possible door against future outbreaks. But Otago’s epidemiologists point out several opportunities for making our borders safer. Far better to bolt those particular doors now, rather than read about them again in a future Simpson-Roche report.

Mike Hosking has a few more suggestions:

A few ideas on how MIQ should be working. Currently, not only is it run badly, it’s not run to its full potential.

It’s run with fear as a driving force and fear limits your ability to think, excel and expand.

Firstly, the experts the Bakers and the Gormans are right. The fact they are virtually all in major centres is insanity, especially with the new strains.

More of New Zealand needs to be used. More military facilities need to be used

Flights from certain countries for now need to be stopped. Tests on day 0, 3 and 12 work well, but isolation post-MIQ is now necessary.

Everyone is in the room and stays in the room for 14 days, full stop – Australia has it right.

I would carve out sections for business. I would allow a small number or perhaps a group of businesses to provide private facilities overseen by the government. This would allow workers and students to re-enter the country into isolation without the numbers jam we currently have

I would allow an exemption system for private isolation. It would cost and the fines would be gargantuan, Australia has it and it works. It allows people with job opportunities and money to come and go.

Yes, there is an egalitarian backlash, but this is about moving forward, not being bogged down with whinging.

At the best of times life isn’t fair. If allowing some who can afford it to pay more for private isolation, with very strict guidelines and very, very expensive consequences for not adhering to them, allows more people to come in safely, let the whingers whinge while the rest of us get on with our lives.

The bubble with Australia would be up and running and running. The key here is MIQ: if MIQ worked and was run properly, we wouldn’t have the leaks.

If we didn’t have the leaks we wouldn’t be constantly chasing our tail running nine hour queues for testing and generally having fear run rampant in various communities.

And when MIQ works, you can travel with confidence. You’ve been able to travel with confidence to Australia for months now, it’s just our fear that’s held us back.

And in traveling freely to Australia, you’ve just freed up a significant portion of MIQ spaces, thus allowing yet more New Zealanders to return home.

None of this is rocket science. None of its new, it’s all been suggested, a lot of its been done elsewhere. . . 

We can be grateful that we can enjoy the freedom to move and congregate around New Zealand that people in very few other countries have. But if, as it increasingly appears, it’s due more to good luck than good management the management must improve and improve quickly before the luck runs out.

And not only must the systems and processes for existing MIQ improve, they need to do so in a way that enables more people to come in safely for the sake of people needing to return and for the boost it could provide to the businesses which are short of workers.


Lax and late

04/01/2021

Newshub’s Covid 19 timeline gives the lie to the government’s claim of going hard and early:

. . . January 6: Newshub first reports on the “mystery virus”, when there had been just 59 cases reported. . .

A long list of warning signs and straight warnings from medical experts follows until:

March 26: New Zealand goes into a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, closing most businesses, schools and workplaces. Seventy-eight new cases are confirmed. Lots of people arriving in the country have no plans to isolate.  . .  

The timeline shows that rather than hard and early, the government was lax and late.

Does that matter when Covid-19 has, largely, been stopped at the border and life is as near to normal as it could be with the borders still closed?

If it was only a political slogan it wouldn’t matter.

But if the government believes its own rhetoric and doesn’t accept that it was lax and late and then harsh it does matter.

That would mean it hasn’t learned from its mistakes and the report on our Covid-19 response by Heather Simpson and Brian Roche that was released after parliament rose for the year, showed plenty of mistakes and lessons which need to be learned.

One mistake the report didn’t address was that the lockdown was more than hard, it was harsh. Using the arbitrary essential to determine which businesses could operate rather than allowing those that could operate safely to do so.

That distinction did a lot more damage to too many businesses at a high human and financial cost.

Another problem with harsh rather than hard was delays to diagnosis and treatment of other health problems.

Closing all hospitals to all but those in dire need could have been excused at first. There was no rule book and overseas experience showed the very real risk of hospitals becoming overrun.

However, once it was obvious that case numbers had peaked and were declining with no untoward pressure on the health system, why couldn’t some hospitals have been directed to deal with Covid-19 cases and the others left to treat other patients?

I know of two people whose diagnosis of cancer wasn’t made because their symptoms weren’t considered urgent enough for appointments during the lockdown and who later died. It is possible that might have been the outcome even had they been diagnosed earlier, but whether or not that was the case for them, delayed diagnosis for a variety of ailments will have led to worse outcomes in terms of both quality and length of lives.

One of those was a friend who broke her wrist just before lockdown. It was set in plaster but the cast was too loose. She wasn’t able to get a replacement during lockdown, endured months of pain and incapacity and finally had surgery in December when the wrist had to be rebroken. She is now now just halfway through 10 weeks in plaster.

Has the government learned from its mistakes?

The continuation of the arbitrary essential  rather than safe for which businesses could operate and determination that hospitals were closed for all but absolute emergencies when Auckland went back into lockdown shows they hadn’t learned by then.

They say they’ve addressed, or are addressing, the issues raised in the Simpson Roche report that was completed after that. But have they?

We can be grateful that the lockdowns worked, that there is no community transmission of Covid-19 and we are able to live as normal lives as possible with the borders closed.

But that gratitude shouldn’t blind us to the fact that our freedom owes a lot to luck rather than good management.

With the new more virulent strain of the disease in MIQ at the border, it is even more important that the government  ensures everything possible that can be done is being done to make sure it stays there.


Bubble babble

14/12/2020

When a joint media release from two Prime Ministers is headlined next steps towards quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand you’d expect it to be about progress. Instead we get this:

. . . Both Prime Ministers and their Cabinets have instructed officials to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of 2021. . . 

This bubble babble is sadly typical of the PM and her government who so often mistake media releases for action.

It means no more than a continuation of what’s been happening and progress towards opening the borders is far too slow:

The Cook Islands bubble is taking far too long to set up, there is no reason why it shouldn’t already be in place, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Today’s announcement of ‘next steps’ in travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand is an utterly meaningless statement that does no more than repeat that officials are still working on the issue.

“The Prime Minister must explain the delay when a month ago she said there was ‘progress’ and that it would only take ‘a couple of weeks’ before a bubble would be up and running once both sides were happy. . .

“New Zealand officials have been and returned from the Cook Islands, although even that trip was delayed and far later than it should have been.

“The Cooks are heavily dependent on tourism, from New Zealand in particular. Pre-Covid, tourism made up 85 per cent of GDP. Getting the bubble up and running should be a high priority as it will help save jobs and livelihoods in our Pacific neighbour.

“New Zealanders and the Cook Islands need answers from the Government as to why it’s taking so long. A tepid statement that officials are working towards quarter one next year is meaningless given statements in the past.

“‘Quarter one’ could easily mean late March, which even assuming nothing goes wrong, is months away. In the meantime we’re going to see businesses fall under and both Kiwis and Cook Islanders lose their jobs. The Government needs to get on with the job immediately.

“The Government should release a copy of the ‘arrangement to facilitate quarantine-free between the Cook Islands and New Zealand’ so that all parties know what the requirements are.”

The Cooks are Covid-free and there is no community transmission in New Zealand. Why the glacial pace for opening the borders?

The bubble babble about opening the border to travellers from Australia is even worse. Steven Joyce dissects them:

. . . The Prime Minister’s reasons for further delay, as reported in the Herald yesterday, are ridiculously weak. There were basically three of them. Let’s take them in turn.

The PM is reportedly concerned that Australia could have a looser definition of a Covid flare-up than New Zealand. It seems like there is an easy solution to this. New Zealand retains sovereign control over its borders and the Government could reinstate a quarantine requirement at any time. Having a bubble doesn’t mean always agreeing with Australia’s definition of risk.

The second problem is apparently that having fewer Australians in quarantine facilities would allow more people from other countries at greater risk to come into our quarantine facilities. This would increase the numbers of people in quarantine that could have Covid.

Let’s think about that for a second. Are we really keeping people arriving from Australia in isolation, even though it’s not necessary, in order to reduce the number of people from other countries in quarantine who could have Covid? Seriously?

A lot of those people are New Zealanders who are being forced to queue for MIQ places in order to get back to family, friends and/or work.

An alternative view is that freeing up nearly half of the quarantine facilities currently taken up by travellers from Australia would allow faster processing of critical workers and Kiwis from elsewhere who are currently queuing on the other side of the border. Which would surely be a good thing.

Our biggest risk is people coming in from countries other than Australia who are in MIQ. Putting people from Australia, many of whom would be Kiwis, in MIQ increases the risk they will contract the disease from people in the same hotel.

The third problem identified is what happens to Kiwis already in Australia if we have to close the bubble again. Well, I’m thinking they would then have to use quarantine to come back. Which seems a no-brainer. And if this is an argument for not opening a bubble we will never open one.

That’s pretty much it. The Prime Minister is suggesting that we need to postpone our end of a transtasman bubble till at least February to deal with these supposedly intractable issues, which a competent set of people could solve in roughly five minutes. . . 

Requiring MIQ for Trans-Tasman travellers is splitting families and friends, keeping people from visiting the dying and attending funerals, adding costs and imposing restrictions on businesses. It’s also withholding a lifeline from the beleaguered tourism industry.

Restricting freedom of movement is one of the most serious restraints a government can impose on its people.

Australia has opened its border to travellers from here. The reasons the PM has given for not reciprocating are spurious and the government should address any real issues and open the border from Australia before it goes on holiday.

 


Still holes in border protection

11/11/2020

Another day, another report on holes in our border protection:

Health workers in New Zealand quarantine hotels are some of the worst protected in the developed world, according to a man in managed isolation who’s helped kit out medical staff all over the world.

Tim Jones says he predicted the current outbreak when he arrived at his isolation hotel two weeks ago, shocked by the low level of personal protective equipment worn by nurses, defence force personnel and border workers.

He was returning home from Britain after working for four years for a New Zealand-owned, US-based company RPB which provided protective equipment for frontline workers in hospitals in 50 countries, mostly the United States, Britain and Europe.

“In short, New Zealand has been the worst protected for frontline health workers that we have seen,” Jones said.

“I guess probably the biggest red flags were when we landed at the border. We only saw surgical masks, including on army people who were on the bus with us so obviously in close proximity, travelling to our managed isolation facility.”

He was “completely blown away” to find out from a New Zealand Defence Force contact that even staff who worked in Auckland’s Jet Park, where most people have Covid-19, were wearing the most basic surgical masks. . . 

Where’s WorkSafe when we need them?

Failing to provide border staff who are dealing with potentially infected people with the best PPE is a serious breach of employer responsibility. It is even worse for staff in facilities where people with the disease are quarantined.

If farms didn’t provide staff with good protective equipment when they’re dealing with dangerous chemicals they’d be liable for prosecution for health and safety breaches. Not providing MIQ staff with adequate protection from a potentially fatal illness looks like a similarly serious breach.

The Ministry of Health is urgently looking into whether to use N95 masks at the highest risk facilities, like Jet Park.

Dr Bloomfield said there was growing evidence workers who had contracted the virus at managed isolation hotels may have caught it from transmission through the air.

This is a case where precaution should come before the evidence. It’s much better to provide more protection than necessary than to wait until the need for it is proved or disproved.

The Nurses Organisation has been calling for the better level protection, saying it did not know why it was not there already.

It also wants an investigation into how all managed isolation facilities are being run.

This follows David Farrar’s revelation of this mismanagement of a man who flew with someone who tested positive for Covid-19:

I’ve been contacted by the family of someone who was in the same row as the positive Covid-19 contact on Air NZ flight 457 on Thursday.

They have been given different isolation instructions from every agency they have interacted with. They are so alarmed as the lack of coherent and consistent advice, that they want people to be aware that we still have systematic failures in our Covid-19 response, as we saw with the lack of front line worker testing. . . 

Theses are systems failures and each one adds credence to the belief that eliminating Covid-19 in the community and keeping it at the border owes at least as much to good luck as good management.


MIQ needs flexibility

06/11/2020

A lack of capacity in managed isolation is keeping a Sydney-based family from visiting their  terminally ill father.

A New Zealand couple based in Sydney say their newborn baby will not meet his dying grandfather if they cannot find space in a managed isolation facility.

This comes as the Government announced its Managed Isolation Allocation System was fully booked until December 20.

Under new rules, people travelling into New Zealand needed a voucher for a managed isolation facility before boarding a flight to New Zealand. . . 

A friend has a place and will be returning home in a couple of weeks. He doesn’t know where he will have to isolate and is willing to pay more for a higher standard of hotel but that isn’t a choice.

These are just two examples of a system that isn’t as flexible as it needs to be.

The country has paid a very high economic cost to eliminate community transmission of Covid-19. We cannot risk an incursion at the border which means everyone coming in must isolate.

But the risk isn’t the same for everyone.

People returning from countries where Covid-19 is rife pose a much higher risk than those coming from countries which have the disease under control.

The ones from high risk countries should have to stay in managed isolation facilities.

People from low risk countries could be given the option of self-isolating, providing electronic monitoring was feasible and consequences for breaching isolation were high enough to ensure they stayed put.

Everyone coming in is charged for the costs of MIQ which is fair but some, people, like my friend, are willing and able to pay more for a higher standard of accommodation. Others wont be able to afford the $3,100 for the fortnight’s enforced stay and there ought to be a less expensive, but still safe, option for them.

The story of the Sydney-based family with the dying relative won’t be an isolated case and the system must be able to cater for them.

The government has been exhorting us all to be kind.

It must follow its own exhortations and ensure that MIQ has the flexibility to allow compassionate entry for those who need it and a variety of prices for those who can’t afford to pay the standard fee as well as those who would choose to pay more.

 


Who do you believe?

22/10/2020

Nurses in MIQ hotels are complaining about staff shortages and 20 hour working days:

Twenty nurses have been pulled away from other jobs around New Zealand to staff Auckland’s managed isolation facilities.

Nurses say they’re concerned about serious staff shortages and burnouts, and claim some are expected to work 20-hour shifts.

One registered nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, said while she takes pride in protecting Kiwis in isolation hotels, she is now disillusioned and fed up.

“I know many other nurses who are feeling despondent, despairing, frustrated and angry,” she told Newshub. . . 

She said the situation changed for nurses after the Northern Regions District Health Board took over employing staff from healthcare agency Geneva. Pay was slashed and nurses started leaving.

The nurse said shortages are widespread across Auckland’s isolation hotels.

“I would describe them as being critically low and dangerous,” she said.

She added those on the job are sometimes asked to work extra hours.

“It can amount to 20 hours straight, which is very unsafe.” . . .

The DHB, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Minister in charge of MIQ Megan Woods all say there is no problem.

Health workers said they had insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). Officials and politicians said they were wrong but there were right.

Health workers said there was a shortage of flu vaccines. Officials and politicians said there wasn’t but there was.

Now nurses are saying there are staff shortages and unsafe working hours. Officials and politicians say they’re wrong.

Who do you believe?


Blinded by the halos

18/08/2020

A very angry tweet demanded to know which journalist at a weekend briefing had the temerity to ask Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield if he would resign.

The journalist in question, Michael Morrah has broken several important stories over short comings in the response to Covid-19, most recently the ones telling us nearly two thirds of border staff hadn’t had Covid-19 tests; that the Health Minister admitted a tracking system for border workers wasn’t in place before ‘testing strategy’ announcement  and following revelations on The Nation he tweeted:

In response to the angry demand to know who asked the question about the DG, Morrah responded:

That resulted in more tweets:

 

Sometimes people in the media are guilty of bias. That is not the case in this instance.

Morrah has done what a good journalist should do – researched, found inadequacies and told us about them.

He is not the only one who is highlighting serious failings:

On Friday Pattrick Smellie wrote:

There is plenty of evidence in the bizarrely vague testing regime applied to New Zealanders working at the border that Pike River levels of incompetence and dysfunction lurk in the public health system and could yet be fatally exposed.

And in discussion with Jim Mora on Sunday Morning, both Jane Clifton and Richard Harman discussed the seriousness of the shortcomings: (3:34):

Clifton: . . . I think it’s pretty clear now that the Health Ministry has a pattern of, if not outright lying, then failing to supply the right information at the right time and I think it would defy belief to most people that testing wouldn’t be absolutely automatic and regular among border staff . . . I was against having a sort of witch hunt into what had gone wrong but . . . I think this is the last straw and I think we do need to have a few serious questions and consequences. . . 

Harman:  . . . If he’s (the Minister)  getting incorrect information he doesn’t need to resign surely, the person who needs to resign is the Director General of Health because he’s misleading his Minister and that is one of the most serious crimes that a senior civil servant can commit.  . . there’s been a pattern of this happening . . think about PPE, the original businesses about testing, Shane Reti again exposing the different versions of the truth that the Minister of Health presented over flu vaccines. It goes on and on and if you read again this excellent piece that Derek Cheng wrote this week about the difficulty of getting information out of the Minister of Health it seems that the Ministry of Health prioritises spin ahead of performance. . . 

This discussion sparked some very indignant responses from listeners, many of whom suggested that no-one should be questioning the DG or the government.

Perhaps these people have been blinded by the light from the halos some have put over the heads of both the DG and the Prime Minister which doesn’t allow them to see that there have been serious and repeated failings in performance.

Kate Hawkesby is one who has not been blinded:

. . . The left have mobilised into a tribe of such determined one-eyed acolytes, that their entire focus right now is to hunt down anyone daring to question the PM’s moves or decisions, and basically to eviscerate them.

Questioning the government makes you either a hater, a conspiracy theorist, a troll, or quite simply unpatriotic.

This venomous lobby group – includes many across social media but most of the mainstream media – has fallen under the spell too. The press gallery are most glaringly the people holding the government to account the least.

You’d think the media and government had almost forgotten about the existence of the silent majority. Those not on FB or Twitter, those not doing Instagram selfies with the PM, those regular everyday working mum and dads who’re looking down the barrel of an extremely grim economic future and are worried sick.

If people were allowed to dare question the PM, without the rabid left calling for them to be cancelled for doing so, here’s what needs answering;

Should Chris Hipkins be running Health, when he is also the Minister of Education, State of Services, and Leader of the House? We’ve already been through one incompetent Health Minister, have we not learned by now that it’s surely a fulltime job needing his full attention? And could I suggest may even be a contributing factor as to why the ball was so badly dropped on the border testing.

Why isn’t our contact tracing gold standard? They’ve had months to get it right.

What’s our Plan B beyond elimination?

Why aren’t we tougher at quarantine hotels?

Why have we come so late to the mask party?

Why is the chain of information from officials to government to public so slow?

How can we trust a government who got the availability of flu vaccines, testing kits and PPE gear so wrong first time round?

I’d also question the North Korea vibe coming from the 1pm pulpit. “There is only one source of truth,” Hipkins keeps reiterating in the manner of annoyed Dad. Unfortunately, not all their facts are accurate, just ask the seething Principal of Pakuranga College.

Likewise, many of the ‘we’re the first/best/only’ in the world’ statements, are not quite accurate either. It’s a tad Trump-esque. But it does play to an adoring base programmed not to question anything. . . 

Exactly who is responsible for the shortcomings will no doubt be uncovered when a journalist finds out through an Official Information Office request exactly what Ministers asked of the Ministry, what the response was and when all that happened.

Regardless of the answers, thanks to the work of Morrah and other journalists, we do know that we have been let down by lax practices at the border and if in the process they’ve tarnished the halos, that’s all to the good.

Many of us are biased, but that should not lead us to blind acceptance of whatever suits our partisan positions nor should it lead us to criticising the messengers when we don’t like their messages.

P.S.

What’s happened to Megan Woods? She’s the Minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) but has made no comments on the lack of testing of staff at the facilities.


Need cheaper option for MIQ

22/07/2020

Charging returning citizens and permanent residents for some of the cost of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) isn’t simple.

These people have a right to return to their homeland.

The BIll of Rights also allow freedom to leave and enter the country and freedom from detention.

Prisoners don’t have to pay the costs of their imprisonment.

However, these people, some who have never lived in New Zealand, some who have lived in other countries for far longer than they’ve lived here and some who are just coming in temporarily, are collectively costing the rest of us hundreds of millions of dollars.

We all incurred significant costs in personal and financial terms through levels four, three and two of lockdown to eliminate Covid-19, is it not fair that those returning contribute something towards the costs of keeping the disease at the border?

The trouble is there is no choice about going into MIQ and no choice about the standard, and therefore the cost.

Three thousand dollars for an adult, which is what’s proposed, is a lot of money for many people, in some cases too much to enable them to come home.

If they are going to be charged they should be able to choose cheaper options than the up market hotels most are sent to.

The last intake of refugees per-COvid was in March and they are now being resettled.

No more are scheduled to come here while border restrictions are in place, couldn’t the refugee resettlement centres be repurposed as a less expensive option for MIQ while the border remains closed?

 


How hard is it?

09/07/2020

Two people are being charged with breaching isolation requirements.

The first is a woman who climbed a fence to escape.

.. . . Police said the 43-year-old will appear in the Auckland District Court once she has completed her managed isolation obligations.

She faces a charge of a breach of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.

The woman arrived from Brisbane on 27 June and returned a negative Covid-19 test three days later. . . 

She had passed a Covid-19 test, the second case is more serious, he has tested positive:

The country’s latest case of Covid-19 will be charged for visiting an Auckland supermarket last night, Health Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed.

Hipkins said the 32-year-old man, who arrived from India on July 3, left his managed isolation last night to go to the Countdown supermarket on Victoria Street in central Auckland.

The man was outside the facility for 70 minutes.

Hipkins said after CCTV footage was viewed and the man was interviewed, the current assessment of the risk to the public was low.

“The person wore a mask although indicated that was removed for short periods of time.”

The Countdown remained closed today in order to be cleaned thoroughly. . . 

Who pays for the day’s closure and cleaning?

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said the smoking policy – as well as the security policy – will be looked at.

He said there was a robust system in place “however, as we’ve seen, we can always do better”.

Webb said there was a guard outside Stamford Plaza when the man left.

The security guard watched the man leave but wasn’t sure if the man leaving was a contractor, Webb said.

“They don’t have the powers of police to apprehend … clearly it’s about communicating … if it’s logical that they take chase then that’s what they do. . . 

Shouldn’t a guard who was unsure about someone leaving at least have question have questioned him to find out whether or not he was a contractor?

If the government can pass a law that allows police to enter any home without a warrant can’t it pass a law to allow security guards to stop apprehend people who abscond from MIQ?

The absence of community transmission has left the government with just one job – keeping Covid-19 at the border.

To keep it in perspective there’s only been two cases – at least two that we know of, but  every breach not only risks the spread of disease it increases the time before the border opens any further.

How hard is it with all the resources being thrown at MIQ to ensure people do what they are required to do?

If it’s too hard they need to look at their systems and processes.

People in MIQ in Australia are locked in their rooms. That is a very draconian measure when most people are doing what’s required and if the government can’t find a way to allow people some fresh air and exercise, and to smoke, without the risk of them absconding, it’s time for a government that can.


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