Confusion and disconnection undermine confidence

April 3, 2020

There’s general agreement on the need for wider testing to determine how widespread community transmission of Covid-19 is but confusion on whether it can be done:

Healthcare workers say coronavirus tests are being withheld because of limited supply, despite the prime minister’s insistence clinicians have both the resources and permission to test.

A new coronavirus testing criteria was released late on Wednesday, permitting the testing of patients with Covid-19 symptoms but no connection to overseas travel or another coronavirus case.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who announced the expansion of the criteria the day prior, again said there was ample testing capacity at a Wednesday press conference — it just hadn’t been used by clinicians.

But a Wellington GP, who spoke to Stuff on the condition of anonymity, said there were not enough testing swabs for the number of patients presenting Covid-19 symptoms. His clinic had ordered 30, but received five as the laboratory was trying to preserve supplies.  

And some swabs of patients were not run by the laboratory for failing to strictly meet the prior testing criteria.

Staff from two Wellington clinics told Stuff on Wednesday morning they had not received any information from the ministry regarding the expanding criteria, and their clinics would go ahead and test people with possible Covid-19 symptoms until further guidance was issued. 

But at a Canterbury GP clinic, a nurse said her practice had been told to continue using the former, stricter criteria in the absence of an update from the ministry. 

The nurse, who similarly spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the ministry had told clinical leaders there were not enough swabs and the labs did not have enough reagents to test everyone with symptoms.

“We are seeing many people with coronavirus symptoms who we cannot test.”

She said GPs at her practice had used their discretion – as the prime minister and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield had repeatedly recommended – and swabbed people with symptoms, only to have the labs refuse to test them.  . . 

If clinicians think people should be tested, and put them through the discomfort of the swabbing process, how can labs not test them?

Either the PM is right and there are enough swabs but there’s a problem with the distribution and also with communication between the Ministry, clinicians and labs;  or the doctors and nurses are right and there aren’t enough swabs and labs aren’t testing all they’re sent.

Whoever is right, the issue must be sorted and sorted urgently.

Compliance with the draconian loss of liberty to which we’re all being subjected and the costs imposed by it requires community buy-in, and that requires confidence in what’s being done and how it’s being done.

These mixed messages over testing undermine confidence.

It doesn’t help when the Minister of Health drives 2km to go mountain biking when the police have told us we have to exercise close to home, not drive then exercise.

And the disconnection between key agencies doesn’t help either:

Today’s meeting of the Epidemic Response Committee has shown how disconnected the three key agencies, Health, Customs and Police, are in enforcing the self-isolation of New Zealanders and shows why a quarantine is needed immediately, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“The Director-General of Health has been clear that all returning New Zealanders should be visited by a Police Officer within the first three days of them returning home.

“Today outgoing Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted while they would like to visit all returning New Zealanders, they’ve failed to do so, confirming officers have been unable to visit all of the more than 4000 people who’ve come back to New Zealand within three days.

Police would like to visit all returnees but have failed to do so. That doesn’t inspire confidence that the lockdown will work.

“Following that admission, Customs Minister Jenny Salesa was asked about how Customs saw self-isolation being enforced, and she said Police were not expected to check up on all returning New Zealanders, instead they could do spot checks. That isn’t good enough.

“There shouldn’t be this much confusion. These agencies need to be a cohesive team. Instead New Zealanders are just seeing more and more mixed messages.

“It is clear from today’s questioning that New Zealand needs an enforced quarantine for those entering New Zealand at the border. For weeks our borders have been porous, with no thermal testing being undertaken and the self-isolation of New Zealanders not being policed well enough. That has to stop.

“Effective quarantining has been the foundation of other countries’ successful responses. Here in New Zealand we’ve been waving people through and trusting them to self-isolate.

“Today’s questioning has raised serious concerns about how well this lockdown is being policed and shows exactly why we need to be quarantining at the border. New Zealanders are sacrificing a lot right now, the key agencies involved in the response need to ensure they aren’t leaving the barn door wide open.”

Never before have New Zealanders been asked to give up so much and at such a horrific economic and social cost.

The government and its agencies can’t expect us to do all we can to comply if they aren’t demonstrating they are doing everything they can, and should, be doing to ensure the lockdown achieves its aim of eliminating COvid-19.


When does gossip become news?

May 3, 2018

Social media can be beneficial, it can be benign and it can be nothing more than a fast moving vehicle to bad mouth people.

Into the latter category falls the rumours that have been circulating for weeks that got so bad it prompted Police Commissioner Mike Bush to issue a statement scotching them.

On this issue I’m with Andrea Vance who tweeted:

She is right about the danger of reporting on rumours in social media, just as it would have been, and still is, unwise, potentially stupid and even courting defamation to report on gossip, from the pub or anywhere else.

The line between gossip and news has always been grey. The ease and speed at which something can spread on social media makes it even greyer.

Now that the Commissioner has made a statement, what happens next time there’s rumours? Will he make a statement and if not will that become a story?

It is dangerous territory for the police and media when gossip and rumours become news.

At both ends of the political spectrum are people, blinded by their own bigotry who will attempt to use character assassination with absolutely no concern about letting facts get in the way of their stories.

Mainstream media should not buy into it and anyone with integrity in politics wouldn’t go near it.

There is absolutely no need to be personal about the government or any of its members.

There is plenty in their actions and policies to pick on and it’s easy to point out their many defects without stooping to personal attacks and innuendo.

NB: If you’re commenting please do not write anything about the rumours or anything at all that could be defamatory.

I have deliberately not elaborated on the rumours or the subject and any comments that do will be deleted.


Arrest for 1080 milk powder threat

October 13, 2015

A man has been arrested on charges relating to last year’s threat to contaminate infant formula with 1080:

New Zealand Police have arrested a 60-year-old Auckland businessman in relation to the criminal blackmail threat to poison infant formula with 1080, made public in March this year.

The man is appearing in the Counties Manukau District Court this afternoon on two charges of criminal blackmail, relating to threat letters sent to dairy giant Fonterra Cooperative Group and Federated Farmers in November last year. Blackmail is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

The arrest follows the execution of five search warrants in Auckland and the Rangitikei district this morning.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said today’s arrest follows a long and complex 11-month investigation, that has cost over $3 million and involved a 35-strong investigation team.

“This investigation is one of the biggest undertaken by police in recent times and reflects how seriously we view this kind of crime,” he said.

The Operation Conchord team had used a range of forensic techniques in gathering evidence, some that were innovative and could be used in future investigations, he said.

It’s believed the arrested man was acting alone and no further arrests are expected though Bush said he couldn’t comment on his motivations for the threatened blackmail.

More than 2,600 people were considered by the investigation team over the course of the enquiry.

Ministry for Primary Industries chief executive Martyn Dunne said the safety of consumers was paramount during the investigation. . . 

This is weclome progress in the case and police deserve credit for the work that must have gone into gathering evidence.

MPI and others involved in ensuring infant formula is safe have also done good work.


Recorded crime drops

April 2, 2014

More good news on the social front – recorded crime is at a 29 year  low:

 New figures show criminal offences have dropped by 4.1percent in the last year, the lowest crime figure in real terms in 29 years.

When considered against a 0.9 percent growth in population, offending dropped by 5 percent per head of population, or 15,602 fewer crimes were recorded in 2013 than in 2012.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush said Police were delighted with the historic figure.

“We are deploying staff more efficiently and pro-actively to ensure Police are in the right place at the right time to prevent crime from occurring.

“In 2013 we conducted over 104,000 foot patrols across New Zealand. Frontline officers are now spending an extra 30 minutes per shift out in communities preventing crime.”

“The sharp reduction in public place assaults is a great example of how our Prevention First strategy is making our communities safer.”

Nine of the twelve Police districts recorded decreases in recorded crime. Auckland and Wellington Districts recorded the biggest reductions at 9.9 percent, followed by Bay of Plenty at 7.4 percent and Southern at 6.6 percent.

In contrast, sexual assault offences rose by 11.6 percent in 2013 but Mr Bush believes this is likely to be due to increased reporting.

“We know that sexual violence is under-reported, and we are heartened that more victims of this type of crime are coming forward,” Mr Bush said.

There was also a 22.7 percent drop in illicit drug offences in 2013, mostly due to a reduction in cannabis cultivation and possession.

A 59 percent increase in the import or export illicit drugs offence category was the result of Police’s targeted campaign against organised crime groups that control large parts of the New Zealand methamphetamine drug trade.

 “The figures are a credit to our staff who are committed to making New Zealand communities safer,” Mr Bush said.

 Police Minister Anne Tolley congratulated Police on the announcement:

“Fewer crimes means fewer victims and safer communities, and I want to thank our officers for everything they are doing to serve and protect the public,” says Mrs Tolley. . .

Photo: More frontline policing is helping to bring down crime and make our streets safer. Read more at: www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=43511  What do you think of National’s progress on law and order?


Labour only for some workers?

June 13, 2013

Labour is supposed to be the party of and for workers but Trevor Mallard’s performance yesterday showed scant regard for employment law and the role of a select committee.

Mallard abruptly left a select committee after an exchange of angry words with Police Minister Anne Tolley after he questioned the decision of Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush to speak at the funeral of former police officer Bruce Hutton. . .

After Mallard attempted to question Bush on the issue Government committee members objected that his questions were out of order.

But Mallard hit back and appeared to threaten Bush’s job.

“We’re deciding whether or not to continue his salary, that’s what we’re deciding now,” he said.

Mallard then got embroiled in an exchange with Tolley who said that was not his decision before Mallard abruptly left the committee. . .

Perhaps he doesn’t regard a senior police officer as a worker or maybe his party is only there for some workers.

Regardless of that, after all his years in parliament he should have some understanding of employment law and know it’s not a select committee’s role to hire and fire people or set their salaries.

His behaviour provides more evidence for my theory that Labour’s motivation for strict employment law is because they judge all employers by their own sorry standards.

 

 


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