Yesterday the PM explained the basis for decisions over the lockdown:
“Basing our decisions on public health, keeping in mind risk is the best way we can protect both the economy, livelihoods and people’s wellbeing.”
That is right in theory but has been wrong in practice.
Had the government been as mindful as it ought to have been about protecting the economy it would have allowed any business which could operate safely to do so.
It would also allow those businesses to move from level four to level three this week and not wait until next Tuesday.
The PM said the extra five days at level four is only two business days.
This statement says a lot about how little she, and her government understand business.
It is true that it is only two business days for Monday to Friday businesses, but a lot of businesses work on Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays.
Had level 3 started on Thursday, they would have observed the half-day closure for Anzac Day on Saturday, a wide variety and large number of businesses would have used at least some of the other four and a half days to repair some of the damage the lockdown has done.
Food businesses that can do takeaways, retailers able to do contactless transactions, sole-operators who work weekends . . . would have been at work.
Instead, the costs of the lockdown at level four are being imposed unnecessarily for at least four and a half days longer.
Those costs aren’t just economic. Business failure and increased unemployment come at a growing social and public health cost.
Ray Avery spells out some of those costs:
. . . What Jacinda Adern and Shaun Hendy should be modelling is what is the likely adverse effects of a continued lockdown on our existing appalling health statistics.
Our domestic violence statistics are a national shame and the police and domestic violence groups are seeing a dramatic increase in cases due to the lockdown.
We have the highest teen suicide rates in the developed world.
Every day one in five of our children goes to school hungry.
Every week sixteen people in New Zealand commit suicide.
Every year around 500 of our citizens die of Flu but we have never focused on eliminating the disease.
Based on the Government’s intervention strategies and New Zealand’s known COVID-19 case related mortality rates, this virus will have caused more economic damage, loss of livelihoods, increased suicides, disruption to our education system, inhuman treatment of our elderly and irreversible social changes than actual deaths to date “associated” with the virus.
We need to focus on facts not statistical modelling when it comes to determining the ongoing health and wellbeing of our citizens.
Given the high cost already imposed by the lockdown, no-one wants to risk lowering the level too soon and then having to increase it again.
But if safety is the guide, that risk would be slight, and the gain of four and a half days when so many more businesses could be operating would be worth it.