‘”meh, we’ll go whenever” approach’ costing us all

09/07/2021

Tim Watkins says the government’s lax approach to vaccination is costing us:

From “go hard and go early” in March last year, we seem to have slumped into a “meh, we’ll go whenever” approach.

The argument is made by some that we are taking a measured approach, waiting to see how the vaccines work elsewhere, waiting our turn as a relatively healthy patient in a sick world.

And it’s true we can’t – and wouldn’t want to – demand more of Pfizer when the rest of the world is in such desperate need.

That is debatable. Eric Crampton explains:

For those who worry about stealing vaccines from places that might need it more, fear not. The Government could contract for twice as much as New Zealand might need, with extra doses to be sent to poorer countries via COVAX.

Richer countries paying now helps build more production lines for delivering a lot more vaccine to the whole world in a far bigger hurry. It would leave the world much better prepared for new variants as they emerge. Far from being stingy about such things, economists have urged governments to spend a lot more to get vaccines rolled out and broadly distributed far more quickly.

Back to Watkins:

As far as the Pfizer drug goes, we get what we’re given when they’re ready to give it.

But that doesn’t stop us from doing what we can do much better and with much more urgency. Like preparing for the next vaccine. Or testing properly. Or getting the highest risk New Zealanders vaccinated pronto.

Urgency matters, leadership experts will tell you, not because fast is always best. Urgency creates a focus and discipline. It means moving towards a priority, an end goal with a clear plan and markers of success along the way.

The point of operating with urgency is to work with intention and to inform your priorities. And it helps make clear to people that there’s danger in the status quo and value in change. That attitude will help build national unity and dissolve vaccine hesitancy.

Yet in response after response, urgency is lacking. The trend is clear. And while we can be grateful New Zealanders aren’t dying, many are suffering as a result.

More and more this looks at least as much as if it’s due to good luck rather than good management.

After initial promises of urgency, saliva testing has slipped by the wayside.

Last year the critical Simpson-Roche report (initial report delivered September, final report only made public in December) urged the government to get on with it “as soon as possible”.

Saliva testing provides for more and easier Covid-19 testing.

In May, Asia Pacific Healthcare Group (APHG) was given $50 million to do 20,000 saliva tests of MIQ staff per week. How many had it done as of July? The NZ Herald says 394 and Newshub 386, but either way it’s hopeless. The company is keen to go but the government seems to be holding it back. . .

Then there’s the shortage of workers:

New Zealand companies are in dire straits, to the point where this week restaurants turned off their lights as a protest in frustration at the lack of help getting immigrant workers into the country.

Many businesses need workers or will close. Existing staff are being over-worked and fear losing their jobs.

It’s a pressure we’ve known about since borders were first closed, yet still, the shortages remain unresolved.

One place we could have housed newly arriving migrant workers – and refugees and more returning New Zealanders – would have been in purpose-built quarantine centres. If they had been started last year.

The idea of building special centres was debated as far back as last year’s election; I argued on the Caucus podcast at the time that it was probably inevitable and it made sense to make a start.

Yet this week has Hipkins suggesting the government are only now considering taking a look at acting on this idea.

Only taking a look and only doing it now? That’s late and lax again.

What about New Zealanders aged over 60, who were placed firmly at the front of the queue when it came to vaccinations?

This week the NZ Herald reported that “62.8 percent (696,198) of older Kiwis [60 and over] haven’t received a vaccine, 15.4 percent (171,379) have only had one jab and 21.8 percent (241,843) have had both.”

I phoned to make a booking for a 91 year-old yesterday after finding he’d had no notice and no help from his GP’s surgery where he was told they knew no more than he did. The woman who answered the phone couldn’t be faulted for her determination to help but the first available spot was on September 1.

The vaccination itself, by most reports and in most parts of the country, is a simple and quick experience. But the macro picture doesn’t look good.

And as if to underline this lack of urgency, the Canterbury DHB has just said it intends to vaccinate group 4 in September, rather than late July as nationally planned.

From ‘go hard and go early’ to ‘too little, too late’

The government has lost its sense of urgency and in doing so has lost its way with its response to the pandemic.

Its “direction of travel” has become slow and unclear.

And in this case, the political is personal.

Kiwis ranked in group 3 are eligible for vaccinations now and I’ve understood that to be those 65 and over, pregnant women, disabled people and those with underlying health conditions.

But I’ve never seen or heard those “underlying conditions” spelled out.

If you go on the Ministry of Health website it says it is for those eligible for the publicly-funded flu vaccine. That means nothing to me, so imagine my surprise when I was on RNZ’s Sunday Panel with fellow-asthmatic Penny Ashton and she said she was off for her jab. It turns out that if you use a daily inhaler, as I do, you’re eligible.

But I have received no text or email telling me I’m group 3, even though the Auckland DHB’s website says people like me are meant to be sent “invitations”.

I had to ask my GP if I fit the bill because I’d had no information from him, as some reports say I should, and as the only health professional who knows my medications.

In this, however, I seem to be in good company, with many eligible people not being contacted. While some ineligible people are.

So far this increasingly lax approach has not cost us lives, but it is costing us.

As examples of complacency build up, it is time Labour rediscovered the sense of urgency it showed in those first hectic weeks of the pandemic last year.

Could it be, as Peter Dunne says:

Since it won a stunning election victory last year on the back of Covid-19, is the government now looking to keep the spectre of Covid-19 well and truly alive until 2023?

We are certainly not at the front of the vaccination queue as the government boasted last year.

I can think of only two reasons for being so far towards the back of the queue: either, as Dunne suggests, a deliberate political ploy, or plain and ismple incompetence.

Whichever it is we’re all paying a very high cost for the slow and shambolic rollout of the vaccines and the lack of a plan for what happens once most of us are vaccinated.


Quotes of the year

31/12/2013

“It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince. . . “ Prince Harry.

. . . Whether it is in sport, business, agriculture, the arts, science and the creative industries, or in international fora such as peacekeeping, New Zealanders have repeatedly shown their talent, tenacity, flair and commitment.

That legacy of the new way of doing things was well put by New Zealander and Saatchi and Saatchi worldwide chief executive Kevin Roberts a few years ago when he said: “We were the last to be discovered and the first to see the light. This makes us one of the great experimental cultures. We try things first. Whether it’s votes for women, the welfare state or the market economy, powered flight, nuclear physics, anti-nuclearism, biculturalism. First-isms. The New in New Zealand is our reason to exist.” Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

”I like to cook meat, except for chicken. To me chicken’s like a ladies’ meat, so it’s more of a vegetable.” Jonny Trevathan, Master Chef entrant.

By 1984 the economy was in a mess, and I hope history will record more positively the decisive actions of both the Lange-Douglas Labour Government and the Bolger-Richardson National Government that followed. The resilience of the New Zealand economy during the recent global downturn owes much to the courage of those Cabinets, at least in their early years, putting New Zealand’s very real needs ahead of political considerations in pursuing necessary reform. – Lockwood Smith

As a former Commonwealth Scholar in Science, I have often regretted that I never got involved in that area during my time here. Science and technology have been so crucial to the advancement of human well-being, yet scientists are a rare breed in politics. Internationally, there is something of a disconnect between the two. In politics, for example, green is the claimed colour of sustainability. Yet in science, the very reason we perceive plants to be green is that they reflect green light. They cannot use it. It is red and blue light that sustain most of our living world. Lockwood Smith

Some commentators assess members on how successfully they play the political game. But to me what sets a member of Parliament apart is how much they care about the impact of the State on an ordinary person, and how far they are prepared to go in representing people whose lives can be so knocked around by the actions of the State. Lockwood Smith

This House, in so many ways, has become a place of political parties rather than a House of Representatives. I am not for one moment trying to make a case for the old system, but I do believe there will come a time when we will need to re-examine that balance of accountabilities. Representation is enhanced when members have to help ordinary people in their local communities, many of whom may never have voted for them. Lockwood Smith.

We aren’t scientists we are farmers, we choose not to debate the science but work hard to deal with changing weather patterns. Bruce Wills.

Anyway, credit where credit is due. The Labour Party has finally adopted one of the very sensible policies of the National Government, and that is the mixed-ownership model. That is right. These days, the Labour Party is 51 percent owned by Labour and 49 percent owned by the Greens. Yes, these two parties have come together in this happy little place, where fruit meets loop. John Key.

. . . Kids who read stay out of jail (unless they grow up to be financial investment directors). Reading gives them words. Words give them the ability to express and clarify themselves to others. How many young guys end up in strife because they don’t have the vocab to explain what they’re doing, and so they move from incoherence to frustration to violence?

Reading helps young people come to terms with themselves and their issues. . .  David Hill

“Oh my god, another cross to bear,” Tim Shadbolt on being told  he was the most trusted mayor in the country in a Readers Digest poll.

. . . The response that students gave to Christchurch is phenomenal, and it only was thanks to a really strong team of people who all were able to bring their individual skills to something.  . . .  just like young people right around New Zealand – all specialising in different areas, focusing on what they’re good at, being willing to be wrong, being willing to ask for help and fundamentally believing that change is possible, that you can look at things in a different way, no matter what level of society you’re on.  It’s our philosophy – the skill of the unskilled.  I sit at a lot of conferences, and I’m the only one without a PhD, but we say, ‘What about this idea?  What about this idea?  Where are we going?  Are we fundamentally doing things that are right and taking our country and world in a good direction?’ . . .Sam Johnson

. . . You know, Christchurch is still in a position that it’s hard there for a lot of people, but it’s also— the group of people that I am with every day through Volunteer Army Foundation, the Ministry of Awesome, we are— we love Christchurch, and you couldn’t pay us to move anywhere else, because of the innovation, the excitement.  You know, population numbers are up in Christchurch, and we are going to be a— it’s a strong place to be. . .  Sam Johnson

. . . I focus on doing things that I love.  I focus on surrounding myself with people much more intelligent than myself and people who can really make things happen, building strong teams.  I think that’s the philosophy we take in Christchurch.  We specialise in different areas with what we’re good at and focus on that. Sam Johnson

One witness was asked to identify an accused by describing the man’s tattoos. I applauded his response. “I can’t really describe his tattoos. They were a load of rubbish. They looked like the graffiti on a public dunny wall.” District Court Judge Russell Callander

“You’ve got to have a reason for getting up in the morning and I firmly believe retirement has killed more farmers than farming.” – Ted Ford

A Government should not be relied upon to create jobs. To bolster our economy and growth, we need the private sector to be creating jobs in the tradeables sector.

Whether they are high-earning export roles, or an entry level company, it is the job of entrepreneurs. Government’s role is to put in place the right conditions for economic growth, so companies can feel comfortable about expanding, growing, or just starting out in the business world.

Local government also has a role, through having plans for economic growth and development that encourage businesses and don’t stifle their creativity. Eric Roy

Politics is a two-stage process: first you’re sworn in, then, inevitably, eventually, you’re sworn at. Denis Welch.

There is rarely any danger of overestimating Labour Party stupidity. Having described myself recently as ‘a sentimental socialist’, I’m inclined to think that sentiment may be the main, and possibly the only reason for my ongoing belief in an organism genetically predisposed to push the self-destruct button when faced with the slightest glimmer of electoral success. . .   Brian Edwards.

. . . within 48 hours it looks very much to us as if it is just another David, another day, and another step to the left, as we see the disloyalty in the Labour caucus slowly beginning to foment. Gerry Brownlee.

But now, of course, under the new leader of the Labour Party, the pledge card, like his CV, will be a living document—kind of like the Treaty but without the principles.Bill English

“We were given opportunities in Mangere. Education unlocks opportunities you would not otherwise have.” – Sam Lotu-Iiga MP

The big, bad thing is that large parts of the Left have never faced up to the failure of socialism. The nicer Leftists, often very belatedly, deplored Stalin and Mao – the purges, the Gulags, the famines, the invasions. The more intelligent ones detected certain (let us put it gently) problems with state ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Yet when, in 1989, the Berlin Wall was knocked down by the citizens in whose name it had been erected, few could admit that this was a defeat for socialism as fundamental as that of Nazism in 1945. . . Charles Moore

Arts degrees are awesome. And they help you find meaning where there is none. And let me assure you, there is none. Don’t go looking for it. Searching for meaning is like searching for a rhyme scheme in a cookbook: you won’t find it and you’ll bugger up your soufflé. Tim Minchin

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.
Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts. Tim Minchin

Parliament applauded Eleanor Catton winning the Man Booker Prize for her book ‘The Luminaries’ when it resumed today.

Prime Minister John Key said the success should be celebrated by New Zealanders as much as they did sporting victories. Catton’s feat in becoming the youngest winner of the prize at 28, came as 16 year old Lorde topped the US charts with her music showing New Zealand was blessed with strong, creative young women. Parliament Today

“You guys have spent your careers trying to analyse what he says and you’ve got more sense out of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. He talks in riddles, he doesn’t stick to what he says, it’s a waste of time having discussions that are about a bottom line.

“There are no bottom lines with Winston Peters. He will do a deal with who he feels like doing a deal with.” John Key

Not so much a political honeymoon as a naughty weekend with the floating voters. – Vernon Small on David Cunliffe.

. . . Girls dress for other girls. They dress to fit in. They dress to be part of a group. They want to be respected and they want to be liked. They want to be beautiful. They dress to impress. They copy their celebrity idols. These might well be fashion crimes, but short skirts and cleavage don’t signal a willingness to be victimised.

New Zealand is internationally rated as one of the best countries to be a woman. This year, we celebrated 120 years of women winning the right to vote.

With that goes the right to not be abused. Judith Collins

. . . considering I’m probably in the 10% of New Zealanders who pay 70% of the tax, considering I’m a self-employed business owner with farming interests and considering I still bear the farming scars from some incredibly short-sighted, militant union behaviour in the 1970s and 80s, why would I vote Labour now?

There’s nothing for me in their policies of higher tax, greater environmental and economic handbrakes for farming and re-unionising the workforce. Farming Show host Jamie Mackay on Labour after its leader refused to appear on the show in case he was laughed at.

. . . For the farmer, the business person, the property owner, and the financial investor it’s all pretty straightforward. What’s in it for National’s electoral base is economic growth, low inflation, reduced taxation and a reasonable rate-of-return. What they’re not looking for is more economic regulation, higher taxes, rising prices or inflationary wage demands.

Getting the attention of those who feel that their stake in New Zealand society is much too meagre to matter is a considerably more daunting task. Chris Trotter

There is a saying that you do not beat New Zealand – you just get more points than them at the final whistle. – Sir Ian McGeechan

“I don’t really believe in Great — insert a country — Novels,” she said. “I don’t see how you can reconcile that with diversity, and I think the diversity is the most important thing in any national literature.” Eleanor Catton

I knew it would never be about zeroes. I’m not a spreadsheet with hair; will never be. I am an artist, an author, with a hunger for showing people what I can do and a talent for making people turn my name into a call while they’re waiting front row. It’s me. I’m here. – Lorde

Imagine if Nelson Mandela was as angry as John Minto when he got out of prison” – Josie Pagani on ‘The Huddle

Beyond the All Blacks being unbeaten for a whole season, and Emirates Team New Zealand coming second in a two-boat race, what put New Zealand on the world’s front pages in 2013 was a novel, a song and a film. – Hamish Keith

It’s one of the oldest cliches in politics – that perception is reality. In other words, if enough of us are convinced that what we think we see is real, then it may as well be real. Even if it’s not. Tim Watkins

I find it fascinating that if you dig a hole and plant a tree in it, you are a greenie; if you dig a big hole, take the gold out of the ground and plant a forest, suddenly you’re an eco-terrorist. There’s no consistency in that. – Colin Craig

“Tasmanian Devils are renowned for their big mouths, bad behaviour and noisiness, so they will fit in well with the nation’s politicians in the capital,” Nick Smith

I totally disagree with it. If you’re going to earn money, you earn it. You’re given it by your productivity.” – Sir John Walker on the living wage.

Science is not a bunch of facts. Scientists are not people trying to be prescriptive or authoritative. Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organising our curiosity. It’s easier, at a dinner party, to say ”science” than to say ”the incremental acquisition of understanding through observation, humbled by an acute awareness of our tendency towards bias”. Douglas Adams said: ”I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”

Science is not the opposite of art, nor the opposite of spirituality – whatever that is – and you don’t have to deny scientific knowledge in order to make beautiful things. On the contrary, great science writing is the art of communicating that ”awe of understanding”, so that we readers can revel in the beauty of a deeper knowledge of our world. Tim Minchin

. . . Remember the Government’s $30 million cash injection to secure the immediate future of Tiwai Point?  That helped to protect 3,200 jobs and the smelter’s $1.6 billion annual contribution to the Southland economy. Dairying doesn’t need such support, but in 2009, it injected over $700 million into the Southland economy and employed over 2,300 people.  Dairying may not be number one here but we’re a pretty important second that’s become more important over the past four years. . . Russell MacPherson

All of us pay for some of us to indulge romantic dreams about trains or to feed fanciful beliefs that the government owns these “assets which are valuable”

This stuff is not silver its rust… the best performers can’t perform without laws which force revenue into their pockets, the worst performers are a receivers dream.

Genuine concern for the poor would not see government owning commercial assets. Eye to the Long Run

. . . If from the time their children could read, parents had introduced them to newspapers, as certainly happened when I was young, rather than addiction to idiotic texting, they would, instead, be addicted to the world in all of its wide-ranging fascination and zaniness (the human factor), as delivered to us daily in the newspaper.

It’s a shame as nothing matches the daily newspaper for sheer stimulation, education, and entertainment value for money. Take a recent Dominion Post. First the pleasure of its crosswords and tussling over the wordgame, this after quickly scanning the front page for later reading. Each news item induced a full spectrum of emotions, from rage to delight, in the latter case from the splendid heading, “Mr Whippy frozen with fear by chainsaw wielding cross-dresser”. That alone was worth the price of the paper and was promptly dispatched to friends abroad. These texting obsessives don’t know what they’re missing. . .  –  Bob Jones

. . .  Seemingly the first duty on rising every morning for Remuerites is to go outside and rake up the $100 notes that have fallen like confetti on them overnight. It must be very tiresome.  . . Bob Jones

. . . But as you go through life when you run into a brick wall, you’ve just got to knock the bastard over. – Sir Peter Leitch.

 


Did you see the one about . . .

19/10/2009

Weatherston appeal reproach to Court of Appeal – Stephen Franks speaks sense on meritless appeals.

What makes good political interviewing? – Tim Watkins defends Guyon Espiner’s interview with Metiria Turei.

Why I bought a bookstore  Jeff Mayersohn at the Huffington Post reckons there’s a future for books and the stores which sell them.(Hat Tip: Beatties Book Blog).

Just – Stripy sock studio on being “just” a job description (Hat Tip: Art & My LIfe)

After the fisking charges are laid – feel the frsutration over political interference in roading changes from Opinionated Mummy.

Williamson and the theory of firm – Anit Dismal on the joint winner of the Nobel Prize for economics.

Fun Police # 2 Don’t let them eat cake – Liberty Scott on the birthday cake blues.

Not exactly deaf – Macdoctor says 6%  hearing loss is barely noticeable.

VUWSA’s VSM violations Scrubone guest posts at M&M on voluntary student membership machinations.

The poor are not helpless victims – Hernado de Soto – Not PC has found a hero.

Is this the worst hotel in the world? – Motella shows where not to stay.


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