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Life in Level 2: Two Tier Welfare; A Green School; Right Rage, Wrong Reason

8 September 2020 Leave a comment

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A Green School…

If the media and some of my fellow Green Party members could pause and breathe for a moment – a word or two (thousand) on the recent announcement by Green Party co-leader and Associate Minister of Finance, James Shaw, on the $11.7 million expansion project at the privately-run Green School in Taranaki.

Briefly, the project was financed as part of the Covid19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF), which, as Treasury explains;

As part of Budget 2020 the Government established the CRRF and set aside $50 billion to support a response to and recovery from COVID-19. The CRRF is a funding envelope for budget management purposes, rather than an actual sum of money ring fenced in the Government’s accounts. The fiscal implications of several new measures have been managed against the CRRF during April and early May. As at 14 May 2020, the Government had committed $29.8 billion of the CRRF, of which $13.9 billion had been announced prior to Budget Day as part of an ongoing response to COVID-19, leaving $20.2 billion of funding remaining.

On 14 May 2020, the CRRF Foundational Package was announced, totalling $12.0 billion in operating expenditure and $3.9 billion in capital expenditure over the forecast period.

Basically, the CRRF has funded everything from an advertisement warning parents of the perils of internet pornography on young people – to the wages subsidy to private companies. Radio NZ has benefitted with a $21.75m funding boost. The $900 million loan to Air New Zealand is also covered by this Fund.

The Fund has also paid out $52.5 million dollars to the racing industry along with additional payments from the Provincial Growth Fund;

The support package consists of:

    • $50 million dollar relief grant for the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA)
    • Up to $20 million in funding to construct two new All Weather race tracks.
    • $2.5 million dollars for the Department of Internal Affairs to fast track work on the online gambling revenue, and address loss of revenue impacts on community and sport groups.

“Of the immediate grant, $26 million will be used by RITA to pay its outstanding supplier bill which it hasn’t be able to do because of strangled revenue. The other share of this package will ensure RITA, and each of the racing codes, can maintain a baseline functionality and resume racing activities.” said Mr Peters.

“The racing industry is seriously underestimated for its economic contribution. For this reason the Government will also consider recapitalising the industry to help promote a quicker recovery and achieve a greater economic outcome.

The Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) is closely linked to the racing betting industry through the TAB;

“As we transition to TAB New Zealand we do so knowing that, despite the enormous challenges presented by COVID, RITA has delivered on the Racing Minister’s expectations which were set out last year. The Board is grateful for his ongoing commitment and support, as well as from those across Government and Parliament who have supported the charge to reform the industry over the past two years.” – Executive Chair Dean McKenzie

There has been little “uproar” that the Covid19 relief fund has been used to prop up the gambling industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is from this same Fund that the privately run “Green School” was funded. With over one hundred jobs to be created from this project and flow-on benefits to the community, this is precisely why the Covid Fund was established.

However, the project funding has been condemned by a wide range of groups and individuals, such as Taranaki Secondary Schools’ Principals’ Association chairperson, Martin Chamberlain;

“We would like a retraction of it because it’s clearly a logistical error. The Green School is a privately-owned institution and any benefit coming to it goes into one individual’s pocket.”

Education union NZEI Te Riu Roa, national secretary, Paul Goulter, added his opposition;

“We just don’t see any role for public funding for private schools and in terms of the Greens, they have exactly that same policy so it certainly came out of left field.

We would obviously like to see the funding pulled. I have a deep suspicion that’s not possible at this stage.”

Former Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, lobbed her own political “grenade” into the loud chorus of outrage;

“Although this project, this money, came out of the Provincial Growth Fund, for infrastructure, schools are infrastructure, and I think that it’d be great if James as minister who made this mistake owned it, and did his best to make sure that the money went to the people that actually need it.

I feel very strongly about this. Public quality education took a total bashing under the National government and has not yet recovered. They brought in national standards, charter schools and underfunding like we’ve never seen before.”

And just to give the knife a twist, she added;

I think that James as minister has become isolated from the party to some degree, in the sense of his instinct didn’t tell him that this was never going to fly with the Green Party, and that our policies are never to fund private schools.

According to Ms Delahunty, other former Green MPs Denise Roche and Mojo Mathers were also “furious”.

To be crystal clear, this blogger has no truck with Charter schools. Even taxpayer funding of private schools is problematic for a variety of reasons; equity; selective use of tax money to subsidise private business; public support of elitism; etc. This blogger has roundly condemned Charter schools in the past and these views have not changed one iota: they are a sly, back-door agenda to privatise education. (See “Previous related blogposts” links below.)

In “normal times”, the criticism levelled against James Shaw would be valid.

But as anyone who has been paying attention to global events can point out, these are not “normal times”. Not when the entire country is effectively cut off from the rest of the world and unemployment is set to skyrocket.

When a government sets aside $50 billion for a recovery fund – with hardly a murmur of dissent from former hardline, free-market, minimalist-government, neo-liberal acolytes – we are living in “interesting times” indeed.

But is the pile-on that has been directed at James Shaw warranted?

Or is it just that: a political pile-on?

Part of the criticism levelled at the Green School is that it is apparently a “hot bed” of new agey weirdness, conspiracy fantasists, preparing to inculcate bizarre anti-science ideas into the minds of impressionable young people.

However, the Green School website makes no references to UN covid-conspiracies, crystals, “DNA activation”, angels, etc. Which is unusual, as conspiracy fantasists usually make no secret of their bizarre, quasi-religious beliefs.

The story originally ‘broke’ on Stuff media on 27 August and related solely to funding a private school which was apparently at odds with Green Party policy. Which hardly seemed newsworthy as the three-party coalition government often implemented policies that were at variance – and conflicted with – their own respective policy-agendas.

The turn to weirdness came a few days later. A search engine check of where the link to crystals and conspiracies came from points to a media article dated the 31st of August;

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green school

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Yes, Newshub. That fountain of newsworthy and accurate information.

It appears that the school itself did not organise the so-called “sacred event”. It was run by school parents, Christof and Alaya Melchizedek.

The sensationalised story was later picked up by Stuff media; Newsroom; and Radio NZ. Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, at Kiwiblog had fun with it as well. (Though can’t blame David for that.)

The worst that can be levelled at the school in this instance is that they have been “tarred” by the same brush as two conspiracy-minded parents. It is not the first time a school or University has been criticised for hosting an event, despite having no real connection to the organisers.

Wellington High School faced a back-lash from students and others in the community in late 2004/early 2005 when it was revealed that Destiny Church was holding meetings at the school’s hall. As organisors of the protest explained;

“The time has come for Destiny Church to leave our school. Since September we have urged them to leave, we have been more than patient and yet our tolerance has been abused. Destiny Church and its affiliated political party, Destiny New Zealand, are a destructive force who preach hate out of schools’, and this is not ok!”

It is, however incredibly ironic that in a school where there is a support group for homosexuals and sexually questioning members of our society, that this church would continue to rent Wellington High. Destiny Church does not reflect the community or culture of Wellington High School, if anything they are the antithesis of what it is our school stands for.”

Being unfairly tarred by a brush of bigotry is one reason by Massey University wanted nothing to do with former National Party leader and serial-racist, Don Brash and banned him from speaking on their grounds;

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas saying she didn’t want a “te tiriti led university be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours”

A scrutiny of the Green School’s website not only shows a glaring lack of conspiracy fantasies; bizarre “spiritual” beliefs, etc – but that the only things planted were not crystals – but plants;

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Regenerative Agriculture Workshop

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Gumboots and grass and not a crystal in sight.

Fifty million-plus dollars thrown at the racing and gambling industry – no one bats an eyelid.

Twelve million to be spent on a school – and people lose their minds.

Should we be sending our kids to the race track, perhaps?

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…And a Two-Two Welfare System

On the 26 of May, Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni introduced the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill. As RNZ reported;

The government is introducing a new relief payment for those who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19, while they find new employment or retrain.

The payment would be available for 12 weeks from 8 June for New Zealand citizens or residents who had lost their job as a impact of the virus since 1 March.

Those who apply would be required to actively seek suitable work, and take steps towards employment, including making use of redeployment or training.

It will pay $490 a week for those who lost full-time work and $250 for part time workers – including students.

The payments will be untaxed.

People with working partners may also be eligible, as long as their partner is earning under $2000 per week.

The new “income relief payment” was essentially a beefed-up unemployed benefit for workers losing their jobs due to the covid19 epidemic. It would be administered by the Ministry for Social Development.

It was passed in the House, through all three readings, in one day.  Six days later, it was given Royal Assent.

Minister Sepuloni launched the Bill in the House and explained why it was necessary;

“We know that many people who may be faced with job loss might not qualify for a benefit. In ordinary times, we’d expect many of these people to quickly find other work or manage their costs over time without extra support. However, these unprecedented times we face mean many of these families and individuals will be under pressure to get back on their feet quickly to meet their living costs but will be doing this in a different labour market than they have faced before. This payment will provide a cushion for up to 12 weeks for people who experience a job loss between 1 March and 30 October this year and whose partners earn under $2,000 per week. The payment has two rates: $490 for those previously in full-time employment, and $250 for people previously in part-time employment. We know that some people may need additional income support; so, if eligible, recipients can access supplementary and hardship assistance from the Ministry of Social Development.

This bill ensures that entitlement to this additional assistance will accurately reflect people’s circumstances by taking this payment into account when determining eligibility.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson also advocated strongly for the new benefit;

“We do understand how tough it has been for people who have experienced a sudden drop in income and are now looking for further job opportunities and to retrain.”

The fact that this is the third time that governments have needed to do something like this in the wake of a crisis is an indication that we need to look at a possible enduring solution when it comes to people who experience an immediate drop in income.”

The “income relief payment” differs from the usual unemployment benefit in two major areas:

  1. The amount of the “income relief payment” is $490 per week (tax free) – almost twice that of the regular, maximum  unemployment benefit of $250.74
  2. Partners of unemployed receiving the “income relief payment” can be in paid work (up to $2,000 per week!) and this does not affect the IRP. Partners of pre-covid beneficiaries earning the original, lesser unemployment benefit (net, $250.74 p/w) cannot be in paid work, or else it will affect their payments. It also attracts unwanted attention from MSD who constantly pry into beneficiaries private lives.

The Covid Unemployed are apparently an elite, special group of beneficiaries for whom the regular payment of $250.74 – without employed partners – was beneath their dignity.

This blatant discrimination did not go un-noticed by beneficiaries support groups and other former Green Party MPs.

Beneficiary advocate, Kay Brereton, said:

“The benefit is simply not enough to survive on. It is galling.  It acknowledges that by setting the rate at almost twice the rate that someone can get on a single rate of jobseeker.”

Thinktank The Workshop co-director, Jess Berentson-Shaw, pointed out the obvious;

“I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel here. The things that help people outside of a pandemic are the same things that help people in a pandemic.”

Former Green MP, Sue Bradford was scathing;

“There has rarely been a more blatant case of discrimination against beneficiaries than Grant Robertson’s announcement yesterday that people who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus will receive weekly payments of $490 per week for 12 weeks and $250 per week for part time workers.

This is great news for those who qualify. Fabulous. That $490 per week is almost double the $250 per week you get on the standard 25+ Jobseeker Allowance and much closer to anything approaching a liveable minimal income.

On top of that, the new benefit also allows people in relationships to access support if they meet the criteria and their partner earns less than $2000 per week before tax.

And unlike the usual system, the new payments do not appear to be age dependent. So the historically ridiculous assumption that the younger you are, the less money you need to live on does not apply to this new category of claimants.

[…]

Labour has revealed once again its decades-long predilection for categorising people into the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, an ideology straight out of the 19th century England from which many Pākehā settler forebears came.”

Pre-covid welfare beneficeries were also less than enthusiastic about the new level of benefit payment.

Mother of two teenagers, and living in a state house, Agnes Magele is barely able survive on $243 a week;

“Sometimes I go to food banks if I have to. I have to do what I have to do so that and my kids get by each week. It’s really, really hard to live on that small income from the benefit.  It’s like a real kick in the gut.

It sounds like the government is saying that the people who have lost their jobs through Covid are deserving of an extra $250 on top of a normal benefit, as opposed to those who have already been on a benefit. It would help me pay off my debts a little bit faster and a lot of bills too [if she were getting $490 a week]. I’ll be able to afford to get me and the kids decent, decent food each week.”

The above RNZ story reported on how other beneficiaries were trying to cope.

On RNZ’s The Panel, on 1 September,  Phil O’Reilly – former Chief Executive of Business NZ and member of the Welfare Expert Advisory Grouprepeated his criticisms of current benefit levels;

“Being on welfare is an entirely stressful experience.

[…]

It’s pretty clear that the payments being made just weren’t sufficient.”

Mr O’Reilly can hardly be described as a card-carrying socialist.

Former Greens co-leader, Metiria Turei, who sacrificed her parliamentary career revealing how she had been forced to rort the welfare system to survive had one succint thing to say about her former Party and the two-tier welfare system they had voted for;

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It was a lie that cost her her career. And now from the outside Turei is kicking the fight up a gear - calling her former party's Government partners a "pack of c**ts".

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Meanwhile, in the same story, Mediaworks/Newshub reported that;

The Green Party is revolting against the Government’s new payments for those who lose their jobs to COVID.

Co-leader Marama Davidson has called it unfair to beneficiaries who are paid much less – and a former co-leader has used a much stronger word to describe the Government.

Revolting“?

Calling it unfair“?

Far from it. Parliament’s Hansard’s reveal that Green MPs supported the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill;

“It’s a pleasure to rise and speak to this bill and just to point out that the Opposition make it very clear that there is no choice for us, because, if it’s between at least making progress for some versus the drive to the bottom on that side, then, actually, this is a step forward. It may not be what we want, and it’s not, but, boy, is it better than the alternative.

What I want to say is that the Greens—at the heart of our position is a belief that everyone should have enough to be able to sustain themselves and that we want a welfare system that is resilient and works for everyone. And we are a long way from that, and we have a lot of work to do. That work has started, but we’re not happy with where it’s at. We want more work to go on.” – Jan Logie, First Reading

“So I really just also want to say we are supporting this bill, and the reason for that is, well, we want everyone else to come up to this. I do just want to talk to the fact that the reason for that is we know that people in our communities are struggling. We know that the queues for food parcels and outside Work and Income offices are growing and that the Auckland City Mission –

[…]

This is at the heart of what this initiative is. I think that is in the long term a conversation for us as a country, where we’ve heard very clearly that people do not want a two-tier welfare system—and we agree with that—and that people really are now coming towards realising we need to increase main benefits and ensure everyone can live in dignity. Where does our support sit for the interconnection between redundancy and that welfare system? The Green Party does believe there is work to explore in this space, and at this moment in time, this policy is a response to that. ” – Jan Logie, Second Reading

“Our first position was to further increase benefits and to remove the conditionality of access to those benefits so that the existing system that we had could be strengthened to work for all of us through this time.

We didn’t achieve that. Does that mean that we should turn our backs on a group of people being able to access support? That’s our choice. Our answer was, considering on our principles, no. We should not turn our backs on some people being able to get more just because we were not able to achieve our goals for this transformation for our society. We will keep working towards that, and you hear that through this debate. We are not stepping away from that whatsoever; however, we do recognise that this delivers more to people in need, and we are not going to subject more people to the flawed aspects of our system when we don’t need to.Jan Logie, Third Reading

Their support may have been luke-warm at best, but on all three readings the Greens voted in favour of the Bill, along with Labour and NZ First. Their eight votes in Parliament enabled this law.

Despite their stated intention to support what is currently a two tier welfare system to “keep working to raise all welfare levels” – nothing else has happened. Pre-covid beneficiaries struggle to survive on $250.74 (net); Post-covid beneficiaries recieve almost twice that.

On top of which the partners of post-covid beneficiaries can  earn up to $2,000 a week, unmolested by MSD.

Try applying those same rules to pre-covid unemployed.

Meanwhile, The University of Auckland, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland Action Against Poverty, and FIRST Union collaborated on a project to determine how well pre and post-covid beneficiaries were doing on their respective benefits. Spoiler: the results were entirely predictable;

The Covid income relief payment provides $490 a week for people who have lost full-time work because of the pandemic, whereas some people on the jobseeker benefit get just $250.

University of Auckland sociologist Louise Humpage said early findings suggest the $25 a week increase to benefits announced by the government in March is making little or no difference to low income households.

They did get some benefit from the doubling of the winter energy payment, but that is only a temporary initiative.

But people on the higher Covid income relief payment reported fewer occasions where they have been unable to meet basic costs.

“They seem to have reserves from elsewhere,” Humpage said.

“We asked questions about, ‘do you have passive income?’, ‘do you have a house that you own?’, and at present, they seem to be buffered by those extra resources.”

The RNZ story pointed out the blinding obvious;

Humpage said the early findings suggested that benefit levels need to rise.

“I think there is general consensus that benefits are too low at present and I think this Covid-19 payment is a reflection that it’s actually too low for most people.”

What an unsurprising conclusion.

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Right Rage, Wrong Reason

In voting for the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill, the Green Party has failed all those people who were on welfare benefits pre-covid.

This was a platinum-plated opportunity to either raise benefits for everyone, regarding of pre or post-covid status – or not to support the new $490 per week “income relief payment” for anyone.

Had they presented this choice to Labour it would have been an interesting challenge. Would Labour have dared to call the Greens bluff?

If so, the result would have been spectacular – for the Middle Class. For perhaps only the second time in recent history (the first during the Global Financial Crisis), comfortable middle class New Zealanders would have had a painful, jarring lesson in what it means to live on basic welfare.

If you think the amplified whinging from a tiny minority of quarantined Returnees was bad enough – the shrieking howls of outrage and entitlement from recently unemployed middle class class workers might have been heard through the vacuum of space to the far side of the Moon.

Even the term “income relief payment” de-stigmatises unemployment welfare for the middle class. Pre-covid enemployed still recieve “the benefit”.

The Greens missed that opportunity.

Suggestions that the Greens had to swallow a dead rat would be an insult. It is the pre-covid unemployed who were fed dead rats with the passing of the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill.

Writing for Newsroom, Sam Sachdeva said this;

As a whole, the saga plays into two distinct but damaging stereotypes of the Green Party and its supporters: as chardonnay socialists whose talk about supporting the poor isn’t backed up by action, and as Morris-dancing, science-hating kooks.

Neither is entirely accurate, but each has enough of a grain of truth that there is a risk of the mud sticking.

He has a point.

As much as the Green Party is doing “god’s” work to drive home the existential threat of Climate Change; their ongoing efforts to clean up our environment; and to prevent the further degradation of our land, forests, and waterways – their half-hearted actions regarding critical social issues sometimes leave much to be desired.

The spectacle of Green Party MPs and some supporters venting their rage to such a degree as to force James Shaw – a thoroughly decent politician – to utterly humiliate himself with a public apology – while barely uttering a word in protest against an indefensible two tier welfare system that reeks of double standards, discrimination, and coded beneficiary bashing – is breath-taking.

If flogging a private school is what some of my fellow Green Party members are willing to die-in-the-ditch for instead of  working for our fellow New Zealanders at the bottom of the financial heap, then they’ve been sipping too much from the kool-chardonnay.

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Disclosure:

This blogger is a Green Party supporter.

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References

RNZ:  Government to pump $11.7m into privately-run Green School in Taranaki

Treasury: Summary of Initiatives in the Covid19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) Foundational Package

Stuff media: Coronavirus – What is the $50b Covid Response and Recovery Fund being spent on?

Beehive:  Emergency support for Racing’s recovery

TAB NZ:  Transition to TAB New Zealand complete

RNZ:  Critics pile on Green private school funding boost

NZ Herald:  Schools ‘horrified’ at Greens backing $11.7m grant for exclusive private school

RNZ:  Catherine Delahunty criticises govt’s $11.7m funding for ‘green’ private school

RNZ:  Critics pile on Green private school funding boost

Green School: Specialisation

Stuff media: Greens caught bending party policy to grant $11.7m to private school in Taranaki

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Couple who called COVID-19 ‘manufactured natural disaster’ held ‘DNA activation’ event at Green School

RNZ:  Green School at centre of $12m funding debacle struggling with backlash

Stuff media: Couple who endorsed Covid-19 conspiracy theories hosted ‘sacred ceremony’ at Green School

Newsroom:  Shaw’s sorrow crystal clear as Greens face heat over private school

Kiwiblog:  The $12 million school hosted a DNA activation event!

NZ Herald:  High school students rally against church

Scoop media: Campaign to remove Destiny Church from our schools

Otago Daily Times:  Brash back on campus after ban

Green School: Community and Activities

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill

RNZ:  Relief payments for people who lost jobs due to Covid-19 announced

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill — First Reading

MSD:  Jobseeker Support cut-out points (current)

RNZ:  Welfare advocates not happy with Covid-19 unemployment benefit

RNZ/The Pundit:  Sue Bradford – Labour betrays its traditions – and most vulnerable – with two-tier welfare payments

RNZ:  Covid-19 unemployment pay ‘real kick in the gut’, beneficiaries say

Welfare Expert Advisory Group: Phil O’Reilly

RNZ: The Panel – Phil O’Reilly – 1 September 2020 (alt.link)

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Former Green Party leader Metiria Turei puts Government on blast over new payment scheme

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

RNZ:  Covid income relief payment recipients fare better than those on the dole, survey finds

Newsroom:  Shaw’s sorrow crystal clear as Greens face heat over private school

NZ Herald:  Green Party co-leader James Shaw fronts on private school funding controversy

Other Blogs

The Pundit:  Labour betrays its traditions – and the most vulnerable – with two-tier welfare payments

Previous related blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!

Q+A – 5 August 2012

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances

Charter Schools – contrary to ACT’s free market principles?

Privatisation of our schools?!

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Charter Schools in a Post-Truth Era

A little warning regarding Charter Schools

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(*or Middle Class, in this case)

Acknowledgement: Tom Scott

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 September 2020.

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= fs =

Life in Level 2: National’s Barely Secret Agenda

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national business virus covid19

 

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National has come out of it’s corner fighting hard. With Labour’s recent high polling on TV3 and TV1, National faces a colossal election defeat, the worst since 2002.

This has forced National to adapt it’s “tough on crime” cliches to the current microscopic threat against our wellbeing. National is now “tough on covid“.

The phrasing is slightly altered, but the “tough on XYZ” image is not changed or diluted one iota. It is appealing to it’s rump base and to those New Zealanders who are pissed of at quarantine fence-jumpers; resent having to use their taxes to pay for Returnees’ quarantining; and or who feel that quarantine procedures/testing have been too lax, whether for Returnees or Border staff.

This is all fertile soil upon which National can sow its seeds of resentment and fear, and harvest a rich crop of votes.

They have not disappointed.

Their latest Border Protection policyissued “only” six months after the first recorded case of Covid19 in Aotearoa New Zealand on 28 February – is a study in punitive restrictions; over promising; vagueness; and… of course, very much business-friendly.

It is also a masterpiece of deflection.

The document has been widely presented with the main msm narrative that all Returnees planning to board an aircraft must first present a negative covid test;

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msm headlines - national covid19

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True to her “crusher” form, Opposition Leader Judith Collins has presented a staunch – almost authoritarian figure – determined to keep covid19 out of Aotearoa New Zealand;

“We will make sure that it is legal because … we will change the law if necessary.

We know that there will be some concerns about the Bill of Rights Act and peoples’ human rights, we understand that. And we also understand that this is always a balancing situation between the rights of an individual who may be feeling that they shouldn’t have to have a test to come back into New Zealand, but let’s look at it this way, right at the moment the law has been changed so when they are here they have penalties. So what’s the problem?

The answer surely must be. We don’t want Covid-19, and no New Zealander wants Covid-19 here.”

Those unable to get pre-tested and obtain a negative would not be allowed back into the country, according to Ms Collins.

However, aside from the sheer illegality of such a draconian step, the practicality and certainty of pre-testing Returnees prior to boarding their flights back home has been questioned.

More than one person has pointed out it is possible to be asymptomatic and return a negative result – only to test positive later. Or to contract the virus in-flight, from others.

Ms Collins and National’s health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti, both insist this policy has been written in consultation with epidemiologists. Neither have disclosed who those epidemiologist(s) are.

Said Ms Collins;

“We have epidemiologists who are working with us. I’m not going to name them…”

Dr Reti also declined to name them;

“We’re grateful for those networks of trust and those relationships. If they want to identify themselves, they will.”

Such coyness.

Let’s hope it was not Dr Thornley, a maverick epidemiologist who has touted the “herd immunity” option and praised Sweden’s strategy of allowing the virus to sweep through the population. (Even though Sweden’s death toll from covid19 now stands at a staggering 5,810 – despite that country having only twice our population.)

Or perhaps it was the “Emotional Junior Staffer“? Or Michael Woodhouse’ “Homeless Man“? National abounds with mysterious characters, it would appear.

However, a closer scrutiny of National’s policy documents “Securing New Zealand’s border against COVID-19” and it’s in-depth version “Securing Our Border“, reveals that there is a ‘fish hook’ in their policy on handling covid-19.

The latter document, “Securing Our Border” contains just four short references to the complex (and probably unworkable) suggestion that New Zealanders be pre-tested prior to returning home;

Receiving returning Kiwis and visitors at the border, and ensuring pre-border checks for people coming into New Zealand. (p2)

National would follow international models and require people coming into the country to not only quarantine but also receive a test for COVID-19, or a subsequent pandemic virus, three days before departure and provide the results of that test to airline staff before boarding their plane. (p3)

National would […] Require people travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving into New Zealand. (p3)

National would […] [Require] Pre boarding thermal imaging and completion of health declaration card. (p3)

It is interesting to note that there is no reference made whatsoever to what would happen to a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident if they tested positive for covid19. The policy document does not address this critical point.

When it comes to lock-downs and business needs, the document is more fulsome. Note the highlighted parts:

Preparing for a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur. Lockdowns, if needed, can be more targeted shorter in duration, while protecting our most vulnerable. (p1)

Facilitating planning with businesses to ensure safe practices. Specifically tailoring plans for small business, retailers and manufacturers. (p2)

This report, and the examples of high-quality contact tracing and testing systems internationally, provide confidence that similar systems in New Zealand could allow for less intrusive lockdowns in the event of an isolated outbreak. (p4)

National would implement the following […] Ensuring consistency and capacity within the contact tracing system is critical to achieving the goals of a rapid contact tracing system that would help manage any isolated incidents of COVID-19 beyond the border and to limit the need of intensive lockdowns across the country. (p4)

If lockdowns do occur, we must help our economy so that commerce can continue through lockdowns and people can continue work. […] Lockdowns are a short-term intervention that come at a tremendous cost to businesses and our economy. In the long term, New Zealand cannot afford to shut down or slow our entire economy even if there is a localised incursion. (p6)

National is concerned the lessons of the first lockdown were not closely studied to provide an improved response during the August lockdown. Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy. For example, where small businesses like butchers and greengrocers can demonstrate and implement or plan to operate safely, they should be allowed to do so. (p6)

In a press statement, National’s Covid-19 Border Response spokesperson, Gerry Brownlee, reaffirmed his Party’s intention to localise lockdowns  (alt.link);

“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

Almost every paragraph contains a reference to limiting lockdowns. The terms “isolated outbreak“, “localised incursion”, “less intrusive lockdowns”, and “lockdowns become more targeted” are suggestive of National pursuing the failed limited ‘post-code’-based lockdowns in various Melbourne suburbs that were utterly ineffectual to contain their current outbreak;

…the current restrictions still allow significant movement of people between suburbs and to work. Face-to-face teaching in schools is still permitted, and there is no limit on the number of people in supermarkets and shopping centres.

This was National’s coded message to the business community: that under a National government, any lockdown would be localised and not encompass an entire city. As much as they could get away with, it would be business-as-usual.

The over-hyped references to pre-testing returning New Zealanders (without disclosing what would happen if they failed a covid test) was a noisy distraction so the media and the public would look elsewhere, missing the true message buried within the text of the policy document.

But the business community would have read the document. They would have noticed the carefully nuanced references to “less intrusive lockdowns”, and “lockdowns become more targeted” and understood the meaning perfectly well.

Under a National Government, the economy would take priority. End of.

National learned its lesson when it endorsed allowing foreign students to return to this country. At a time when our MIQ (Mandatory Isolation and Quarantine) facilities were struggling to cope with nearly 40,000 Returnees – Universities were noisily agitating to allow foreign students back in.

The suggestion was that Universities would look after their own quarantine facilities;

Victoria University of Wellington has a plan for international students’ quarantine it will put to government, in the hope students will be allowed back before the border reopens.

[…]

Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford said they had had a plan since late February for a strict quarantine.

The university had identified three facilities in the capital that could take students.

[…]

Quarantine would be supervised by university staff and possibly public health officials as well.

Only a few days ago (19 August), Universities were still touting and pressuring the government to re-admit foreign students into Aotearoa New Zealand;

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said Australia was following in the footsteps of places like Canada and the United Kingdom by bringing international students back.

New Zealand risked being left behind if students could not return by early next year, and it could take 10 years for the international student sector, which is worth $5 billion to the economy annually, to get back on track.

He believed the Australian programme could work in New Zealand.

We can all guess how that would turn out.

Not very well, would be the correct answer.

In case anyone was in doubt, this is how such a scenario might play out if Universities got their way;

First week: foreign students enter the country. They are taken to quarantine hotels run by Victoria University staff and private security guards in Wellington. The public is assured all students will remain in strict quarantine; not mingle; not leave the facility; obey protocols,etc, etc, etc…

Second week: first reports in the media of students partying; mingling; co-habiting; venturing out to bottle stores to buy alcohol and pizza. Security guards unable to stop them: they do not have police powers. University staff: nowhere to be seen.

Third week: more reports of partying and absconding. Local Wellington apartment dwellers tell media students are coming and going without hindrance.

Fourth week: first cases of covid19 detected in Wellington. Source “unclear”.

Fifth week: more cases of covid19 detected. Source identified through genomic sequencing as coming from student in one of the hotel facilities.

Sixth week: University management blame “systemic failures” and “undertake to review systems/protocols”.

Seventh week: Wellington goes into Level 3 lockdown. Blogger writes shortest blogpost ever: “I f*****g told you so!”

It’s always “systemic failures”;

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systemic failures

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It’s always “Systemic Failure” – which conveniently  means no one will ever be held to account; no one will lose their job. Apparently it’s never human accountability because someone stuffed up and promised something they simply couldn’t deliver.

When foreign students from one of the country’s University’s reintroduces covid19 into the community – it will be a “systemic/systems failure”.

In June, National enthusiastically supported Universities having foreign students return to the country;

A National Government would be working hard to safely return tertiary international students back to New Zealand as quickly as possible, Deputy Leader and Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye and National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Dr Shane Reti say.

Only two months later, National fully reversed it’s policy 180 degrees and have now dropped it like a hot potato. Public reaction would not have been supportive of such a risky venture – a fact National’s internal polling and/or focus groups would have sheeted home without any ambiguity whatsoever.

On top of which, having potentially infected foreign students entering the country, creating new clusters, would have undermined the revised narrative that new National leader, Judith Collins, was feeding the public;

“We’ve said very clearly since I’ve been the leader that there is no tolerance for Covid-19 in New Zealand. I’ve heard lots of reports from some people that we should be much softer on this, I’m not prepared to be softer on this,” Collins said.

You can only let people in if it can be done safely. And safely means someone checking the checkers.”

She says that so well, so convincingly. Almost with sincerity.

But a Leader who is willing to leave our fellow sick New Zealanders stranded overseas is not one to be trusted to look after the well-being of the rest of us. Her “compassion” and concern for our safety cannot be foremost in her mind when she so casually turns her back on sick New Zealanders in time of their greatest need.

Ms Collins’ media minders have obviously noted Prime Minister Ardern’s concern for our safety and well-being – and have tried to transplant it on the National Party Leader.

It is not a good fit.

National’s apparatchiks have read the tea leaves; the chicken entrails; and most critically, public opinion: very few New Zealanders want to risk reintroducing covid19. So they have written their Border Protection policy accordingly… but with that one, little ‘fish hook’ they snuck in, without anyone noticing.

And just to leave the gates open just a fraction for a future incoming National Government, they have given themselves an ‘out’ in that same Border Policy document:

In the shorter term, the [Border Protection] agency will administer policy and procedures for:

[…]

Considering expansion of entry qualifications and timing. (p2)

Expansion of entry qualifications“… for who? Foreign fee-paying students?

Sneaky!

New Zealanders should be careful in voting for National. They have have made it clear where they place their priority, whether it be human lives and safety – or the economy.

If you guessed “human lives and safety”, you guessed wrong.

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References

Wikipedia: 2002 New Zealand general election

RNZ:  New poll – Labour climbs to 60.9%, National at 25.1%

RNZ: Latest poll puts Labour at 53, National at 32

Stuff media: Alleged isolation escapee told New Zealanders ‘sick and tired’ of quarantine breaches

Stuff media:  Make quarantined travellers pay: It’s unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up the tab

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus: – Recent returnee blasts ‘cowboy approach’ to PPE in managed isolation

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Lack of testing of staff at border ‘extraordinary’ – Skegg

National Party: Securing New Zealand’s border against COVID-19 (alt.link)

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

RNZ:  ‘We’ll make sure it’s legal’ – Collins on compulsory testing

Otago Daily Times:  Nats want everyone entering NZ to test negative to Covid first

The Spinoff: The Bulletin – National changes philosophy behind border policy

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – National wants everyone entering NZ to test negative first

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National wants travellers to test negative for Covid-19 before flying to NZ

Mediaworks/Newshub:  National’s border policy – Negative COVID-19 test required before returning to New Zealand

The Spinoff:  Live updates, August 22 – Six new cases of Covid-19 in the community (see: 10.15am entry)

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Has Sweden’s COVID-19 approach paid off?

Worldometer: Coronavirus – Sweden

Newsroom: Petition taken down by ‘emotional junior staffer’

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Michael Woodhouse’s isolation homeless mystery man claim debunked

National Party: Securing Our Border

RNZ: Melbourne retailer philosophical about ‘unusual’ postcode lockdown

The Conversation:  Two weeks into Melbourne’s lockdown, why aren’t COVID-19 case numbers going down?

RNZ: University has plans for bringing back international students

Stuff media: Coronavirus – New Zealand ‘risks being left behind’ if international students can’t return

Stuff media:  Minister spots ‘systemic failing’, thousands of beneficiaries affected by automatic payment error

NZ Family Violence Clearing House:  Health and Disability Commissioner finds “systemic failing” at DHB in child abuse case

RNZ:  ‘Systemic failure’ in library closure shocks mayor

NZ Herald:  Leslie Gelberger tragedy – Ports of Auckland fined $424,000 for ‘systemic failure’

National Party:  Under National international students would be back (alt.link)

Stuff media: Coronavirus – National goes cold on international student policy

Additional

Stuff media: Opinion – Sir John Key’s call to relax border controls would be unforgivably reckless

NZ Herald: Rod Jackson – Learning to live with Covid 19 coronavirus is not a viable option

The Spinoff: Exclusive new poll – How have testing issues and the new outbreak affected public confidence?

Rolling Stone: The Unraveling of America

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 1.41PM Jun 15, 2020

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9:45AM  Jun 12, 2020 – no mood to go back into lockdow

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collins - covid 19

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 August 2020.

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Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus

22 August 2020 1 comment

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As at mid-day on 12 August, Aotearoa New Zealand went to Alert Level 2 and Auckland City to Lockdown, Alert Level 3.  This, the result of four infections discovered in a South Auckland industrial area.

The source of reinfection in South Auckland  is yet to be determined. Options are limited to;

  • Border staff at airports, ports, or quarantine facilities unwittingly picking up the virus
  • An incorrect test result allowing a positive infection to leave a quarantine facility
  • “Lurking” asymptomatic community transmission left over from previous months
  • Returning flight crew member(s) acquiring the virus overseas

The third option  seems unlikely. Where there is asymptomatic infection there are also symptomatic cases where people end up in hospital and ICU care. It seems unfeasible for one to occur, but not the other;

The other hypothesis doing the rounds is that maybe New Zealand never eliminated the virus and that it has been bubbling away undetected in the community for three months.

Professor [Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of New South Wales] …thinks this is highly unlikely, and that at least some cases would have had symptoms and presented to medical authorities.

The last option is  the most disturbing. It is no secret that returning airline flight crews from foreign destinations are not required to quarantine for fourteen days, unlike other Returnees passing through our borders;

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The assumption that the new outbreak may have been the result of returning international flight crews is a possibility we should not quickly dismiss.  To test this hypothesis, it is necessary to look at relevant facts.

Firstly, the genome of the covid19 virus in this latest outbreak does not match those who are infected and in current quarantine. As Prime Minister Ardern stated on 14 August,

“This suggests this is not a case of the virus being dormant or of a burning ember in our community. It appears to be new to New Zealand.

So we can rule out the second option above, and part of the first option. There is also no indication of incursion through a port, or an Americold worker have any association with a port worker.

Next: according to Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health, the genome of the virus indicates it may have originated from one of two countries;

“We are continuing with genome sequencing investigations. What we know so far is that there has been no exact link with a recent case in MIQ from the samples we have been able to genome sequence, however, genome sequencing of new cases resembles the genome pattern from the UK and Australia most closely.”

By contrast, genomic sequencing  points to the original appearance of the virus in late-February as having emanated from North America, not from Asia, Australia, or the UK.

Next: The facility where covid19 was first discovered is Americold NZ Ltd, situated at Mt Wellington. It is also the site where most of the cases have centred.

Suggestions that transmission occurred via importation of chilled/frozen goods between Australian and New Zealand Americold facilities were unequivocally dismissed by the company’s managing director, Richard Winnall;

Americold have investigated and we can completely rule out there is no transfer of product between these facilities in Australia or New Zealand,” Winnall told the Herald today.

We can completely rule out transmission through that speculation on freight. It’s just not possible because there is no freight or supply chain connecting those two properties [Mt Wellington and Melbourne].

In fact, for months and months [there has been no freight between Melbourne and Auckland]. I can’t tell you how long other than my Melbourne facility has confirmed they have no record of shipping to that Mt Wellington facility.”

Otago University professor and epidemiologist, Michael Baker, described the suggestion of viral contamination on imported goods as unlikely;

much less important than direct respiratory spread.

University of Otago professor of infectious diseases, David Murdoch, said;

I think on balance it’s probably less likely, but certainly worth exploring.

Epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Rachel Graham, pointed out;

“Even frozen, on a surface like that, you’ll see the virus desiccate and dry out, which renders it completely non-infectious.”

And executive director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, stated;

“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus, and people should feel comfortable and feel safe,” Ryan said in a press briefing on Thursday, adding, “people should not fear food, or food packaging or processing, and the delivery of food.”

Next: Mr Winnall made this salient point;

“We believe that was just two employees that contracted Covid-19 from outside the workplace, that happened to be employees of ours.”

This is where things get… “interesting” (but hopefully not in a Gerry Brownlee kind-of-way).

Americold also has a second facility, at Manu Tapu Drive, only a few kilometres from Auckland Airport;

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One of the Americold workers tested works at the Manu Tapu Drive facility. The results of this person’s test remains unknown as at publication of this story. A Ministry of Health media release dated 13 August stated;

Two of the AmeriCold sites, Mount Wellington and Auckland Airport, have been closed, and all staff from the Airport site have now been tested.

That was three days ago, and the MoH website has no update as to the results of testing of staff at the Auckland Airport Americold site.

The first recorded Americold worker’s (not at the facility near the Airport) was on 31 July.

Working backward from 31 July, the first worker would have been infected roughly fourteen to sixteen days prior to presenting with symptoms. That takes into account approximately 12 to 14 days to incubate; one day presenting; and another day to test and determine a positive result.

The MoH website for covid cases yields the following result for Returnees flying home from Australia;

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Recall that this strain of virus most likely emanated from UK or Australia.

Whilst the evidence above should be regarded as circumstantial, the possibility that an airline flight crew returning to Aotearoa New Zealand carried the covid19 virus and transmitted infection to an Americold staff-member should not be dismissed out of hand.

This country has already had one such instance of returning flight staff carrying the contagion across our borders into the community – with fatal results.

Equally alarming, is that flights from Australia and elsewhere continue to arrive to our country;

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auckland airport arrivals

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None of the flight crew staff are quarantined.

Postscript

Meanwhile, the re-emergence of covid19 outside our quarantine facilities should squash further irrational proposals that we re-open our borders to others apart from returning New Zealanders;

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covid19 nz

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Key’s assertion that;

“We don’t really have a health crisis in New Zealand because we don’t have community transmission; we have a financial crisis that is coming, not a health crisis.”

– defies common sense and should be discarded as the misguided ‘reckons’ of a man with unbalanced priorities. People like Key, David Seymour, et al, should be regarded with derision if we value human life above money.

 

*** UPDATE ***

 

From RNZ:

Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

19 August 2020

Air New Zealand staff say there are a multitude of loopholes in the airline’s border controls – and Covid-19 testing and isolation requirements need urgent attention.

The Health Minister today met with Air New Zealand to discuss ways to tighten Covid-19 restrictions, after saying he was concerned with their procedures.

While returning travellers must undergo strict 14-day isolation requirements, the air crews bringing them home are largely exempt.

One person working on Air New Zealand’s international flights told Checkpoint there had been unease for sometime among crews about the current rules, which mean only those returning from America are required to self-isolate, have a Covid-19 test on day two and continue to self-isolate until that test comes back negative.

“I think there’s a multitude of loopholes, and some of them are due to the way the airline operates but also unfortunately, I believe that the loopholes and the vulnerabilities at the border, are due to the way things have been designed by Ministry of Health rules.”

He recently returned from a long haul flight which was not to America, so he is not required to self isolate.

“However, I’m doing that, because… it’s the right thing to do. So I am managing the quarantine at home.

“But many crew have difficulty with that, they might have flatmates or they might have the situation so that they cannot physically isolate at home without putting people at risk.”

He said it was vital there was a stand down period and testing between every international flight, especially because the burden was placed entirely on the crew themselves, and staff could fly home domestically to self isolate after completing a long-haul flight.

“In my mind, every flight is similar risk and it’s regardless of how many days you’re over in those destinations – they all carry the same amount of risk and I don’t know why the Ministry of Health or Air New Zealand is able to justify having lower testing requirements for certain trips.”

The Ministry of Health website states that because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from requirements for isolation if they meet certain conditions.

They include wearing gloves and masks when in passenger areas and full PPE when dealing with a sick passenger suspected of having Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said those requirements were agreed on by Air New Zealand and the Ministry of Health, but there was nothing to indicate air crews had been the source of any issues.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said he met with Air New Zealand this morning to discuss their testing protocols and they were working through those practicalities.

The staffer told Checkpoint while Air New Zealand is doing the right thing most of the time, isolation and testing on every international flight has to happen.

“They have a fiscal imperative, which is weighing very heavily on everyone and they would not want to have the extra cost of the stand down between every single flight and the testing. But it’s the only way to be [able] to have better surety protection from the virus getting back into our community.”

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said he was supportive of the government considering options for improvements to their current testing regime, and adds the protocols the airline currently has in place are proving to work, because there has not been a case of Covid-19 in the airline since early April.

 

From NZ Herald:

Covid 19 coronavirus: Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ concerns over airline crew coming through the border

19 August 2020

The Government admits it has concerns around the testing of airline crew coming through the border, amid claims from Winston Peters that a “second border breach” led to a hotel worker contracting the virus in central Auckland.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning he was concerned about protocols for international airline crew, and the risk of the virus entering New Zealand.

“I’m meeting with Air New Zealand today to make sure that that’s as tight as a drum,” Hipkins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking. “I’m not 100 per cent convinced that it is at the moment. I’m going to be absolutely boring into that. There’s no time for rest here. I’ve been doing this job for seven weeks. Every single day I’ve woken up thinking about Covid-19.”

 

If there is one thing we have learned about this virus is that it is ‘tricky’ and that it will exploit any gap in our defences. The gap can be as small as… a virus.

Air New Zealand is obviously concerned about it’s “bottom, line” and how quarantining will impact on it revenue and profits to shareholders.

When it comes to shareholder returns vs the lives of my fellow New Zealanders, I’ll pick the latter Every. Single. Day.

 

*** UPDATE 2 ***

 

From RNZ:

Aug 20, 2020 1:25 PM
RNZ Live
The initial sampling shows that additional work at Americold is not currently warranted and it does appear that contamination of imported chilled packaging was not a likely source of infection at this point and therefore the investigation into finding the source remains open, Dr Bloomfield says.

Aug 20, 2020 1:16 PM
RNZ Live
No virus has been found on any of the swabs taken from the Americold Wiri site. ESR did find very low levels of the virus on four of the 35 gauze swabs taken at the Mt Wellington site. Dr Bloomfield says the positive swabs were from surfaces expected to be touched by a person with the virus.

So that’s that.

The remaining options rely on human-to-human transmission.

The question remains: who was the source of transmission for the Americold worker exhibiting symptoms on 31 July?

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References

ABC News: New Zealand races to track down the source of the Auckland coronavirus outbreak

Stuff media: No quarantine rule for Air NZ international crew after new Covid cases

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Otago Daily Times:  Quarantine exemptions granted to small number

NZ Herald: Covid 19 Coronavirus – Air NZ crew and airport staff to be tested

Ministry of Health: 14 new cases of COVID-19 – Media release 13 August 2020

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

Stuff media: Coronavirus – New research reveals how Covid-19 came to New Zealand

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Two new cases at Americold factory; wait on results of 14 others continues

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Americold director can ‘completely rule out’ NZ’s virus cluster came from Melbourne facility

Stuff media: ‘We’re leaving no stone unturned’: Did New Zealand’s outbreak come from a Melbourne coolstore?

RNZ: Covid-19 – Imported goods as outbreak source an unlikely theory – Professor David Murdoch

Business Insider Australia:  Imported frozen foods may have caused New Zealand’s new coronavirus outbreak. But it’s very rare to get sick from such packages

Mediaworks/Newshub: Coronavirus – Gerry Brownlee denies COVID-19 questions make him a conspiracy theorist

NZ herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Two new cases at Americold factory; wait on results of 14 others continues

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown – Jacinda Ardern to announce next moves at 5.30pm tomorrow

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases details – 1:00 pm, 16 August 2020

Otago Daily Times:  Bluff groom’s father one of Covid-19 deaths

Auckland Airport: Arrivals

Mediaworks/Newshub: New Zealand must consider opening borders soon says Helen Clark, Peter Gluckman and Rob Fyfe

Stuff media: Relax border restrictions to soften Covid-19’s economic blow, Sir John Key says

TVNZ News: David Seymour says second Covid-19 lockdown not the answer and it’s time to ‘learn to live with it’

Additional

RNZ:  Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus –  Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ concerns over airline crew coming through the border

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

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cartoon murdoch

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 August 2020..

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Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

29 June 2020 4 comments

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Plague town?

There are two things right now in Aotearoa New Zealand that are guaranteed to piss people off.

Firstly, it’s National playing silly-bugger politics with the covid-19 pandemic. This cost Simon Bridges his job as National’s Leader.

Lately, Michael Woodhouse has been playing fast and loose with revelations that he waited a day before informing the Ministry of Health (MoH) that two sisters had been allowed out of quarantine without testing. The two women later tested positive for covid-19.

Mr Woodhouse chose first to talk over the tip-off from his source with his Party leadership. Later, after some strategy had no doubt been engineered (with Matthew Hooton’s involvement?), Mr Woodhouse went public.

In his interview with RNZ’s Suzie Ferguson, Mr Woodhouse was at pains to point out that it was not his job to inform MoH or the government that two untested returnees were travelling the length of the North Island and who later tested positive for covid-19. Evidently, the risk that the pair could have infected others; put people in hospital; potentially killed someone; and further harmed the fragile state of our economy – was not a matter worthy of consideration for Mr Woodhouse who has aspirations to one day be a government Minister.

As he put it so eloquently to Ms Ferguson;

“I’m not part of the cheerleading team.”

Mr Woodhouse criticised Health Minister David Clark as being “completely disengaged from his role [as Minister of Health]” and demanded his resignation.

The same charge could equally be levelled at Mr Woodhouse for playing politics with a disease that has destroyed so many lives.

It’s a moot point which is worse; incompetence or politicising a lethal pandemic.

The second thing that has roused the ire of New Zealanders is the constant flow of media stories of a small number of returnees who have whinged at aspects of their quarantine, or expected special treatment to attend family members who are near death, or funerals. (And I write this as someone who understands all too well what it feels like to face the ghastly frustration of seeing a loved one dying and not being able to do a damn thing about it…)

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Or the non-stop media stories of businesspeople who demanded exemptions and wanted to continue trading during Level 4 and Level 3 lockdown .

Nothing quite says “Batshit Crazy” as a weight-loss company  so full of it’s own self-importance that they think they are an essential service during a global pandemic;

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Because if you’re on your death-bed from covid-19 – about to meet your Maker – no doubt losing a few kilos is first and foremost on your mind…

Three months later, and we have a new contender for Self Important Entitlement: Scenic Hotel Group’s managing director, Brendan Taylor.

Mr Taylor was apoplectic that *HIS* town, Rotorua, would be hosting additional quarantine facilities;

“It is a concern to a lot of New Zealanders travelling as to which hotels are being used as isolation hotels and which ones aren’t.

Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so I would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels.”

Yes, Mr Taylor was mightily concerned that “Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so […] would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels”.

So no concerns then about pandemics? Or re-infection if we don’t begin to get our act together with stringest quarantine procedures. Or the lives that could be lost. Or that returnees were our fellow Kiwis.

Mr Taylor’s point-of-view was that hotels were “doing really well with weekend business“.

That’s not all he’s done “really well with“. Interestingly, Mr Taylor has benefitted fairly well accepting the taxpayer’s coin;

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Thus far, Mr Taylor’s company has taken $1,512,379.20 of the taxpayer’s coin for wage subsidies. That’s our taxes going to his company to pay his staff’s wages.

The least he could do is not whinge  and understand that this government is doing what it must to assist New Zealanders to return to this country safely, and in a way that does not bring contagion back into our community.

Because it may have escaped Mr Taylor’s attention that if covid-19 returns and the second wave is even more disastrous for our economy – he may not have much a hotel chain left to be Managing Director of.

Instead of  being self-indulgent, perhaps he could return the generosity of the taxpayer by asking; “what can we do to assist”?

As for Radio NZ which carried the story – this is not the first tale of self-indulgent, woe-is-me, “grief journalism” they’ve engaged in. Or badly mis-represented a story.

In this case, the headline carried the ominous warning;

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Except… there was no reference within the text of the story to any “potential travellers” being “wary”.

Or “weary”, as their Twitter version suggested;

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In fact there was no mention of “potential travellers” full stop. Just the “reckons” of one businessman more concerned  with “doing really well with weekend business” than his fellow countrymen and women.

One could also question RNZ using the phrase;

“As the school holidays approach there is concern people may put off plans to travel to Rotorua where two hotels were commandeered for quarantining returning Kiwis at the weekend.”

This is immature tabloid journalism and not the standard we expect from RNZ.

The commentary after RNZ posted a link to the above story on Twitter was scathing. One could have been forgiven that people were commenting on the latest confused ramblings from Mike Hosking, Kate Hawkesby, or Sean Plunkett, and not this country’s most respected media outlet.

Not good, RNZ:

D Minus. Can do much better if they apply themselves.

Pay-To-Stay?

Today (23 June), the government floated the ‘kite’ of demanding co-payments from returnees to Aotearoa New Zealand. The co-payment would be charged for their 14 day quarantine;

“What we need to consider as a government is the fairness of a potential co-payment system, so we need to factor in a whole range of issues and keep in mind we cannot stop New Zealanders from coming back to the country where they are a citizen, and so that will have to underpin all of our decisions.” – PM Ardern

Human Rights lawyer, Michael Bott, was damning of the suggestion;

“I would say, potentially, it’s in breach of the Bill of Rights Act, because you have a right of entry in terms of your country and to impose a cost on New Zealand citizens who are overseas and wish to come back home… is something which may be considered disproportionate and severe.”

Put in plain english, this is a really terrible idea. It is the sort of money-grubbing we might expect from a National government  prepared to put money ahead of the well-being of our fellow citizens. This would be Labour’s moment equivalent to National raising prescription charges in 2012 from $3 to $5.

This would be the antithesis of the positive message that PM Ardern has steadfastly maintained these last few months;

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Yes, we are all in this together. The quarantining of hundreds – thousands – of returnees is not for their personal benefit. A postcard to Aunt Nellie showing their hotel room doesn’t quite have the same romanticism as a beach at Bali.

This benefits us all, from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island; the entire Team Five Million. We all stand to gain from returnees quarantining.

Just as returnees benefitted from the entire country going into lock down for six weeks.

To expect them to pay – even only a portion – would be like expecting people to pay for their own covid-19 testing. The idea would be ludicrous because when it comes to an infectious micro-organism there is no “Us” and “Them”. There is only “We”. As in, we’re all in this together.

I have no idea who came up with this short-sighted notion. It is quite mad. And I am surprised that it would pass PM Ardern’s “sniff test”.

I hope it is binned. Because there is nothing remotely kind about it.

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As at 23 June 2020:

Confirmed covid19 cases: 1,165

Active cases: 10

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle  (audio)

RNZ:  Travellers ‘shocked’ at last minute transfer to quarantine in Rotorua

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

RNZ: Isolation hotels making potential travellers wary

Work and Income:  Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Employer Search

Twitter: RNZ –  Isolation hotels making potential travellers weary – 23 June 2020

RNZ:  Cabinet to consider co-payment scheme for new arrivals

Stuff: Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

ODT:  ‘We’re all in this together’

Ministry of Health:  Two new cases of COVID-19

Other Blogposts

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

The Daily Blog: Snakes and Mirrors – National Sat On Covid-19 Infection Information For Hours Before Dropping Political Bombshell In Parliament

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

 

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

26 June 2020 4 comments

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20 June

The bad news: Aotearoa New Zealand has two new cases of covid-19.

The good news: the two cases were picked up at an Auckland quarantine facility.

The terrifying news: had the story of the two women leaving quarantine without testing not broken four days ago – this couple and their child were due to depart the facility;

The couple returned to New Zealand on a repatriation flight from Delhi – AI-1306 – and arrived on 5 June. They also have an infant who has not been tested due to age.

The couple showed no symptoms and returned a positive result after being tested on day 12 of isolation.

They were tested on Day 12. Up until now testing had not been done or was haphazard.

The infuriating news: Dr Ashley Bloomfield needs to stop bullshitting us. At today’s presser, he made this statement. See if you can pick up the half-truth:

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@ 4:44 – 5:52

“Just a good time to remind everybody that we were always expecting to get new cases at our borders, as Kiwis return home from overseas.

And I guess the comment here is, we had several weeks where we didn’t get any cases at the border and now we are. And I’d like to reflect on the reasons for that.

First of all, we are seeing an increasing number of Kiwis returning to the country from around the globe.

The second is, just to reiterate the point that I have made, there is still a global pandemic raging offshore.

And only overnight the Director General of the World Health Organisation noted that the global pandemic is accelerating, with Thursday this week being over 150,000 new cases worldwide.

So there is an increased likelihood we will see Kiwis coming back, especially from countries where there are high rates of infection, like India. We also earlier in the week of course had those two Kiwis who’d returned from the UK where they’ve got high rate of infection.

So this explains why we are now detecting these cases at the border.”

Dr Bloomfield’s assertion that new cases of covid19 are being picked up because “we are seeing an increasing number of Kiwis returning to the country from around the globe” is not the reason.

The reason infection is being detected is because testing is now being carried out in earnest.

If personnel at quarantine facilities were still half-heartedly (or not at all) implementing testing protocols, all three recent cases (one returnee from Pakistan, and the couple from India) would likely have departed their respective facilities without having been tested.

They would be in our community – along with their viral “passengers”.

In fact, Dr Bloomfield may have revealed the magnitude of the potential crisis we might be facing;

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2400 people who had left a managed isolation facility but had not had a test“.

I fear our good luck is about to run out.

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As at 20 June 2020:

Confirmed & Probable covid19 cases: 1,159

Active cases: 5

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  Two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand (alt link to video)

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – New arrivals to New Zealand told swab testing is not compulsory

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – NZ has another new case – a man in his 60s in a quarantine facility in Auckland

Ministry of Health: Two new cases of COVID-19

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Reinfection: Labour’s kryptonite

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

24 June 2020 6 comments

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17 June

Labour’s “dream run” of being a competent manager during the Covid19 Crisis may just have come to a crashing end.

Recent revelations that some of the quarantine facilities (hotels converted to the task) have been shambolically mis-managed has raised alarm bells and widespread criticism;

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Travellers mingling with passengers from other flights

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A day later, on 12 June, former Police Commissioner, Mike Bush – in charge of the Government’s Covid-19 operational taskforce – stated that he was not satisfied with the lax procedures in the TVNZ story and promised to tighten adherence to protocols;

“That’s not good enough. We’ve got to keep those people safe … We need to get that right.

Walking groups have gone. Some hotels can bus people to another location. For others we’ve found another location on site where people can ensure that they’re not near any other members of the public.

We will put a new practice in place to make sure people on day one don’t mingle with people who have been there a lot longer. That is a difficult process.

The smoking area, we’re trying to make improvements there so we don’t have people there from day one with people from day 12.”

He specifically added:

“Now we’re in Alert Level 1, we will be having a new testing regime so people will be tested on day three and then on day 12.”

Yet, we now know that the two women who drove from Auckland to Wellington a day later, on 13 June,  were not tested.

When TVNZ ran the story above, I guessed even then that our lax border controls and complacent, half-hearted, quarantining would not end well;

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None of this was unknown to us. We knew flight crews were exempt from mandatory 14 day quarantining – despite travelling to covid-19 hotspots around the world.

This should not have surprised officials or Government ministers. As far back as April – two months ago – it was reported that isolation procedures at these quarantine facilities were being flouted;

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Which makes this random comment I posted on Twitter, on 15 Junethe day before the story broke in the media – eerily prescient;

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Little did I realise that my remark about “inept quarantining leading to another C19 infection in Aotearoawould become an unpleasant reality and headline news the very next day;

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Minister of Health and serial screw-up, Minister David Clark, reassured the public on RNZ’s Checkpoint that evening (16 June);

“They followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people … but nonetheless I am disappointed to learn they were out of the facility without testing negative first, because that was my understanding that that would have happened.”

According to Dr Bloomfield, speaking on RNZ’s Morning Report on 17 June;

“There was a, an agreed plan in place. As part of the approval process for the compassionate exemption, and that included for the travel arrangements.

So they had a private vehicle dropped to the hotel. They then drove together all the way to Wellington and had no contact with anybody else during that trip. And, uh, they didn’t use any public facilities and they also have been just with a single family member since they arrived in the Wellington region.”

I call bollicks to both statements.

Minister Clark assures the public that the two women “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“.

Unless he – or a Ministry staffer was travelling in the same car – how on Earth could he possibly know that they “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“?! [We now know they didn’t.]

On RNZ’s Morning Report, on 17 June, Minister Clark alluded to the fact that contact tracing was well under way, and he was “waiting for data overnight“.  He admitted that he “needed to know how many people” [had to be traced].

That clearly conflicts  with his  assurance the previous day that the two women “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“.

At least one of those women was infectious [as at 17 June].

We may see the resurgence of clusters potentially from Auckland to Wellington. It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Even more problematic is Dr Bloomfield’s assurance that “they then drove together all the way to Wellington and had no contact with anybody else during that trip. And, uh, they didn’t use any public facilities“.

Again, how does Dr Bloomfield know for certain that neither women “had no contact with anybody else“? Contact tracing is already under way – so clearly that must have been in contact with someone?

It also defies credulity that on a ten hour-plus drive from Auckland to Wellington that neither women “didn’t use any public facilities“?!

Modern vehicles have developed considerably since their early fuel-guzzling predecessors and are more efficient. A vehicle could make the Auckland-Wellington trip without having to re-fuel along the way.

But not so human beings. We’ve hardly changed much over the last 200,000 years.

I doubt very many human beings could make a ten to twelve hour drive without having to stop along the way to use public toilet facilities, at least once.

Dr Bloomfield should be fully aware of this – he graduated in medicine in 1990 and so should have a fairly good understanding of the workings of human plumbing.

So please Minister Clark and Dr Bloomfield: stop BSing us.

Neither of you can have any idea what those two did on their drive to Wellington.

It is inconceivable that they did not use public facilities along the way.

What about the other 200 people released from quarantine on “compassionate grounds”? Were they  tested before release?  Have they recently been re-tested?

Do we even know where they are?!

No wonder Opposition MP, Michael Woodhouse, questioned this government’s fitness to carry out health sector reforms after the Health and Disability System Review was released;

They haven’t been able to deliver anything else. I dare say a large reform of this nature is certainly beyond them.”

I’m starting to think the same thing.

Up until now, public support for this government has been stratospheric: between 80s and 90s in favourable percentage terms. But watch that support wither and fall away if – due to complacency and mis-management – the virus reappears in the community.  And watch it collapse altogether if Aotearoa New Zealand has to go back to Level Alert 3 or – Thor forbid – Level Alert 4. The public will not be happy.

Adulation can turn to animus pretty damn quickly.

When National’s Leader, Todd Muller expressed his anger;

“I’m as furious as I suspect most New Zealanders this morning.

This is clumsy and totally inappropriate when you consider what’s at stake here … we’ve spent a number of months locking our country down, we’ve got ourselves to the point where we’re Covid-free, we have systems in place that we expect to be followed and they simply weren’t.

We can’t have such a lax approach to our border when the stakes are so high.”

— he was reading the room and expressing a reaction shared by about 99% of the population. Unlike his hapless predecessor, Mr Muller got the tone 100% right. People are pissed off.

The incompetence of those managing our quarantine facilities was sheeted home when, on 17 June, Mike Bush was interviewed on RNZ’s Checkpoint. It was a class act of evasion, vagueness, buck-passing, and a startling inability to offer information to some basic questions. It reminded me of former Corrections Minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga‘s inept responses when interviewed on TV3’s The Nation, in May 2015 (an interview which, coincidentally, was also done by Lisa Owen).

Minister, Lotu-Iiga‘s responses had to be heard to be believed.

Likewise, when Ms Owen kept repeatedly asking Mike Bush who was responsible for failures, he kept deflecting to Minister Clark, Director General Bloomfield, et al.

He simply could not answer Ms Owen’s questions – because he was obviously ignorant at what was going on in the quarantine facilities. Mr Bush confirmed to listeners what most New Zealanders already suspected: no one was in charge; no one knew what was going on; and the people supposedly carrying out quarantine protocols and testing were not doing their jobs.

No wonder PM Ardern has had a gutsful and appointed Air Commodore Darryn Webb to take over.

However, PM Ardern cannot simply call this colossal clusterf**k  “an unacceptable failure of the system“. Assigning responsibility to a mythical creature called “The System” is a cop-out.

It wasn’t  “the System” at fault. It wasn’t System Bush, or System Bloomfield, or System Clark, or System Ardern in charge. Human beings were in charge.

The public knows this. When “The System” is blamed, there is a collective eye-rolling of five million pairs of eye-balls. People recognise “Politician Speak” when it is fed to them.

If PM Ardern wants to engage in “Politician Speak”, that’s her mistake to make.  Up until now, she has earned the respect of the nation as a Leader, not Just A Politician. Does she really want to be seen as Just Another Politician? I would have thought that was a step down in any person’s career path.

Someone screwed up. Someone in a position of authority where they should have been doing their job. Their. One. Job.

In fact, this government’s astronomical popularity has been predicated on them doing Their One Job: guiding Team Five Million through this crisis; doing the tough calls; ensuring all our resources were targetted at containing and defeating The Enemy.

They had one job. And they’ve been shown up not to have done it very well.

Expect Labour’s popularity to take a nose-dive in the next political poll. They will have earned the bollicking that the public is about to dish out to them.

But if we’re going to dish out the Finger-Pointing Pie, there is plenty to go around.

The Mainstream Media has amplified every “human interest” story of tragedy; people returning to Aotearoa New Zealand desperate to get out of 14 day quarantining to attend to dying relatives or attend funerals. (The six people who absconded from quarantine had attended a tangi in Hamilton.)

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Media amplification of these tragic stories – aka “grief journalism” – has no doubt put inordinate pressure on government ministers and Ministry staff. Whilst these stories are good click-bait and help sell advertising space (or attract listeners in RNZ’s case), they serve no other useful purpose.

Quarantines are not quarantines if people can side-step them because of tragic personal circumstances.  (And I write this knowing full well how it feels, as last year someone close to me died. The awful feeling of total helplessness cannot be adequately put into words.)

In one case, the Courts ruled to overturn a Ministry of Health decision to decline an exemption, saying;

“decisions to decline permission are on their face legally flawed” and the “exceptional” case “had the hallmarks of automatic rejection based on circumscribed criteria rather than a proper exercise of discretion.”

The media should take a long, hard look at itself and the role it played in undermining implementation of quarantine protocols.

And the Courts should decline to become involved in pandemic-control policies. Lest it need be repeating: the virus is no respecter of our human-made laws.

Next, the National Party and sundry business lobby groups with their relentless, irresponsible agitation  to move down Alert Levels and re-open our borders to foreign students, tourists, Uncle Tom Cobbly, et al;

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In the case of foreign students, National is particularly strident;

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Ms Kaye’s assertion that “…[National] have also proposed that education providers would handle quarantine procedures” did not age well. Four days later…

As I write this, there are over eight million confirmed covid19 cases in the world. The real figure is most likely higher as countries like Brazil have consistently under-reported their infection rate. The global death toll has passed 450,000.

That is the threat that vote-chasers in the National Party and profit-takers in the business world would expose us to.

National’s cynicism is nowhere more apparent than Opposition MP, Michael Woodhouse, who reported the case of two women leaving quarantine whilst infected with covid19 – several days after finding out from “a reliable source”.

As blogger “Mickey Savage” outlined the timeline of events in The Standard;

The timing in interesting.  According to this interview on Morning Report Woodhouse found out these details two days ago and yesterday spent time checking the veracity of the story.

He then discussed matters with his leader’s office.

He did not go to the Health Ministry and did not think he should.

He thinks this was necessary for presentation of the story.

In his view his job is not to work to improve the quarantine system but to hold the government to account and show shortcomings.

But as we are fighting a pandemic that has caused huge damage to countries overseas didn’t he have a duty to bring this information to the authorities as soon as possible?  So that these operational holes could have been filled?

I heard the interview. Mr Woodhouse did indeed insist it was not his job “to improve the quarantine system“. Also not his job to potentially save lives either, it appears.

So while National Leader Todd Muller was reflecting the anger felt by 99.99% of the country – one of his loyal MPs was reporting to him quarantine failings; potential re-infection throughout the country; and possibly ending in death – all from a “reliable source”. National Party priorities – certainly not saving lives.

But eventually, responsibility for this colossal mistake lies with those people whom we entrusted to safeguard us. We know who they are. Most have appeared nightly in our  homes; on our devices; encouraging us to do the right thing. Most New Zealanders followed their lead.

We rewarded them accordingly, singing their praises. And printing t-shirts bearing their image.

Those hymns of praise have stopped, to be replaced by the silent sound of bemusement, if not outright anger. The t-shirts may take a bit longer to sell.

The public will be in no mood to go back into any form of lock-down. In case I have to spell it out for Prime Minister Ardern; Health Minister Clark, Director General Bloomfield; Mike Bush, et al, the good will of the public has mostly evaporated. Faith has been replaced by cold fury.

The problem with being at the top? The only way from there is down.

Regardless of whether anyone takes responsibility for this failure, the ultimate decision will be taken from the hands of this government and its officials on 19 September.

As I wrote on 12 June – four days before the story of the quarantine failure broke;

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As at 16 June 2020:

Current covid19 cases: 1,156

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

TVNZ: Travellers mingling with passengers from other flights, members of the public during Covid-19 isolation

TVNZ: Government to make changes to managed isolation facilities following 1 NEWS investigation

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 10.44PM Jun 11, 2020

Stuff media: Covid-19 – new cases as thousands fly in from Australia, Asia, Pacific Islands and US

Mediaworks/Newshub: Father concerned after quarantined son taken for walk with person with COVID-19

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 1.41PM Jun 15, 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Two new cases in New Zealand, both arrivals from UK

RNZ:  Two new Covid-19 cases in NZ visited dying parent – Bloomfield

RNZ:  Health Minister temporarily suspends compassionate exemptions from quarantine

RNZ: Covid-19 – Exemptions concerning after women test positive outside managed isolation – Baker (audio)

RNZ: No answers yet on why Covid-19 cases weren’t tested leaving isolation – Clark (audio)

The Spinoff: The face of the Covid-19 response – Who is Ashley Bloomfield?

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Exemptions concerning after women test positive outside managed isolation – Baker

Mediaworks/Newshub: Health and Disability System Review aims to end racism in New Zealand’s health sector

The Spinoff: Exclusive new poll: public support for Covid response remains sky high

TVNZ: Public sector’s reputation in NZ reaches record high amid Covid-19 crisis, survey shows

RNZ:  Government slammed after new Covid-19 cases revealed

RNZ:  Mike Bush answers questions over botched Covid-19 isolation

Frankly Speaking:  “The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

RNZ: Two new cases leaving isolation ‘an unacceptable failure of the system’ – Ardern

ODT:  Six people – not two – abscond to go to tangi

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

Magic Radio:  Dr Bloomfield denies ‘blanket approach’ used for quarantine exemptions despite zero approvals

Twitter: @JudithCollinsMP12:44 PM · Jun 8, 2020 – Go to level 1

Twitter: @nikkikaye – 12 June 2020 – foreign students

Worldometer: Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Brazil stops publishing number of virus deaths

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Woman in the same hotel as new coronavirus cases ‘shocked’ at finding out via Ministry of Health press conference

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9:45AM  Jun 12, 2020 – no mood to go back into lockdown

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 June 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

30 April 2020 4 comments

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April 29: Day 2 of Level 3…

It really was a good day today. Two new cases (ok, one confirmed, one probable) and no – zero! none! – deaths!!

The two cases is a fall from yesterday’s three, and the previous day’s five. It’s like a tantalisingly slow count-down, but with each number dropping day by day.

If those clowns at fast-food takeaways  (and other workplaces, but we’ll get to that in a moment) don’t spread the virus, it will be our good fortune to have beaten the little bugger.

Interestingly, there are only three cars parked at the local Park’n’Ride carpark. Unusual because the roads continue to be full of commercial and non-commercial traffic;

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The commercial traffic is heavy. Building sites are a hive of activity. At one site, I counted three concrete mixer-trucks parked on the roadside. It’s difficult to believe Treasury forecasts that GDP will contract with all the activity in  evidence.

On the motorway I glance to my left; a gang of workers are busy on the rail line between Melling and Petone. There are about a dozen men in their ubiquitous hi-viz orange gear. None of them are even close to being two metres apart from each other.

It’s a bright, sunny autumn day. There’s a noticeable chill as a weak sunshine tries vainly to warm the air. This may be a saving grace for us all.

Oriental Bay’s two beaches are mostly deserted except for a few souls willing to endure the brisk temperatures to sit on a luke-warm sand;

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Also at Oriental Bay Parade, another gang of workers – this time on road-works;

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Social distancing? Hah! Real Men don’t social distance!!

Not only were they not two metres apart, I’d doubt if there was even a metre between them.

So never mind groups of fast-foodies at burger joints getting close up together and potentially sharing their micro-organisms – what is it with males in physical occupations that closes down their minds to the concept of social distancing? Do they think they are immune to viruses, protected by their hi-viz orange gear?

Oh if only it were that simple.  Like green kryptonite to Superman, does covid19 shy away from the colour orange? No wonder Trump is still unaffected.

Further along Oriental Parade, as it approaches the bend where it becomes Evans Bay Parade, the ultimate sign in return to normality awaited: road works with lolly-pop signs and queues of traffic;

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Five weeks of minimal-to-non-existent road works had come to an end.

Meanwhile, NZ First Leader, Winston Peters, had kicked off his party’s de facto election campaign by disclosing Ministry of Health advice that  Aotearoa New Zealand should’ve been closed to returning New Zealanders so as to prevent the incursion of covid19.

The headline;

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But compare the headline on Collette Devlin’s article with the headline on the Stuff Politics directory-page;

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The article’s headline refers to Health MINISTRY. The politics directory-page; Health MINISTER. Big difference. (Hat tip:  @nealejones) Either that was a bit of sloppy work by a Stuff staffer (try saying “Stuff staffer” quickly, repeatedly!) – or a bit of juvenile mischief-making.

On the way home tonight, more traffic on the road. Not as busy as last night.. though… road works were in more evidence on SH2.

Only two days, and I’m already yearning for the Good Old Days of Level 4 lock-down.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,474

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 19

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References

Bloomberg:  New Zealand Economy Gets Back to Work as Lockdown Is Eased

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Winston Peters says Health Ministry wanted to close borders to Kiwis

Fairfax/Stuff: Politics Page

RNZ:  Two new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Resources

Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus Resource Center

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

Life in Lock Down: Day 31 & 32

Life in Lock Down: Day 33 & 34

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 30 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 33 & 34

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April 27: Day 33 of living in lock-down…

Five more cases, only one of which has been confirmed. And another of our fellow New Zealanders has fallen to the virus, a woman in her nineties, a resident from St Margaret’s Rest Home in Auckland.

Today my partner and I have discussed merging our ‘bubbles’. It will have been over four weeks since we’ve seen each other, aside from ‘Zoom‘ video-calling.

The “catch” is that whilst her ‘bubble’ is only three people – mine is significantly larger. The risk from me is greater than from her.

On the ‘positive side of the ledger’, the Hutt Valley and Wellington DHBs have not recorded any further C19 infections. As at 9am this morning;

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And going back to last Thursday, still no new cases;

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At today’s press conference with PM Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, there was this “golden moment” at 33:54;

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[alt.link]

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The expression on Dr Bloomfield’s face: priceless. It was the non-verbal version of, “What the f**k?!

It was obviously a questioned geared to create headlines, which in turn would generate ‘clicks’. (Plus it was just plain dumb.) Dr Bloomfield would have none of it. The man has not spent decades of his life in the medical profession to answer gormless questions about something an orange Village Idiot, sitting in the White House, said when his walnut-sized brain was coasting in ‘neutral’.

It was up to the PM to bat the inane question aside, treating it with the contempt it deserved.

Tonight will be the last day/night of living under Level 4. Tomorrow, the “ropes” will have been loosened somewhat to allow businesses to re-open, though in a limited way, practicing social-distancing.

Though from what little I’ve seen of “social distancing” within supermarkets and road gangs, I am not filled with optimism.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,469

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 19

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April 28: Day 1 of Level 3…

The first day of Level 3 – a step closer to some semblance of ‘normality’. (Though much of what we Humans call ‘normal’ has ravaged the planet; consumed our resources; filled the atmosphere with greenhouses gases; turned out oceans into a vast garbage dump; created mass-extinctions; and ripped the guts out of our rain forests. Yet, so many of us yearn to return to that ‘normality’…

Hitting the road, I pass the Park N Ride as I do each day. The signs are good: only four cars present – one more than usual.

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Perhaps my forebodings are baseless and people will respect the necessity to stay home?

Fat chance. These *are* humans, after all.

On the roads leading to SH2, the increase in traffic is obvious. Last week there would have been three or four cars – it’s way more.

Then out onto SH2. I start recording the commercial vehicles with my voicecorder, and given up after five minutes. Traffic is heavy, both commercial and non-commercial. In fact, it’s fairly similar to any given day at around 11am before anyone ever heard of ‘novel coronavirus’ or ‘covid19’. The Melling Interchange was as busy as ever;

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The red ship that had anchored in the harbour, within view of the motorway, had gone. It’s fourteen days quarantine must have included it’s ocean-going time spent on the high seas.

This raises questions how freighters will deal with quarantine protocols in future. With air travel limited, will a fourteen day mandatory quarantine for sea-going freighters be uneconomic? It will certainly be a long time before anyone is bold enough to step foot on a cruise-liner again.  The owners of those floating hotels/petri dishes couldn’t give those tickets away.

After exiting the Terrace Tunnel and queuing with other traffic at the lights;

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It was “all on”. If the Prime Minister was watching out the windows of her Ninth Floor office, she must have had her head in her hands, shaking it in despair.

This wasn’t Level 3, 2, or 1. This was pre-Level Anything. Whatever these New Zealanders had heard on the radio, TV, or internet was completely opposite to how I understand Level 3 to operate.

Even the motorhomes were on the move again, like this one that pulled up in Hataitai;

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Driving along the southern coast and Lyall Bay, it suddenly struck me that bicylists were again a vulnerable minority. The dominance of the automobile had returned.

One plucky father had two children (5? 4?) on their little bikes trailing behind him on Hamilton Road, with cars zipping past. (I braked to a crawl, to slowly over-take, probably irritating drivers behind me. F**k’em.)

In the days to come, as car drivers reassert their dominance on the roads, bolstered by a tonne of metal, glass, rubber, and fabric, bicyclists will come to remember the brief month that their mode of transport ruled the Ways. It may be a tale they pass on to their grandkids…

At 1PM, we get the good news: only three new cases and – thankfully – no additional fatalities. Well, that’s the positive side. The downside? This;

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Can you spot two-metre distancing outside the Burger Fuel outlet? No, neither can I.

Just one asymptomatic carrier of covid19… that’s all it takes. Just. One. Person.

This scene will be repeated around the country and become more common as people become more complacent.

Cue sequel: The Virus Strikes Back.

My drive home tonight, at about 8pm was no different. Traffic. Lots of it. In fact, it seemed as if there were more vehicles on the motorway than usual at that hour of the night.

And one more thing.

The smell.

There was a “new” acrid smell in the air. The smell of burning fossil fuel had returned. In time my nostrils would become accustomed to the odour again and not register to my senses.

But I will also have lost the smell I’d enjoyed only up until last night – clean air.

Postscript

Meanwhile, the lack of new cases in Wellington and the Hutt Valley mercifully continues;

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Current covid19 cases: 1,472

Cases in ICU:  1

Number of deaths: 19

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References

Day 33

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases – 27 April 2020

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases – 23 April 2020 (via Wayback Machine)

Youtube:  Ministry of Health update on Covid-19 – April 27

RNZ:  One new confirmed case of Covid-19 today, but one further death

Day 34

Twitter: Richard Hills – Burger Fuel – covid19 – queue -28.4.20

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases – 28 April 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 latest update – Three new cases in NZ, no further deaths

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Resources

Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus Resource Center

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

Life in Lock Down: Day 31 & 32

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Emmerson covid 19 pandemic

Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 31 & 32

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April 25: Day 31 of living in lock-down…

It’s ANZAC Day. I was planning to get up early to stand outside… but didn’t wake up till much later. I guess that’s my body telling me it had other plans (mostly involving rest).

It’s another work-day so prep accordingly and hit the road. It’s reassuring that there are no cars at  the nearby Park N Ride. With it being a fine, sunny summer-like day, it will not bode well if people decide to flock to parks and beaches.

And traffic did appear to be slightly heavier than during the week. Which meant people were making the most of a fine Saturday/ANZAC Day to get out and drive somewhere. Not good.

In the harbour, the red freighter was still sitting where it had first been spotted;

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It seems a double-standard that the crew of the freighter are expected to be in quarantine whilst flight crew on Air New Zealand flights are exempt from the same protocols.

Traffic around the Terrace Tunnel  was definitely busier than during the working week (such as it is).

Queues at Chaffer Street New World stretched around the block. Good  personal distancing on the footpath. Though as my experience at other supermarkets showed, people struggled to maintain that distancing in the aisles. Some forgot; others couldn’t care less.

Both beaches at Oriental Bay were largely deserted;

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Campervans at the Evans Bay Marina carpark had changed; some had gone; others had arrived.

Question; do these campervans have GPS tracking? If so, the companies leasing these vehicles should be able to determine when they are on the road, flouting lock-down.

Meantime, in another example of lazy thinking mixed with self-entitlement, the owners of Black Sands Lodge seem unable to understand what lock-down and stay at home means in simple english;

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The Lodge owners asserted,

Owners of an Auckland lodge offering a “get-away” escape during alert level 3 say they are well within their rights to do so because they are an essential service.

More like taking-the-piss.

Businesses that are scrupulously respecting the lock-down and suffering because of lost income must be spitting with fury at outfits like Black Sands Lodge and it’s owners.

When I start taking  holidays again (and by Thor, I need one), it won’t be at Black Sands Lodge. Like, ever.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,461

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 18

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April 26: Day 32 of living in lock-down…

Day of from work. But housework remains; dust and dirty laundry wait for no man, woman, or virus.

It’s still lock-down so I stay home. Though I wonder if I’m the only bugger doing it. Glancing out the window, my neighbours (couple in their late 20s) are loading up their car with household items, including what looks like camping gear.  At around 1pm they drive off.

It’s the 1pm daily announcement; there are nine new cases but mercifully no deaths.

The couple return about an hour later. They’ve dropped of the items to god-knows-where.

On Radio NZ, epidemiologist Michael Baker answers questions from listeners. Thankfully, RNZ has weeded out the more gormless ones from conspiracy theorists nutcases and the question and answer session is productive.

The issue of Sweden’s light-handed approach to the pandemic is raised. Sweden has opted for no lock-down and instead left it to individuals to keep themselves safe. It’s a libertarian’s masterbatory wet-dream.

Swedes are paying for their light-handed approach in blood. According to  Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center global data-base, as at 5.00PM on 26 April, their death toll stands at 2,192;

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Sweden’s population is approximately ten million, just a little over twice Aotearoa New Zealand’s. But the death toll from covid19 is nearly 122 times ours.

There those who would makes excuses that such a death toll is a worthwhile price to pay to open up the economy again. The usual refrain is that fatalities are mostly amongst the old who would be dead anyway soon from old age and/or age-related causes.

Which is untrue, as covid19 also kills younger people. The youngest, to date, was a six week old baby.

A lax approach demands a high price which will be paid by others than mercenary capitalists, and their political puppets, who are desperate to see consumers spending their dollars again.

It’s ironic that the cries of over-reaction by critics to the government-mandated lock-down are able to do so only because that lock-down has been (relatively) successful. When idiots like David Seymour assert;

“That really I think is not quite right. I think the risk posed by the virus is not as great as it was sold to us.

The Prime Minister said tens of thousands of people would die if we do nothing. I don’t think there was any plausible scenario given what we know now about the virus in general – especially in New Zealand – where that would happen.

If we know that the virus was not as bad as we thought, and the lockdown is worse than we thought, then the right thing to do is to actually change the balance between the lockdown measures and the virus.”

— they are playing with people’s lives for political gain (votes).

And when populist, right-leaning media such as Newstalk ZB misrepresent statements from experts;

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— then it compounds confusion in the public mind.

In fact, Dr Wiles did not say “NZ is unlikely to see a coronavirus outbreak“.

Within the text of the article, beneath the staggeringly misleading headline, her actual statements are published;

Auckland University’s Siouxsie Wiles says we are likely to see cases here due to the high number of overseas cases, but told Mike Hosking the number of cases is likely to be limited.

“We don’t have the same population density and when small number of cases come in, they can be easily isolated and stopped.”

The misleading headline has been quoted ad nauseum by rightwinger trolls on social media who have either not read the actual text of the article, or have willfully exploited the lie to sow uncertainty. (Many of the trolls are pathologically misogynistic in their smears against Dr Wiles.)

When government hands out taxpayer’s dollars to prop up the msm, I hope they by-pass NewstalkZB. A media company that peddles outright lies is not fit to survive.

With nine new cases in Aotearoa New Zealand, the question begs to be asked; where and how are transmissions taking place? We have passed through two cycles of transmission/symptomatic of the virus. How is it being spread?

If, as I suspect, people are breaking their ‘bubbles’, then they should be held to account. They are holding the entire country to ransom.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,470

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 18

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References

Day 31

Fairfax/Stuff media: Beach lodge offers discount ‘get-away’ accommodation during coronavirus Alert Level 3

RNZ:  Covid-19 update 25 April – Five new cases, one death

Day 32

RNZ:  NZ’s responses to Covid-19 and polio vastly different

RNZ:  Time will tell on Sweden’s relaxed approach to Covid-19

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Six-week-old US baby youngest to die with COVID-19

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Siouxsie Wiles claps back at David Seymour’s claim coronavirus risk ‘not as big as it was sold’

NewstalkZB:  Siouxsie Wiles on NZ is unlikely to see a coronavirus outbreak

Twitter: @JintyMcGinty35

Twitter: @miscreantinc

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Nine more cases, no new deaths

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Resource

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

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Acknowledgement: Royston

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 27 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

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April 23: Day 29 of living in lock-down…

Three new cases…  but two more deaths. It’s a cruel act of Fate that success and good news is tempered with tragedy and death. With each of those deaths, families are left grieving for the loss of someone who has been entwined in their lives.

There are times I wish that those agitating and making shrill demands to re-open the economy, should be made to be in the room with those grieving families. No amount of money and economic growth can make up for the loss of a loved one who we shall never see again, and lives on only in our memories and photographic recordings.

The day starts of as many have in the last four weeks. Drive past the railway station Park N Ride – still three cars in the open expanse of a carpark built for a hundred times that number. (Yesterday there were four cars present.)

On the main road to SH2, the white motorhome is still in place. It’s become a ‘fixture’ my gaze automatically looks for in the first ‘leg’ of my drive to work.

It was a cloudy, mild, autumn day.

On the highway, a Wellington Electricity van; ‘JETS’ van; ‘Phoenix Transport’ van; an unbranded double-tandem truck (unbranded commercial vehicles  seem more common than I have ever noticed, previous to the lock-down); ‘Kaibosh’ van; a fully laden ‘PBT’ container truck; ‘Jina’s’ fruit & veg van; a police car; a light truck marked ‘Dandy Candy’ (really ?!); ‘Waste Management’ truck; an unbranded light truck carrying gas cylinders; ‘Placemakers’ ute; ‘Chorus’ ute; ‘Precision’ glazing van; ‘Paint m& Plasterer’ ute; ‘Good Shed’ light truck; ‘L.G. Anderson’ covered truck; ‘Steinlager’ branded covered truck; a firewood truck (company logo not discernible); ‘Gilmours’ truck; ‘Arobake’ van; a fully laden ‘KAM’ container truck; another police car; ‘Coca cola’ branded truck; towtruck wagon carrying a car; ‘Bundaberg beer’ branded SUV; ‘PBT Transport’ truck; ‘Toll’ double tandem truck; ‘Print Link’ truck; ‘Arrow Hygiene’ van;  ‘Budget Rental’ covered truck; truck carrying two waste-bins; ‘Commonsense Organics’ van; ‘Enviro waste’ rubbish truck; ‘Dimond’ building ute; ‘Inter Waste’ truck; an unbranded fully laden container truck; an ambulance; a skip bin truck; scaffolding truck; ‘Red Cross’ blood van; ‘Gilmour’s’ truck; ‘Cushman & Wakefield’ real estate services van; a police car; ‘Tip Top’ refrigerated truck…

Traffic on SH2 was light; about half a dozen vehicles around me.

The red ship still lay where it was first spotted;

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Definitely under fourteen day quarantine.

Meanwhile, another large freighter berthed near the Interislander wharf, spotted the previous day, was gone. If mandatory quarantine does not apply to that vessel, hopefully it’s a coastal trader, restricted to Aotearoa’s waters.

The road works gang with ‘Wellington Pipelines Ltd’ trucks and digger in attendance, were still digging up the footpath. Still no sign of any  social distancing being practiced.

Meanwhile, ‘Z Energy’ has made itself out to be practicising high levels of corporate bastardry by getting rid of unwanted fuel stocks back on to the world market. The reason? To keep local fuel prices high.

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So there we have it; Z Energy’s  chief executive, Mike Bennetts openly admitting that allowing cheap fuel into Aotearoa would result in “too much fuel that will affect us by way of having to sell“.

Anyone still  believing that the rules of the free market apply in any way, shape, or form, is deluded. ACT – the so-called party of the free market – made no comment on this blatant manipulation of  fuel prices. (Quite the opposite, in fact. ACT has been calling for more corporate welfare – paid by taxpayers.)

The next time David Seymour or any of his ACT cronies bleats on about “market forces” – point them to this story. Then watch them do “mental gymnastics” to explain how/why such a thing could happen in an open market like ours.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,451

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 16

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April 24: Day 30 of living in lock-down…

Back up to five new cases *AND* another death. With only three more days until we move to Alert Level 3, we better start hoping that contact tracing is working.

The railway station Park N Ride had the same three cars – but there the similarities to previous days, weeks, ended. In my driving to Wellington, and around the city, there was a marked increase in both commercial and non-commercial traffic on the roads. The fact it was a fine, sunny day – more like summer than autumn – also brought a few people out.

Commercial traffic was definitely higher than before. And whereas there there moments on the open highway when my vehicle was the only one present – today there was a constant flow of traffic around me. Still not as heavy as in normal times – but still noticeably heavier than at any time in the last four weeks.

On my way home tonight, again,  traffic at around 8pm was the highest I’ve seen it since Level 4 lock-down began at 11.59pm, Wednesday, 25 March.

People are starting to revert to “normality”.

Meanwhile, the roadworks in Vivian Street, downtown Wellington, had ended; as had roadworks at the Miramar ‘cutting’; and new roadworks this afternoon in William Street, Hataitai. I watched the roadworks gang – at no point was social distancing evident. It was business-as-usual.

If the police fail to monitor holiday ‘hot spots’ as they are promising to do this weekend,  it will be a free-for-all for people to be on the move.  In which case, Professor Shaun Hendy’s prediction of a “re-invasion” by the virus could become a reality.

Back to square one. Or rather, back to Alert Level Four.

Meanwhile there are the usual click-bait headlines highlighting bizarre ideas. Such as Aotearoa prostituting itself to become rich white men’s “bolt hole”. Or billionaire Trump supporter and founder of data-collecting company, Palantir, Peter Thiel, wanting to offer his services to help track covid19.

That’s a ‘Yeah,nah,piss off” to both those suggestions.

And while we’re about it, could someone in this government look to stripping Peter Thiel’s  New Zealand citizenship? Mr Thiel bought his citizenship (the price is unclear) in 2011. Millionaire John Key gave Billionaire Peter Thiel citizenship – even though the latter had only briefly visited this country on a few occassions.

There is no clear reason why this gentleman should hold New Zealand citizenship. Aside from his money, maybe.

The one headline I want to see is not “Billionaires flock to New Zealand and buy up North Island” – but rather, “No new covid19 cases today“. I know which is worth more to us.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,456

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 17

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References

RNZ:  Z Energy selling fuel back to world market

ACT: News

ACT: Good call, now set clear rules and support Level 3 losers

RNZ:  Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 23 April

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Three new cases in NZ, two further deaths reported

RNZ:  Covid-19 alert level 3 – What you need to know

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Police checkpoints at the ready ahead of Anzac weekend, Covid-19 level 3

RNZ: ‘The possibility of reinvasion of the disease is very strong’ – Shaun Hendy

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Rich migrants not solution to New Zealand’s Covid-19 problems, economists say

RNZ:  Controversial tech firm Palantir had talks with govt on Covid-19

NZ Herald: Citizen Thiel

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Five new cases of Covid-19 in NZ, one further death

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

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Acknowledgement: Slane

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 25 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

23 April 2020 3 comments

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April 22: Day 28 of living in lock-down…

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

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Kia ora Ms Ardern,

Firstly, let’s set one thing pretty well straight before launching into the point of this letter to you. You, your government colleagues, and hard working civil servants have done an amazing job in navigating us through this crisis. History will remember the strong but compassionate leadership our country has had the great fortune to have.

We could just as well have had the likes of Bolsonaro, Orbán, or Trump leading us.

You have led us through ‘Hurricane Covid19’ nearly flawlessly, considering humanity hasn’t experienced an event like this since the 1918 Influenza pandemic. Nearly flawlessly. There have been ‘stumbles’ along the way. The problem of issuing PPEs is an irritant that refuses to go away.

But perhaps the ‘stumble’ that may yet be the worst is the exemption given to Air New Zealand not to isolate flight crew after they have completed an overseas assignment.

This first came to my attention on 21 April on RNZ’s Checkpoint. The story, in brief;

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

To say that I  was utterly gobsmacked would be an understatement. I listened to the unfolding story with a growing horror; a rising anger; and a deep disappointment.

Let me explain. For the last four weeks we have been in Level 4 lock-down. This has separated friends and families. Closed non-essential businesses. Curtailed recreational and sporting activities. Borrowed billions to keep our economy afloat and society intact.  And thousands have lost their jobs.

The vast majority of New Zealanders heeded your call to stick to our “bubbles”.

You called on us;

“New Zealand, be calm, be kind, stay at home.

We can break the chain.”

You minded us time and again;

“Stay home, save lives.”

And you challenged us;

“… you may not be at work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home, and breaking the chain.”

And the people you cheerfully referred to as “our team of five million” responded;

“Hell yeah, let’s do this!”

And we did. For the most part, people responded and made the sacrifices we knew in our hearts and minds were necessary to save lives.

But it was a battle that was not without many casualities. So many people found themselves suddenly unemployed. Some lost the businesses they had worked long hours to establish. And fourteen of our fellow New Zealanders lost their lives.

We retreated to our homes, venturing out only for food and exercise. Some of us – like myself – carried on working as we were as essential service. Which often meant our “bubble” became necessarily inflated to encompass our colleagues and those we cared for. Some of us were not successful in dodging the viral ‘bullet‘.

But we carried on, because, well, it had to be done.

As the lock-down progressed, there were calls to loosen the restrictions and allow more exemptions. Golfing greens (which was eventually allowed); surfing; hunting; butchers… There was quite a list. Aided and abetted by yammering voices from the National and ACT parties.

Though as any sensible person will tell you, the more businesses and recreational activities are open, the more ‘porous’ the lock-down becomes until it is a lock-down in name only. Cue covid19 to become rampant through the entire country.

Which was something wiser heads in our communities understood with crystal clarity;

“I don’t want the Muslim community to look like [they’re] insensitive, inconsiderate over the Covid-19 issue – that they’re just worried about the meat situation.

That is a picture I don’t want New Zealand to get because there there are people in the Muslim community who are actually worried about saving people’s lives in this state of emergency.

We should go with the available options because there are many people who are missing out on what they like to have. It’s not only the Muslim community who are missing out on halal meat, there are other communities missing out on what they want.” – Usman Afzali, 31

Mr Afzali was opposing calls for specialised Halal butchers to be given an exemption to the lock-down. Mr Afzali understood the consequences of permitting endless exemptions. He knew the price that would be demanded by the virus – and it would be a cost met by lives lost.

And I understand that. I really do. I’ve even supported my colleagues in a work situation where management who were not part of our facility’s “bubble” were point-blank denied entry. We have vulnerable clients and non-essential people were barred – no exemptions.

My ‘bubble’ consists of my flatmate; four colleagues (down from six) in our facility, plus our clients. (My flatmate’s ‘bubble’ is tiny, as she hardly knows anyone in the Greater Wellington Region.) My partner, who has her own house, is not part of my ‘bubble’. For four weeks we have not seen each other, except through the ‘Star Trekkian‘ marvel of ‘Zoom‘ technology.

We have taken your call to keep to our “bubbles” with utmost seriousness and urgency. We have not deviated. We have been staunch.

So after reading all that, you can understand, Ms Ardern, how absolutely gutted I felt when I read that Air New Zealand flight crews were returning to our country; disembarking from their aircraft; and… entering our community.

No fourteen week quarantine.  Nothing.

When challenged by RNZ, Air New Zealand responded;

“This is expert medical advice for all airlines to follow in New Zealand. If there are general concerns or questions about this advice then that is a matter for the Ministry of Health as they have established these standards.”

So the entire country is asked to go into stringent lock-down and when asked a legitimate question why Air New Zealand flight crews are exempt, we are given that corporate  gobbledegook-speak?!

Did anyone send a copy of that particular memo from Air New Zealand to the virus?

An un-named (for damned good reason) Air New Zealand employee reminded us;

“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’.”

A person died from that ‘cluster’: the groom’s father.

The following day from that initial RNZ story, Air New Zealand disclosed that thirty employees have tested positive for covid19.

And yet you still allow Air New Zealand to be given an exemption?

Tangata whenua  going into the bush to shoot food for their whanau is considered a risk to transmission of covid19 – and it’s banned?

Whilst flight crews returning from Los Angeles, Shanghai, and god knows where from – are not exempt?!

Ms Ardern, I struggle to understand the logic to this, I really do. I’ve looked at it from every possible angle and all I can come up with is that Air New Zealand is part-owned by the government, with a massive $900 million bail-out loan extended to the company by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

I really hope it’s not about saving an asset that the State has high stakes in. I really do. That would seem to be beneath your dignity to be party to such a venal deal.

So my question to you should be fairly obvious by now – or rather, two questions;

(1) Why:  does Air New Zealand have the privilege of enjoying an exemption to a fourteen day quarantine when – out of all the businesses in this country – it is the riskiest one that could re-introduce covid19 to our shores? What makes Air New Zealand safer than someone going out shooting in the back-blocks?

(2) Why:  have I bothered with my ‘bubble’; securing the facility where I work with vulnerable people; and foregone seeing my partner for nearly an entire month – when Air New Zealand flight crew could, at this very moment, be infected and spreading their contagion in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch?! Why have I bothered?

I really, really hope your reconsider the justifications you  offered at your 1pm ‘presser’ today (22 April). I really do.

Because if we manged to eliminate covid19 from our shores, only to have it reappear with new infections brought in by Air New Zealand flight crew – then it’s all been for nothing. Our efforts have been undermined because – and this is critical – no matter how many times we eliminate the virus, it will be reintroduced by flight crews who remain exempt for reasons that are beyond my understanding.

Singapore should be a clear lesson to us that this virus can return if we allow it even the smallest opportunity;

Fears have resurfaced about the ability of coronavirus to surge again after lockdowns are eased, as Singapore confirmed a sharp rise in new infections.

One of the worst-hit countries when the virus first spread from China in January, Singapore’s strict surveillance and quarantine regime helped slow the outbreak, but recent rises in locally transmitted cases have raised fresh concerns. Singapore reported 142 new infections on Wednesday.

When we move to Alert Level 3 I will be seeing my partner again. I’m even tempted to go to the beach, if we’re lucky to have any fine days left.

I’ve done my bit. God knows I have.

But this is beyond me.

Please reconsider Air New Zealand’s exemption. It’s not worth it.

 

Current covid19 cases: 1,451

Cases in ICU: 2 (0 critical)

Number of deaths: 14

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References

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

RNZ:  Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption (video)

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – ‘Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home’

BBC: Coronavirus: How New Zealand relied on science and empathy

Newsroom:  One third of new Covid-19 cases are health workers

Fairfax/Stuff: Golf clubs could perish if greenkeepers barred from caring for greens

Change.org: Allow Responsible Surfing in New Zealand

RNZ: Covid-19: Whānau relying on hunting for food should have exemption – leaders

Rural News:  Pork farmers want butchers to start trading

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Community safety trumps access to halal meat, Muslim man says

RNZ:  Father of groom in Bluff wedding dies from Covid-19

RNZ:  Covid 19: What happened in New Zealand on 22 April

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

RNZ: Coronavirus: Government offers $900m loan for Air New Zealand

The Guardian: Singapore coronavirus surge raises fears of post-lockdown breakouts

RNZ:  Six new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, one more death

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

RNZ:  Bubble-bound: Data shows most people obeying rules

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

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covid19

 

Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day.

22 April 2020 4 comments

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April 21: Day 27 of living in lock-down…

The second-best possible news; testing has revealed only five new cases. If this keeps up, we might – might ! – be down to zero by the time we move to Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

Except… the good news was marred by the death of another person; a 70 year old woman from a rest home in Te Atatu.

Also marred by an asinine response from our benighted Leader of the Opposition, yesterday, which has raised a storm of anger from thousands of New Zealanders.

And marred by a revelation that has raised my anger and left me wondering if I should have bothered with all the precautions and sacrifice that I (and hundreds of thousands of other New Zealanders) have made over the last few weeks…

My usual trip into town yielded my usual observations of commercial vehicles as well as ordinary cars. Traffic seemed sparse; no heavier or lighter than usual. Which is a good sign that people are not taking the planned move to Level 3 as an invitation to leave their lock-down en masse.

In fact, the number of cars at the nearby Park N Ride had dropped from the usual three to two. The wide variety of commercial vehicles, though, ranged from what were clearly essential to more questionable status. Such as the “Directionz” van parked outside a closed McDonalds outlet: “Directionz” deals in commercial signage, traffic signs, and graffiti removal.

The ship spotted in the harbour yesterday was still in position, station-keeping in the same spot;

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It may be there for quite a while: they have twelve more days of quarantine.

In town, there was road-works in Vivian Street;

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Essential emergency work?

And yet more roadworks in Wellington. This time at  The Cutting in Miramar;

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Note the photo immediately above. Look to the left of the white truck. Here’s a close-up;

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If that’s two metre social distancing in a workplace setting, then obviously I’ve been taught the metric system incorrectly.

This is why I reject calls from the National Party, ACT, and various sundry business lobby groups to allow all retailers to open, and let them practice “safe social distancing” while trading. I call ‘bollocks’ on that. I also share  similar reservations that safe social distancing can be managed during a Level 3 lock-down where non-contact business activity and trading will be permitted.

So far I see precious little “safe social distancing” even in the limited activities that are publicly visible. (See also busy aisles at Kilbirnie Pak N Save here:  Life in Lock Down: Day 23)

Then there was this from Opposition Leader Simon Bridges on his Facebook page;

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Take these two sentences;

“The public has done a great job of self-isolating and social distancing. The entire country has made huge sacrifices to ensure the four week lockdown was effective.

Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric.”

When Transport Agency data shows road traffic down between 73 and 82% from a year ago, that’s a fairly strong indication that the over-whelming majority of New Zealanders are doing the right thing.  It suggests they trust this government and the leadership to be implementing policies that will, in the long run, save lives.

The fact that new cases have been trending downward for the last two weeks, until we now stand at only five is a clear sign we are going in the right direction.

PM Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have been in our living rooms for the last four weeks, almost night after night, and most New Zealanders have grown to trust them as a steady pair of hands.

So when Simon Bridges attacks the government and the leadership of the immensely popular Prime Minister and highly respected Dr Bloomfield, then he is basically “giving the finger” to the entire country.

Which is why around 82% of the stats to his post are in some way negative;

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The responses were ferocious in condemnation.

The country has been in lock-down for nearly four weeks. Our lives have been disrupted. Thirteen people have died (with one in Peru). Thousand have lost their jobs. Four weeks lock-down was an impromptu “holiday” – like being stuck in your hotel room while a tropical storm lashes your area for the entire time of your stay. Not much fun.

People are cranky. They are pissed off at those who flout the rules so they can have a good time while the rest of us tow-the-line. We want normalcy. We want to walk into a supermarket and not have to keep two sodding metres away from everyone – just in case.

So for Mr Bridges to lob his on-line “grenade” at the government was not just an attack on said government and Ministry officials – but also a snide dig at all of us. Despite stating “New Zealanders can be proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time“, he was effectively dismissing those sacrifices as utterly meaningless.

Simon Bridges not only failed to “read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building!

The more comments he makes along the lines of his Facebook post yesterday (21 April), the more entrenched will be the public view of him as someone not fit to lead us in time of crisis.

And then, this evening  on RNZ Checkpoint, came revelations that Air New Zealand air crew were returning from overseas flights – and not quarantining on arrival – despite several staff having been infected by covid19;

 

Air New Zealand is keeping secret the number of its staff infected with Covid-19 amid allegations it is not doing enough to keep its workers safe.

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

For more than a week, Checkpoint has repeatedly asked Air New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield for the number of Air NZ staff who have tested positive for Covid-19.

[…]

New Zealand’s biggest Covid-19 coronavirus cluster is the Bluff wedding, where the virus has spread to nearly 100 people and killed two, including the groom’s father.

The cluster has been officially linked to overseas travel. An Air NZ flight attendant who had just returned from the United States and had already been exposed to Covid-19 was at the wedding reception. 

“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’,” an Air NZ employee told Checkpoint. 

Four days before that, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced compulsory 14-day self-isolation for anyone arriving in New Zealand from anywhere in the world, excluding the Pacific. 

Despite the clampdown, Air NZ crew remained exempt at the time and have largely maintained that exemption throughout the pandemic.

On Monday 20 April, Air NZ’s Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson told Checkpoint it was his understanding the exemption had continued. 

That is despite employees repeatedly raising concerns that the lack of isolation for returning crews was endangering them and other people, Checkpoint has learned. 

A letter sent to Air NZ management earlier in April starkly laid out the issue: 

“An Air New Zealand flight arrived at Auckland from which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19. One in each class throughout the aircraft. Four crew later tested positive. 

“Another crew member from that same flight, before testing positive, attended meetings, then embarked on a four-night tour of duty. 

“One of those meetings was attended by yourself. If the 14-day separation rule was in place, that crew member would have remained in self-isolation at home and would not have placed other members of the community or colleagues at risk of Covid-19.” 

Ministry of Health guidelines exempt aircrew from 14-day stand downs between different flights as long as they appear healthy, but the same letter noted these protocols are minimum guidelines. 

 

Note the part where it says “as long as they appear healthy“.

From the Ministry of Health’s own website;

“Symptoms take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”

I was dumbfounded when I heard the story. (Audio version here.) Dumbfounded and furious.

For the last four weeks my partner and I have studiously observed the lock-down rules. We  have kept separate “bubbles” (we do not live in the same houses). We keep grocery shopping to a minimum , observing the 2 metre distancing rule. We don’t go to the beach. We stay home. And when I go to work, I go directly to the facilities I work at; do my job; then come home.

But according to Air New Zealand, they permit their staff to work overseas and then return to this country and wander around freely.  Dozens  of their air crew staff are walking around our major cities. If any carry the contagion, they will be oblivious to it.

Some have already been stricken by the virus.

But Air New Zealand won’t tell us.

We could get the daily rate of new cases down to zero by Friday – only to have new infection clusters blow up at any time because an Air New Zealand crew member brought it back into our country.

Remember: “A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”

Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson must act on this.

  •  We need to know how many Air New Zealand staff have had the virus.
  •  We need to have this practice of non-quarantining cease immediately.
  • And the CEO of Air New Zealand might as well take the next flight out of this country and not come back.

Once again, Air New Zealand has screwed us over. As if the Erebus disaster and subsequent cover-up hadn’t been enough of a stain on their reputation.

God help us, was Simon Bridges right?

“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric”

Minister Robertson cannot ignore this shambles. It is putting us all at risk.

We’ve already had one death from a transmission by an Air New Zealand staffer.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,445

Cases in ICU: 3  (0 critical)

Number of deaths: 13

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References

Facebook: Simon Bridges – 20.4.20

RNZ:  Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) – health advice for the general public

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption (audio)

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 21 April

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Simon Bridges horrifically misreads the mood of the Nation – he may as well urinate on an ANZAC grave

The Standard:  When Bridges’ social media goes wrong

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 26

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 22 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 26

21 April 2020 1 comment

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April 20: Day 26 of living in lock-down…

Another day of to work. As usual. I’m observant of lock-down life around me. The sparse traffic; people’s movements; how close they are to each other. It’s a mix of curious interest and heightened caution…

The Park N Rise still has three cars parked. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the same three cars that have been there the last twentysix days. The white motorhome still parked where it was left two days ago.

Traffic on the highway in to Wellington was not much different than past few weeks; light in the Hutt Valley and sparser closer in to the city.

One unusual sight that caught my attention; a cargo ship had arrived in Wellington harbour;

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It was unusual because I had not seen any seagoing vessels entering or leaving the harbour since lock-down – so this new arrival was immediately an object of curiosity. The ship was stationary (anchor dropped?)  and not heading for a berth.

Could it be that it was an unwelcome visitor with a crew that might or might not be carrying contagion?

It is a long time in Western history that a ship has been denied permission to berth because it could harbour disease. If the crew are expected to quarantine aboard their vessel for two solid weeks, it will not be a comfortable experience for them. No walking around their neighbourhood to exercise for them!

At 11PM on RNZ, the Nine to Noon Political Panel featured Neale Jones and Trish Sherson. Former ACT press secretary, Ms Sherson, made the readily-obvious observation;

“…This election is going to be one of the most […] I describe it as emotional that we have had for so many decades.

Because for decades we’ve had government moving out of New Zealander’s lives. Now we’ve had a rapid rush back in and so it’s going to be very intreresting to see how that plays out.”

If anything has shown the true bankrupt nature of the free market/minimalist government ideology – it is when an outside threat to the human race demands a collective response. The Chicago School of Economics has been humbled not by the progressive Left – but by something we cannot even see. It has taken a virus – a microscopic thing barely alive – to remind us of our true human nature that to survive, we must work together for the common good.

Neo-liberalism just caught a virus – and it may not survive.

This afternoon, we had the regular announcement from the Beehive: nine new cases. Same as yesterday. No new ‘clusters’ of infection. And mercifully, no new deaths.

Dare we hope that we may have turned the tide against our viral enemy?

The 4pm announcement from the Beehive delivered a ‘verdict’ from the Prime Minister;

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the level 4 lockdown will be extended by a further five days to 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

“We have done what very few countries have been able to do, we have stopped the wave of devastation. Our transmission rate is now 0.48, overseas the average is 2.5 people,” Ardern said.

Changing alert levels region by region in future has not been ruled out, but for now, the country will need to stick together.

The education, construction, manufacturing and forestry sectors will be able to return to work next week when alert level 3 kicks in.

The basic principle of alert level 3 will again be to restrict contact with others, requiring people to remain at home in their bubble as much as possible.

In truth, she could not have made any other decision. We still need time to contain the virus so it is under control. Perhaps even eliminated from every part of our land. The extra five days not only gives us much-needed time – but it effectively includes the ANZAC Weekend in the Level 4 lock-down.

By keeping ANZAC Weekend under Level 4 instead of Level 3, there can be no ambiguity; no “grey areas”; no loop holes that will allow a small minority the chance to give the rest of us the One Fingered Salute.

I have no doubt the police will be out in force this weekend. There will likely be arrests and prosecutions of those selfish idiots who cannot be reasoned with to do the right thing for the greater good.

The extra time will also send a clear signal to businesses to start planning on re-opening – albeit for non-contact trading. No one in the business sector can claim they don’t know what’s going on. The PM has given the clearest possible message: start planning.

Personally, the prospect of not being able to see my partner (in person, not through the technological miracle of the Internet) is not something that fills me with joy.

But it has to be done. If we can’t submerge our own interests for the greater good, then the virus will be victorious.

The rest of my work day is subdued. My clients understand what our Prime Minister has delivered to us. The lock-down of the facility will be lifted any time soon. Movement in and out will continue to be restricted. Their lives may depend on it.

At 8PM, I’m on the motorway on my way home. As usual, there are few cars around me. One or two trucks. A police car whizzing past. Out in the harbour, the lights of the ship that arrived earlier today can be seen; it looks like a floating Wellington office-block, lit up with bright lights.

It may be there for a while yet.

Further along the motorway, I pass an ambulance, also heading north.

At Lower Hutt’s Melling Interchange, there are four more ambulances – heading south this time – and an ambulance/patient transfer SUV.

Six ambulances in one night.

New Zealand is so damned lucky and we are totally oblivious to our good fortune.

Had it not been for this government’s quick action in closing our borders on 19 March, those ambulances could have been hearses.

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Postscript

A Twitter poll initiated two days ago has yielded some interesting results. Agreed that such polls are not very accurate as they reflect more the beliefs of my “echo chamber”, but still nearly 79% want the lock-down extended (as at 10.50PM, 20 April) and a further number – around 9% – believe we should go with recommendations from scientists and medical professionals;

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Current covid19 cases: 1,440

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 12

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References

RNZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel commentators Jones & Sherson – 20.4.20

RNZ:  NZ to close its borders to anyone not a citizen or permanent resident, PM confirms

Twitter: @fmacskasy – L4 lockdown poll – 20.4.20

RNZ:  Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 20 April

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 21 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

20 April 2020 1 comment

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April 18: Day 24 of living in lock-down…

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m pulling another covering shift in the weekend. (Covering for a colleague whose presence at the facility has been deemed to be too high-risk.) The Park N Ride has one car, evidence that those using it are (hopefully) solely essential workers.

… and the white motorhome is back in it’s parked position. This time facing the other way;

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On the motorway, commercial traffic was sparse, but comprised (in part); a “Chemdry” van; “Fulton Hogan” roadworks truck, with yellow hazard strobe-lights flashing; ambulance; “ACM” Security van; “Mainfreight” truck; a fully-laden light gravel-truck; some other commercial vehicles with indeterminate company signage…

Traffic on SH2 was either the same or even marginally heavier than during the working-week.  At the Melling interchange, there were about a dozen cars in sight. Hopefully this was not an indication of more people beginning to ignore the Stay Home, Stay Local edict. By the time  I drove past Aotea Quay, traffic was once again sparse.

It was a reasonably fine Autumn day and there were quite a few people out and about walking the city streets, enjoying the fine weather.

At 1pm, the usual government media conference is replaced with a press release. New cases are still trending downward: 13 this time. No new  deaths, which is a blessing But still two people in intensive care – not so good.

At Kilbirnie, at 2.25pm, this fellow was sighted in his campervan, driving from the shopping area; along Cobham Drive; and then turning off at Shelley Bay;

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If community transmission of the contagion continues to spread because some folk refuse to understand the niceties of Level 4 Lock Down, it could be people like the above campervan driver we’ll be ‘thanking’. Especially if we have to keep businesses closed and stay home longer.

A note was duly sent of to 105.police.govt.nz.

Meanwhile, the last few days of lock-down have been increasingly rough for my flatmate. She’s not an essential worker so doesn’t share my privilege of having a legitimate excuse for being out and about. She makes hand-made items she sells at street markets – but those have closed for The Duration. She has no family in the Greater Wellington region – they’re all up north in Rotorua.

Except for me she is totally alone (and I’m out of the house about twelve to fourteen hours each day).

She has respected the Lockdown and her mental health is not the best for it. No doubt there are many others like her around the country. (Since then her situation has been resolved with Ministry of Health intervention.)

So when I see people flouting Lock Down for their own selfish pleasure, it’s annoys the bejeezus out of me.

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April 18: Day 24

Current covid19 cases: 1,422

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 11

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April 19: Day 25 of living in lock-down…

My day off. Had intended to have a good sleep-in… but forgot to turn off my radio-clock. *Doh!*

Did some house work, laundry. Re-potted an avocado plant I’d grown from the stone-seed. Picked up feijoas blown off my tree by the Autumn equinox gales. Went for a walk around my block.

Skyped my partner this morning. I had downloaded “Zoom” last night and used it instead of “Skype”. Whilst the image is better than Skype, Zoom is not that user-friendly and is not very clear how to invite and initiate a video call. After a bit of faffing about we managed to make contact and had a good, long chat. We talked about her workplace and how dropping to Level 3-plus would affect her staff.

A lot of small talk. Some good natured ribbing. I hold my cat up so she can say ‘meow’ to my partner.

It’s good to see her face, her smile, and hear her voice.

One of my Facebook contacts sends me a link to an opinion piece by right wing commentator, Damien Grant. Mr Grant shares us his ill-informed “reckons”  about Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Headed;

Coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield must step out of the Prime Minister’s shadow

— it‘s the usual idiocy from ill-formed rightwingers with a lot to say but precious little information, observations, or insights to offer. He makes the incredibly asinine assertion;

“Dr Bloomfield needs to assert his authority. He needs to step out of the Prime Minister’s shadow and remind the nation that these decisions are his and his alone.”

Which any school student will know is arrant rubbish.

Dr Bloomfield – whilst a very talented and highly respected professional – is a civil servant. He has responsibilities within the Ministry of Health.

But decision-making is the prerogative of Cabinet and the Prime Minister. They are our elected representatives. And whilst they take advice from good people like Dr Bloomfield, ultimately the decision-making rests with politicians. (That’s the way our system has worked since the Year Dot.)

Either Damien Grant has been badly informed on this subject or he is wilfully mischief-making for his National Party masters. Take your pick which.

Later, the PM and Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield hold their 1pm ‘presser’. The good news continues to hold: only nine new cases. Back to single figures! Hold my breath for the coming announcement of any new fatalities… none. (Though a death from last week has been re-designated covid19  related, taking our toll up to twelve.)

The PM announces that a decision will be made tomorrow at 4pm whether or not the Lock-down level will move at  Wednesday mid-night from 4 to 3-plus.  Personally, I would accept an extra week on L4. It means less “grey” areas of what people can do. And less inadvertent transmission by rule breakers.

Like this guy from 28 March (Day 3);

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— remember him? Dropped off two boys and then drove off.

Well, he was back again this afternoon. Dropped off the same two boys. Then left after five minutes. But in a different vehicle this time, minus his company branding;

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So the rules obviously don’t apply to some people? That’s a problematic lesson he’s teaching his young lads.

If we beat covid19, it will be in spite of people like that and the campervan driver yesterday. No thanks to them.

Meanwhile, I received an email from my employers. There was an attachment instructing optimal use for PPE gear; face masks, latex gloves, smocks…

I replied,

“We’re getting PPEs? Cool!

When?”

Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be flavour of the month.

Tonight, I’m going to forget about covid19, the pandemic, lock-down, etc.

I’m going to go “retro”  and watch the 1972 Arthur Jacobs movie, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. It’s about the world in the “future” in 1991. Apes have been brought into human households and ‘domesticated’ after all cats and dogs were wiped out by a pandemic plague…

Oh.

Bugger.

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April 19: Day 25

Current covid19 cases: 1,431

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 12

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Postscript

A light-hearted moment as a dozy right-wing American conspiracy theorist thoroughly demolishes his own  conviction that “covid19 is a lie” – by wearing mask, goggles, and full hazmat coveralls.

“B” for effort.

“F” for execution.

“A+” for LOLs.

(But still imminently suited to be next President of the United States.)

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Meanwhile, back to Reality. Remember folks;

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 – 13 new cases reported on Saturday

RNZ: Nine new Covid-19 cases – Community transmission key to lockdown decision

Must Read

NewstalkZB:  Heather du Plessis-Allan – This is a lockdown, not a holiday

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 20 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 23

18 April 2020 3 comments

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April 17: Day 23 of living in lock-down…

It’s a gray, cool, overcast Autumn day. Dead leaves are starting to cover my paths and lawns. Pretty much another ordinary Autumn day, like so many through my years, and years to come. Except it’s anything but ordinary as humanity experiences an event that will be a marker for the early part of the 21st Century.

It’s another work day. Same routine; drive past the Park N Ride; two cars. Along the main road to SH2 – and what do I see…?

A few days ago;

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This afternoon;

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One missing motorhome. Obviously the owner didn’t get the memo that it’s not Alert Level 2 just yet. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s back tonight, on my way home.

On the motorway, traffic seems marginally busier  than last week. Of course, it’s a subjective assessment based on observation, memory, and a bit of guesswork. Sighted; police car parked up on the side of the highway; Fulton Hogan roadworks truck; “ZAP” pest control van; “New World” heavy truck; “Toll” heavy truck and a “Toll” medium sized truck; a bin-hire truck with a skip-bin; a “Geeves” scaffolding truck; “Al’s Litta bins” flat deck truck; “Budget” rental light truck; “Precision” glazing van; “Packaging Products” truck; “Ministry of Plumbing” plumbers van; “Morepork” gravel-hauling truck; 2 “L.G. Anderson” container trucks; a gravel-hauling truck towing a small front-end loader; “Low Cost Bins” ute; “Beaurepairs” truck; an empty flat deck hi-ab truck; patient transfer ambulance SUV; “Downer” ute; “Westward” truck hauling various building materials; “Linfox” fuel tanker; “Central Group” forklifts and trucks branded truck; “Laser Plumbing” van; “Canon Hygiene” van; “Countdown” food delivery van; “MGI” van; “TIMG” van; “Allied Security” car; “ATMS” road works truck in Vivian Street, outside of Terrace Tunnel; “Spotless Catering” van; 2 police cars in Vivian Street; 2 “Cory’s” utes; Salvation Army Family Store truck; “ATMS” road works truck in Mt Victoria Tunnel; “Toll” truck in tunnel, “Owens” truck…

Traffic did seem a little heavier than previous weeks. Especially travelling through the Mt Vic tunnel, activity is on the increase, without doubt.

As I drove along Vivian Street headed toward the Eastern Subsurbs, I noticed how overgrown the green park was in front of the School of Architecture and Design building was starting to become. As in most post-apocalypse movies, urban scapes are soon reclaimed by nature’s relentless growth;

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Not quite the scene from the 2007 movie, I Am Legend

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— but given enough time…

This afternoon, more good news mixed with tragedy. New cases are the lowest since mid-March: eight. If this is accurate; if there are no asymptomatic cases floating around the country; and if the downward trend continues, Aotearoa New Zealand will have achieved what no other nation has: eliminating the virus from our borders.

This puts foolish, harping critics like  National’s Paul Goldsmith and ACT’s David Seymour in their proper place; as whining ‘Cassandras’ who are hell-bent on putting this country on a collision course with a virus outbreak along the lines of Italy, Spain, UK, USA, et al.

David Seymour made the astounding  suggestion that Australia was achieving “better results” than Aotearoa;

“Australia appears to be having its cake and eating it too, as it gets achieves better COVID-19 health outcomes than New Zealand with fewer restrictions on economic activity.”

Even the Mediaworks-Newshub article was misleading in its headline;

MPs question New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown as Australia’s lighter approach produces similar results

Misleading because it is not true. Australia has five times our population, but seven times our covid19 death toll;

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On 16 April, Australia had 6,447 cases of covid19.  As of 17 April, a day later, the figure had jumped to 6,523.

Australia’s death is also rising. On 16 April it stood at 63. As of today (18 April) covid19 has claimed 65 victims.

Yesterday, as our government was announcing plans to reduce our Alert Level from 4 to 3, Australia was announcing it was extending its lock-down by another four weeks. The UK was extending its lockdown by three weeks whilst Japan had declared a national state of emergency.

Mediaworks-Newshub reported;

National MP Paul Goldsmith is now questioning New Zealand’s approach, pointing out that the two nations have had similar results per capita.

Again, not true. The above infographic shows Australia’s death toll worse than Aotearoa’s. Mr Goldsmith is either ignorant of the facts; being mischievous for National’s political agenda, or is trying to use sheer will-power to magic-up his own version of reality.

Meanwhile, David Seymour continues to tout on behalf of business interests, picking away at lock-down-mandated closure of most retailers;

“It is not clear why a dairy with a one-in one-out policy can open, but other types of retail cannot and that will be damaging and in some cases devastating for those businesses for no clear public health gain.”

He says it’s “not clear”?!

Well, let me make it abundantly clear for Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour in simple, easy-to-comprehend terms;

“Germy bad. Make people sick. Germy make people die. Not good. People sad. Put people in ground. Other people cry.”

And here is a pretty crayon picture for Little David and Little Paul;

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There is very good reasoning behind the lock-down. The more people are out, the greater the risk of transmission. Spain, UK, Italy, and New York City have demonstrated with great clarity how transmission of this virus can explode out of control.

More retailers open means more people moving about in retail areas. The more people there are, the closer they get to each other. Social distancing is impossible when limited areas become crowded. (I have witnessed this on fine, sunny days around Oriental Bay when people flock to the wide footpaths to stroll, jog, and ride bikes. Social distancing quickly becomes unrealistic. And some just don’t care.)

Even supermarket’s can become become congested, as I discovered this afternoon (17 April) when shopping for groceries for an immuno-suppressed client.

This was the scene at the Kilbirnie Pak N Save Meats Section this afternoon at 2.30pm. No social distancing whatsoever;

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Worst still, this was the scene in just one aisle at Kilbirnie Pak N Save;

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Any notion of a 2 metre distancing (or even 1 metre!) became utterly unrealistic as clusters of people crowded the aisles. If one person in those aisles was carrying  covid19 and coughed or sneezed, it is likely several dozen shoppers would likely have been infected.

Ironically, there were staff at all entrances to the supermarket “controlling” entry. Yet, the aisles were crowded.

If Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour get their way, scenes like above will be repeated throughout the country, in every city, and every popular retailer. We cannot – must not – permit agenda-driven fools like Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour to have any influence with the government.

Or people will get sick.

And people will die.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,409

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 11

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  MPs question New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown as Australia’s lighter approach produces similar results

ABC:  Charting the COVID-19 spread in Australia

Sky News:  Australia in lockdown for another four weeks – PM

RNZ:  UK lockdown extended while Japan declares national emergency

RNZ:  Act Party leader David Seymour gives govt dressing down over retail sector restrictions

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Coronavirus developments in New Zealand on 17 April

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

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Acknowledgement: Steve Ditko (?)

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

17 April 2020 2 comments

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April 16: Day 22 of living in lock-down…

Fifteen new cases reported today, definitely a downward trend. Best of all, no further deaths. Our government and our Prime Minister are on the right track.

Meanwhile, Barry Soper has joined a small, select group of foolish people (predominantly middle aged, privileged white men) who continue to belittle the government’s efforts – and considerable success – to contain and eliminate covid19. I won’t link to his Herald article. But suffice it to say he has joined a tiny, irrelevant-but-noisy clique of ‘cup-a-soup’ instant-experts who whinge that our success at containing the virus indicates our leaders “went to far”.

It indicates no such thing.

It demonstrates that our leaders did what they were supposed to. Unlike the Orange Moron who squats in the White House’s Oval Office, who rails against others; blaming them for the disaster over-taking the United States,  and refusing to accept responsibility for his gross ineptitude.

These armchair experts point to Australia and Sweden as models we should have copied.

Let’s look at Australia and Sweden, and compare to Aotearoa New Zealand;

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Australia’s population is five times ours – but their death rate is seven times higher.

Sweden, which opted for no lock-down (and may now be regretting it) has a population a little over twice ours – but their covid19 death toll is a staggering 134 times ours.

Which underscores the craziness of critics with agendas and armchair “experts” who claim Aotearoa New Zealand “over-reacted”. This graph – whilst not 100% scientific, is still a bloody accurate illustration of wilful human absurdity;

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Acknowledgement: @gdinwiddie

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Whatever garbage Barry Soper, Mike Hosking, Gareth Morgan, Simon Bridges, “Dr” Simon Thornley, et al, are peddling does not gel with the reality that our death rate is inarguably lower than Australia’s or Sweden’s.

In an exercise of bizarre reverse-logic, they have confused our success rate with the notion that we “over reacted”. Without doubt our low death rate is a result of considered measures based on sound science and mathematics.

If our lower death rate is a “failure”, I look forward to  celebrating a “failure” rate of zero new infections and zero deaths.

New Zealanders can count themselves fortunate we have the steady leadership of Prime Minister Ardern to guide us through this crisis.

Now imagine if Barry Soper, Mike Hosking, Gareth Morgan, Simon Bridges, and “Dr” Simon Thornley were in charge. No, I don’t want to either.

No details of any travel around the Hutt Valley and Wellington – today was a sick day spent at home.

But I did get the opportunity to watch Prime Minister Ardern’s 1pm public address this afternoon. Then RNZ’s Checkpoint. Unfortunately, what followed next were the usual gormless questions and whining; “Why can’t I go hunting if they can go swimming? Why can’t I leave my bubble to go live in my other home? Can I hug my mum? Why can’t my [insert business here] open?Why can’t I XYZ?”

Up till now I never realised just how childishly whiney some supposed adults can be. Even teenagers would roll their eyes in exasperation.  A zombie apocalypse starts to look like a refreshing, welcome change.

Personally, I doubt if we should be faffing around with jumping from Level to Level. For one thing it breeds confusion. The gormless questions read out by Lisa Owen on Checkpoint is plenty of proof of that. Secondly, it is hard to enforce. Level Four was more back and white. Level Three-Plus has a wide-ranging gray area.

We should stick to Level Four and drive this damnable virus to extinction (hey, it’s us or It!); and then come off the Level System entirely. That would provide more certainty. And drive Hosking, Soper, Bridges, Seymour, Thornley, et al, into fits of apoplexy. (Payback for having to hear/listen to their ignorant witterings over the last three weeks.)

Let’s hope our esteemed PM and her team know what they’re doing.

After which we can look at re-building what’s left of the economy; holding a Commission of Inquiry (not for blame-gaming but to see how we can do better next time); and reform welfare and/or implement a UBI. We had to do too much ad hoc tinkering to the welfare system as it groaned under the burden of thousands losing their jobs.

Though on the positive side, a whole bunch of middle class folk suddenly discovered that welfare was not the “luxury lifestyle” many right-wing pundits and polis have lied about.

The other issue for a Commission is to look at how well prepared our health sector was. I believe we got through this not by studious pandemic-planning by Higher-Ups, but by the sheer guts and initiative shown by health workers on the ground. And while we’re about it, let’s look into DHBs. Some of their behaviour needs scrutiny.

All too early, as yet, but after the crisis is over there will remain much work to do.

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Postscript:

Also agitating to open up our economy; this character. I’m guessing a bit of self-interest involved?!

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Current covid19 cases: 1,401

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

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References

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

RNZ:  Fifteen new cases of Covid-19 in NZ, no further deaths

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 21

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April 15: Day 21 of living in lock-down…

Washing machine hose replaced, I can get through a week’s worth of laundry. Washed, hung out to dry. Though our world has been turned on it’s axis to a strange new reality, the mundane things in life (mostly) carry on. Dirty laundry waits for no virus.

Listened to to National Party Leader Simon Bridges this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report.

Firstly, Mr Bridges: for the love of Thor, please stop thrashing the word “agile”.

Secondly, his “mixed messages” of re-opening business “next week” and “and safely letting more business and workers get back onto it” should ring alarm bells in us all.

Without much doubt, he was representing, and speaking for, business interests:

“When we think about the health effect of staying in lockdown, I’m coming to a pretty clear view … that we should come out of lockdown next week and we should be working to safely to get businesses and workers back.

I do want to get to (alert level) 2 … we are trying to get that business and work back, but … I am realistic. I am not suggesting suddenly that we are going to be at 2 overnight. I do say though that we should be agile and trying to get there.

I’d say when the Cabinet makes the decision next week, I’d opt for coming out and safely letting more business and workers get back onto it because the consequences of not doing it are so harmful.”

The social and health consequences of rampant unemployment are intolerable.”

Mr Bridges pointed to the Australian experience with covid19 as some sort of model to follow;

“I do look at that Australian experience where baristas are still making coffee and builders are still building and they’re getting the same sort of health outcomes as us…”

When Corin Dann pointed out their death rate was highter, Mr Bridges dismissed the figures;

“Well, yes, look, you can make your comparisons… and, and, and, actually, you go, um, um, total numbers are very similar, fatalities I would argue are similar…”

No, Mr Bridges, you cannot “argue” with numbers. Numbers are numbers. “Six” is similar to “seven” only in that one follows the other. “Nine” is likewise not even remotely similar to “sixtyone” – they aren’t even close.

“Nine” is the number of deaths announced yesterday (14 April) in New Zealand.

“Sixtyone” is the latest number of deaths in Australia.

To put these numbers in context:

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Despite Australia being five times our population, their reported death rate is seven times ours.

Is that the country we should be emulating? One would have thought it would be the other way around. I know New Zealanders have a self-deprecating, cringe-culture thing going on, but looking at another country with a higher mortality rate than ours is taking that to a whole new lethal level.

We should be proud of what we have achieved. Not look overseas to model on a situation that has a higher death rate than ours. (Well, not unless Mr Bridges has a secret agenda to thin the population by knocking of Granny, Grandad, all the diabetics, immuno-compromised, and probably a few of the healthy ones and young’uns. Then it all makes perfect sense.)

I have mulled over Simon Bridges’ comments and his past utterances. He claims to be “tough” on covid19 by demanding more stringent border controls;

“Today’s move to limit mass gatherings was a positive step forward from the Government and I urge it to now go further and close our borders. The EU has closed its borders but it was too late to stop widespread community outbreak. We can’t make the same mistake. We are a small isolated nation and we should take advantage of our geographical position.”

Except… Closing our borders is a fait accompli. There is almost no more international air travel  except for military and mercy-flights. Tourism has collapsed. Governments, businesses, NGOs, non-profit organisations, etc, no longer send their people to conferences. Families remain separated.

The skies are all but empty. (Stand in Miramar, Strathmore, or Kilbirnie in Wellington in the evening. Hear anything? No, neither did I tonight. It was an eerie total silence not heard since the airport was built  in Wellington.)

There is no one to stop at our borders because (with the except of mercy flights) no one is coming. So in effect, Mr Bridges’ call is meaningless;  he’s demanding something that’s already happened. No real investment required in that particular decision making.

What is troubling is his call to re-open the economy and drop down to Level 2.

Make no mistake. Simon Bridges has gone from being a clownish, slightly-irritating figure we love to ridicule – to a frightening politician who could do irreparable harm and perhaps cause fatalities if he was anywhere near the Ninth Floor and his open-the-doors-at-any-expense policies implemented.

We should understand one thing: he has pressing concerns and a clear agenda. Very little of which includes our safety.

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This afternoon, we watched the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, give their daily 1pm public briefing. The news was good(ish). A slight rise in new cases – 20 –  but most importantly, no more deaths. There was a silent sigh of relief amongst us.

The fact that the contagion has entered aged care facilities  is troubling. While ours is not an aged care facility, our clients do have varying levels of health and under-lying conditions. I don’t quite know how, but we’ve dodged the viral bullet thus far.

On the way home tonight, I stepped out from the side door of the facility I work at. It was another still, unearthly quiet evening.

Except for some knocking on a door on some flats adjacent to us. A middle aged (late 50s, 60s?) pakeha gent, in working clothes and a red baseball cap was standing there, tapping away with his hands. As I walked past, he turned to look at me. I looked at him. Or rather, his red baseball cap. It was a “MAGA” cap.

The lettering was starkly visible in the porch light; “Make Ardern Go Away”.

I had not seen him at the flats before this night (and I’ve worked at the facility for over a year and a half). The “MAGA”-hat wearing fellow was almost certainly breaking his “bubble”.

I have news for him, and it’s not good. Ms Ardern will not “Go Away”. And it probably won’t make the virus go either.

Later this night, as I drove back home, I realised I could no longer defer my weekly shopping. Visiting the supermarket has now become a thing of dread. When did going to Pak N Save become like venturing onto a battlefield, fearing the next bullet or bomb that would snuff out my life?

Especially as I had latex gloves, but my remaining two face-masks were back at the facility I work at.

Of all the things that I find disturbing (aside from the deaths of people who’ve fallen victim to this invisible enemy), is venturing into a public place that I have little choice in visiting. The moment I walk through the sliding doors, my senses are on high alert. I have to be wary of people around me. Most keep to their two  metre space-bubble, but with difficulty. Even supermarket aisles are difficult to maintain that spacing.

Some don’t care or forget.

And if I’m 100% truthful, on one ocassion, I was in the latter group. I forgot the etiquette; and walked to closely past a gentleman who let me in on an adjacent check-out queue. I deserved the stare he gave me.

I don’t want this hideous wary-existence to continue. But if it’s to save lives, I’ll choose Level 4 over Level 2 any day.

So should Simon Bridges.

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Postscript

Check out the legend – TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrickwho publicly made a fool out of National’s Leader.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,386

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

 

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References

RNZ:  National Party leader Simon Bridges calls for work to restart ‘safely’ after lockdown

BBC:  Coronavirus – Nurse Areema Nasreen dies with Covid-19

Gulf News:  Coronavirus – Healthy 13-year-old boy becomes UK’s youngest COVID-19 death

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus: Simon Bridges calls for complete border shutdown for all non-residents

Twitter: Chris Change – Kevin Kenrick – 15 April 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 update – 20 new cases, no further deaths reported

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 16 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 19

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April 13: Day 19 of living in lock-down…

Nineteen new cases – that’s the good news. (But only if the low testing numbers over Easter have not skewed the results downwards.)

Another death – the not-so-good news we all dreaded.

The daily 1pm pressers have become a quasi pandemic lotto announcement. We await new figures with all the morbid fascination of driving slowly past a car crash, and trying to make sense of the mangled metal wrecks.

Tomorrow will be a return to a normal (or what passes for “normal” these days) and the next few days will confirm if the down trend is an accurate reflection of what’s happening – or simply the result of a long weekend.

Meanwhile the roads continue to be near-deserted and the streets equally vacant. Coming home tonight, I played “Alargo: Central Plateau“, a haunting piece of music from New Zealand musicians Kingsley Melhuish and Alan Brown. An apt piece to play, driving home in the dark, streets emptied of vehicles and people by an enemy we cannot see, hear, or touch.

An acquaintance told me she’s  come to appreciate the lock-down. It has made her life simpler, taking her back to her childhood when things weren’t as commercialised and hectic as they were nearly three weeks ago. I recall the world we used to live in pre-1984; shops open five days a week; city streets near-empty; shops closed in the weekend except Dairies, petrol stations,  and movie theatres. Now we don’t even have the movie theatres (though super markets have slipped through the time warp).

And it’s true. Wellington under lock-down is pretty much as I recall Saturdays and Sundays before the advent of almost non-stop retail activity.

In the suburbs, families with kiddies barely able to ride their trikes or scooters have reclaimed the near empty roads. They literally have become family-friendly. That’s a good thing – right?

Also the quietness. Few trucks. Airplanes are rarely in the sky. There are moments when there is nothing except the rustling of trees or birdlife or a dog. And when you do pass people out for a walk – despite the two metre “social distancing”, we’re actually looking at each other and sharing that secret “we’re-in-this-together” knowing smile.

Covid19 has given us a glimpse of what living could be if we just slowed down a bit; if we hadn’t exchanged a less frenetic life for the dubious “freedom” to shop-till-we-drop.

Commentators have suggested that the human race’s momentary “pause” might give us all an opportunity to re-think our values and the kind of world we want to live in. I doubt that. The moment humanity is able to get back on the treadmill, it will do so – and sadly at a faster pace. The frentic, commercialised life we’ve been living has been like a drug; too alluring to give up easily. We may’ve had to temporarily give up our “fix”, but our “dealers” will be back once the dust has settled…

On a relatively positive note, the government has leased nearly a thousand motel unit to house the homeless during the lock-down;

Minister for Housing Megan Woods said nearly 500 units were already filled and each unit could contain one person or a family.

“As of Thursday evening, 962 motel units in 15 towns and cities across New Zealand had been secured and made available, and 496 units already have homeless and vulnerable people living in them,” she said.

Government agencies were working very closely with iwi, community housing providers such as Housing First, Māori organisations, and local government to fill the remaining units, Woods said.

She praised the various community groups for their dedication and speed.

“In the last two weeks, there has been a massive effort to connect people who are homeless and living rough, with accommodation and social services.

“Many have been living on the streets or in unsuitable places where social distancing was not possible.”

But as Piki Martini – homeless for eighteen months – sadly revealed;

We’ve been living in a car and a tent before here. It’s just quite sad that now everyone wants to worry about the homeless when this Covid-19 has come in, before then we were just everywhere.”

She has a point. Despite this government’s best (?) efforts, homelessness and over-crowding continues to be a blight on our society. It is troubling that the wheels-of-the-State move faster only when those Who Have may be threatened by Those Who Have Not, as potential disease-carriers.

Meanwhile,  National’s housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor, raised the same question: what happens after the pandemic is no longer a pressing crisis?

Unfortunately (for him) his faux-concern was little more than jaw-dropping, eye-ball rolling, stomach-turning hypocrisy;

“There’s a risk here that just if you house the homeless, in a few weeks or months time, the government makes them homeless again.” – Simon O’Connor, National Party Housing Spokesperson, 12 April 2020

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Let me just ‘put it out there’ that National should be the last to lecture us on homelessness. From 2008 until their admission of a “housing challenge“in 2016, National did nothing except open the floodgates to immigration, putting pressure on existing housing stock; reduce State housing by 7,400 units, and buy motels to put a roof over the heads of desperate families.

Mr O’Connor would do well to keep his head down. He and his former inept government exacerbated an ongoing housing crisis that will take a decade to fix.

His hypocrisy is unhelpful, to put it politely. Or if that doesn’t work, less politely.

Meanwhile, today, our Prime Minister – the Leader the rest of the world would dearly love to have as their own – continued to raise our spirits; keep hope alive; and admonish (like naughty children who’ve been pinching from the biscuit-jar) those who’ve been flouting the rules. As she rightly reminded us all, every time someone flouts the rules, the risk of transmission increases. And the risk of death to highly vulnerable people is made much worse.

As Ms Ardern reminded errant “children” for the umpteenth time, “it took just one case to spread among others“.

This evening, after coming home; stringently washing my hands, I made a light snack for myself. Indulged in eating too many feijoas from my tree, and Skyped my partner. Or rather, I could see her, but not vice versa. My camera? Skype itself? Gremlins in the system?

I teased her about her knitted beanie;

“It reminds me of Ena Sharples, from ‘Coronation Street.”

She promptly fired back;

“Filters, Frank, filters!”

Oh;

“Ah, yes, my filters.  Initiating Lie Programme…

Your. Beanie. Looks. Very. Nice.”

Humour. In lieu of a vaccine, it’ll have to do as our “best medicine”.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,349

Cases in ICU: 4 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 5

 

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References

NZ Musician: Alargo – Central Plateau

RNZ: Covid-19 lockdown – Nearly 1000 motel units available for homeless

TVNZ: Government paying to house homeless in motels during Covid-19 lockdown

RNZ: ‘Housing ‘challenge’ still not a ‘crisis’

Noted/North & South:  The economics of immigration in NZ

NZ Herald:  Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Washington Post: New Zealand isn’t just flattening the curve. It’s squashing it.

RNZ: Fifth death from Covid-19 in New Zealand reported

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 18

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April 12: Day 18 of living in lock-down…

The news today sounds good; “only” eighteen new cases. The lowest so far in a week. However, with testing far lower than usual because of the Easter Weekend, the fear is that the low number is misleading and we simply haven’t picked up more. Tuesday’s 1pm “presser” will give us a clearer picture hopefully.

Sunday is my one day off and aside from a few activities, I plan to do – nothing. At 9am I watch Jack Tame present the week’s Q+A. Guests today are Dr Ayesh Verrall, an Infectious Diseases Physician and senior lecturer at the  Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine in Wellington. She shares her knowledge and insights on covid19 and what we might expect from the contagion.

She is followed by Chris Hipkins, Minister for Education, on how schools will gradually re-open. There is talk of children observing the 2 metre rule. I shake my head at the naiveté of this. The only kids who isolate others are cliques who happen to be ostracising their chosen target-of-the-day.  Anyone who things kids will observe the 2 metre rules when many adults forget or can’t be bothered, don’t understand young people.

There is discussion surrounding foreign students (or lack thereof) and how schools and Universities will cope without their income. Jack Tame ask if government will pick up the tab for the shortfall.

The question should be why we ever allowed education to be corporatised and turned into a commodity in the first place. Oh yeah, tax cuts. Well, I think the fragility of relying on overseas students to top up our education funding has been exposed for the rort that it is.

Chris Hipkins may have let slip that the government intends to drop down to Level 3 Alert at some near stage by pointing out that “going from Level 4 to Level 3 doesn’t mean things get back to normal”.

Chris Hipkins is followed by James Shaw with discussion on planned water reforms. Evidently Federated Farmers want reforms put on hold because of the current crisis and it’s putting too much pressure on their members.

Wait, what?

But, but, but… I thought farmers were already doing the water reforms themselves?!

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James Shaw was asked about deferring the election from 19 September to November. His wise response: it’s up to the Electoral Commission to decide, not politicians. Which sounds fairly reasonable considering that bother NZ First and National want to defer the elections for purely venal,  selfserving reasons the good of the country, of course. *rolls eyes*

James Shaw was adamant that climate change was still a threat that must be tackled as urgently as before. He pointed out the massive costs to future generations of not just paying back the colossal debts incurred by the pandemic crisis, but also damage which will inevitably flow from climate change. Double hit to our children.

The panellists consisted of fellow Daily Blogger and Auckland City Councillor, Efeso Collins, and NZ Herald financial journalist, Fran O’Sullivan.

Efeso Collins pointed out the folly of lifting the lock-down too early and the resurgence of covid19 in countries where they had had prematurely.

Fran O’Sullivan was having none of businesses whinging that the government should be drawing up plans for them for the lifting of the lock-down. She told them to do their own planing and they should be doing it now. She was adamant that businesses have a responsibility for planning and not to rely on central government laying down the rules. (Oh, the irony…)

Fran O’Sullivan said that Simon Bridges and the National Party will have to re-calibrate their economics policy, in the light of the massive damage inflicted by the pandemic.

Efeso Collins agreed with Winston Peters that the election should be postponed to 21 November.

Both agreed that Prime Minister Ardern should have sacked David Clark on the spot.

After Q+A, some light lunch with feijoas off my tree; and then take the car to fuel up at the local Waitomo outlet.

Then a look at what’s been happening in the media…

RNZ reported a poll carried out by Research NZ that showed the over-whelming number of New Zealanders would agree to extending the lock-down by a further two weeks if it were necessary;

Agreed they would: 60%

Disagreed: 14%

Didn’t know: 26% 

Sixtypercent showed a high level of support.

The poll also disclosed;

…87 percent felt most New Zealanders were observing restrictions on movement. This week it has fallen to 79 percent.

“What that’s telling me is that more New Zealanders are thinking that other people are not observing the restrictions. Perhaps that’s got to do with some of the media coverage we are seeing.”

In relation to police getting tougher, 85 percent agreed and 72 percent said a 10pm curfew should be introduced to restrict any unnecessary travel.

When it comes to other people not observing the restrictions, it’s hardly surprising with the statistics released by Police;

847 breaches of the Covid-19 lockdown rules, comnprising of,

109 prosecutions

717 warnings

21 youth referrals

Those are disturbing numbers. Especially as they appear to be an increase from last week; “367 breaches on April 8, with 45 prosecutions and 309 warnings“.

What should be even more troubling is how many are escaping detection? If even one percent of those 847  breaches carried a covid19 infection, that’s potentially up to eight people wandering around spreading infection.

Worse still is Police time and resources being wasted by self-indulgent idiots, not just breaching lock-down, but holding full-on parties;

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And then, this fiasco and example of stunning moronic behaviour;

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It appears from various media reports that not only are people flouting the life-saving lock-down, but are taking the piss when it comes to the Police;

Over the duration of the lockdown period, police have received thousands of reports relating to Alert Level 4 restriction breaches and police have been following up this information, with enforcement action being taken in some instances.”

Glossop said officers cannot attend every job but priority is given to jobs where there is an immediate risk to people or property.

Vehicles were in the car park, where people often leave their cars before doing a loop track in the nearby Department of Conservation reserve. 

Ged Blackbourn, who lives nearby, said he had seen the car park full at times.  Police had occasionally visited to drive people away, but it quickly filled up again, he said.

When Police follow through on only 109 prosecutions out of 847 breaches – a 13% enforcement/prosecution rate –  what else do they expect the idiot to do?  Of course they will persist in flouting the rules.

Let me point out that if I’m 10kms an hour over the speed limit on the motorway and I get “pinged” by a radar van or police in a car, the ticket/prosecution rate is: 100%.

I do not get a warning. Not “advice” on how to drive safely. The ticket is issued without discussion.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could speed at 110kph if I’m late to work, knowing there was only a 13% chance I’d get prosecuted if caught?!?! So why treat the flouters of the lock-down any different?!

Maybe I’m not privileged enough. Like these guys;

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Note this bit:  “Officials are begging people who aren’t already on Auckland city’s islands to stay where they are.”

So if rule breakers are white Middle Class boat-owners, officials have to “beg” them to comply with the rules?

When is the last time WINZ/MSD “begged people” when it came to questioning their welfare entitlements?

If I may misquote from “Cool Hand Luke“;

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If/when we beat covid19, it will be no thanks to these people.

Next item on the agenda: the so-called “Taxpayers Union”, a thinly-disguised front for the National/ACT Party. The TU is calling for salary cuts in the state sector;

Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke said “We’re asking the public sector to fairly share the burden of the economic crunch by cancelling all pay hikes until the economy has recovered. We’re also asking elected officials, public sector CEOs*, and their leadership teams** to take a 12-month twenty percent pay cut.”

“A temporary salary reduction for those paid the most in the public sector would be a prudent and compassionate response to the pressures faced by households and businesses across New Zealand. Business leaders predict unemployment to rise to around ten percent in the coming months, and private sector bosses are taking financial haircuts to limit the impact on lower earners.”

“The average public sector salary is around a third higher than that of the private sector. They also have the luxury of far higher job security. A twenty percent pay cut is a small sacrifice in these extraordinary times when so many New Zealanders are losing their jobs.”

Which is so ironic that it beggars belief. It was only 36 years ago that neo-liberalism swept through Aotearoa; state assets were privatised; and a corporate ethos introduced into government departments and local bodies. The parroted justification given by the Right when discussing high salaries for the State sector and Local Body bosses is that they have to compete with the corporate sector.

The Right introduced corporate-style “market rates” for state sector/local body bosses. Not anyone else. They did this.

Indeed, this was the very point of the State Sector Act 1988.

And now a bunch of Right wingers who have just accepted state funding – money from the tax payer

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–have the colossal cheek to complain about bloated state sector salaries?! Their hypocrisy, like our Universe, is boundless. They are not to be taken seriously; they are charlatans. [Hat-tip: Martyn Bradbury]

Meanwhile to cap off a day when we should have been celebrating the decline (hopefully) of a microscopic foe, this reminds us that where there is brilliance – there is also crass dumbness;

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— which – bizarrely – is the polar opposite to what he wrote on 23 March;

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Curious.

Are there two Gareth Morgans with differing opinions? (Poor cats!)

Has he been sipping one shandy too many, perhaps?

Or maybe, like Bob Jones, he’s just plain losing/lost the plot…?

As before, I am reminded that what I fear most is not a highly contagious virus that has killed over 109,000 people…

… but the irrationality of some of my fellow human beings.

But to end on a lighter note, I offer this witty piece from Andrew Gunn;

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Current covid19 cases: 1,330

Cases in ICU: 5 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 4

 

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Big improvement by dairy farmers to protect waterways, says report

RNZ: Most New Zealanders willing to extend Covid-19 lockdown ‘pain’ – survey

TVNZ: More than 800 breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules with 109 prosecutions

TVNZ: Six people arrested for fighting at Auckland party during lockdown

Fairfax/Stuff:  Ambulance stuck in sand after vehicle rolls at Foxton Beach during coronavirus lockdown

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Boaties ignoring lockdown orders slammed as ‘pirates’

Scoop:  Campaign Launched – Public Sector Pay Cuts For COVID-19 Relief

NZ History:  The 1980s – 1988 – key events

Mediaworks/Newshub: Coronavirus – Taxpayers’ Union gives up ‘ideological purity’, accepts $60,000 in taxpayer wage subsidies

Twitter: Gareth Morgan – lock down – 12 april 2020

Twitter: Gareth Morgan – lock down – 23 March 2020

Fairfax/Stuff: Somewhere on the road between Tauranga and Wellington, a Zoom meeting

RNZ:  Covid-19 wrap – What happened on 12 April, Easter Sunday

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Other Blogs

The Daily  Blog:  The Taxpayers’ Union, the great champions of the free market are taking Government Money

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 13 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 17

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April 11: Day 17 of living in lock-down…

The good news: new cases of covid19 is down again, to 29. That’s another fall since yesterdays unexpected spike of 44.

The bad news: two more people have passed away from the virus. Both in older age group and both with underlying medical conditions.

The hopeful news: that if new cases continue to drop until we reach nil, we may have driven this virus to extinction (at least here in in Aotearoa) by the time lock-down is set to lift on 23 April. After that, until a vaccine is created or – more unlikely – covid19 is eliminated from the face of this planet, the entire country will be in semi-self-isolation. International travel will remain but a fond memory as few people will want to be put into a mandatory two week quarantine after arriving here. (And there will be bleatings galore from David Seymour, the tourism sector – or what’s left of it – and vote-chasing mischief-makers in the  National Party and it’s fellow-travellers.)

Meanwhile, to counter the  irresponsible shrill clamour from National, ACT, and the business lobby, to re-open commercial activities before the four weeks lock-down is completed – or even portions thereof – Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has urged the world not to act precipitously by abandoning restrictions;

″I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone.

At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”

Do we listen to the science-based health professionals? Or vote-chasing politicians and profit-driven businesspeople? (That should not even be a question.)

This morning for me should have been one of my days-off weekend. But it was another work day as I filled in for a colleague whose “bubble” is simply too large and risky to allow him to interact with our clients. If covid19 got into our facility at least two, maybe three, people would not survive. And myself and five of my colleagues would be in self-isolation for two weeks. Six more pieces removed from the board, to use a chess analogy.

I’m not due to start till 3pm, so that gives me time to sort out a tap fitting/connector for my washing-machine. I realised later in the day yesterday that a visit to Mitre10 would be out of a question. They are restricted to tradespeople only (which I 100% endorse). So snap a few pics of the part I need; take measurements; look up the actual name, and then send through the info to Hutt Gas & Plumbing. I get a reply; they can provide the part on Tuesday. Sorted.

Next, at 11am I skype my partner. The internetty thingy is acting up and it takes several minutes to connect. Is this what the telephone service was like a century ago?

We finally connect and we soon chat away for the next hour. She’s been keeping stringently to her “bubble” and most of her day has been filled with an early morning walk around her immediate neighbourhood and working on her remnant stand of native forest “garden”. Kaka’s, Tui, Pīwakawaka, and other birds love her area.

Later this evening she will make her once-a-week visit to her local supermarket.

We have just under two weeks to go before we can do something as simple as have dinner together or go to the movies.

In the early afternoon, I hit the road. It’s a bright, sunny, warm  day with only a few clouds in the sky. The Park N Ride carpark is, again, empty.  People are about, walking. With such minimal traffic it’s quiet and peaceful.

The white motorhome is unmoved. Even after lock-down is over, whether extended or not, my gaze will now automatically be looking for this large vehicle parked on a main thoroughfare connecting my suburb to SH2.

On the road, traffic is light all the way into Wellington. There are only a handful of cars sharing the road with me at any given moment.  Vehicles noticed; 6 police cars; a skip-bin truck; a double-tandem “Pacific” branded fuel tanker; ambulance; a “Supreme” towing truck (the same clown who tailgated me yesterday, I wonder?); a “Linfox” truck-cab, minus it’s trailer; “Spotless Catering” ute; “EnviroWay” rubbish (or ecycling?) truck; a “Wellington Water” van”; several utility vehicles, company branded heading the opposite way; 2 “Countdown” food trucks; “Fish Factory” light truck, and a few others.

Traffic in Wellington was marginally busier than yesterday. The supermarkets will be open today, attracting people out of their homes. The weather was markedly cooler in town than the Hutt Valley; cloudier and chillier.

Outside Chaffers St New World supermarket, there was a long queue of people waiting to enter. Social distancing was well-practiced.

Both sandy beaches  at Oriental Bay were deserted;

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The Evans Bay Marina Carpark appeared to have the same number of camper vans as the last few days.

Between my home and Miramar, I had seen more police cars than any other given days since Lock-down.

At work, a colleague and I discussed the near non-existent pandemic protocols we had been operating under at the beginning of the Lock-down. Hardly surprising; 99% of the entire country (the entire world!) was unprepared. After cessation of the State of Emergency and lifting of lock-down, we considered that a full written de-brief would be essential so organisations like ours could put in place a ready-made plan for when (not if!) the next pandemic arose.

Management were woefully ill-prepared for the current emergency and the response – ad hoc as it appeared to be – was led by workers on the ground, at the coal-face. The moment Level 4 was implemented, our facility was sealed off to the public; non-permanent staff; and even management from our organisation. We had limited tools; a few boxes of latex gloves; some disinfectant; and three bottles of hand-sanitiser ‘squirrelled away’ in our Emergency Disaster Kit.

But what we did have plenty of were our wits; initiative; and commitment to get the job done. And all the while, carrying out all our normal duties as well as keeping our clients safe, calm, and reassured.

Righto, sorted.

(Management caught up with us a week later.)

The lock-down of our facility is now the “new norm”. Our clients are used to it – perhaps even reassured that the stringent measures we’ve taken is for theirs (and ours) benefit.

That night, on my way home, traffic was again light. Playing a “game”, I counted the number of vehicles I sighted whilst driving from Miramar to the Terrace Tunnel: around 45. It was a Saturday night, around 8.15pm.

Before heading home, I made my weekly trip to the supermarket. Not that I needed much, this time. Goods purchased I arrived home. First thing; leave shoes outside. Then, getting through the door, after dropping the grocery bags; a full 20 second hand wash. Then empty all items onto kitchen bench. Packaged goods studiously wiped clean with disinfectant. Fresh produce, washed under running water; shake of water; rinse again.

Then wipe entire bench with disinfectant. Cloth in soaking bucket.

Put the jug on for a cup of Chai Tea.

Relax.

Welcome to the world of 2020AD.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,312

Cases in ICU: 5  (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 4

 

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

RNZ:  More industry and small businesses could reopen – National

SBS: Hasty virus lockdown lift could spark ‘deadly resurgence’ – WHO

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Coronavirus death toll rises to four in New Zealand

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

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Acknowledgement: @twisteddoodles

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

11 April 2020 15 comments

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April 10: Day 16 of living in lock-down…

And the news is not good. Another death, this time an elderly woman in a rest home. With 44 new cases, a rise from the steadily declining numbers since Monday, the struggle is far from  over.

Friday is Good Friday, but there’s nothing much “good” about it. In normal times the roads would have been clogged with traffic last night and today. Far from it; they appear mostly empty. The Park N Ride in my area usually has between two to four cars each day since lock-down. Today it is empty.

On my way to the highway, I drive past the white motorhome. It’s still parked in position.

The few commercial vehicles I do spot; a light truck, unmarked, carrying firewood; a “Supreme” towing truck (which tailgated me for several kilometres – on an all but empty stretch of highway! Driver of tow-truck, rego, “WE TØW”, you need to learn to keep your distance! Otherwise your next rego plate may be “WE CRSH”);

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–a van marked “Optare”; “Pacific” branded ute; a Hyundai traffic radar van north of Belmont; “First Security” car; “Absolute Control” branded van; 2 ambulances; several recreational bicyclists; a police car heading my opposite way, north, with flashing lights and siren; more bicyclists on the harbour highway south of Petone; a “Mainfreight” truck; an ambulance; a “K9 Explosive Detector Dog” ute;

Commercial traffic on the roads is light; most of the traffic are cars. It’s a fine sunny day; barely any clouds in the sky. People are out and about, walking.At the SH58 interchange traffic is still light; three cars to me rear; one in front.  North of Melling Interchange traffic has thinned to maybe one or two cars in my field of vision. A few families are dotted along the Hutt River, on the stoney banks enjoying the autumn sun; all are well spaced apart. South of the Melling interchange, there were occasions when the highway was utterly empty of traffic.

The harbour was beautifully calm with plenty of sun shining over Wellington City;

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In normal times this would be cause for joy. But these are not normal times and fine weather bring out people onto the roads, footpaths, beaches, parks, etc. Not good places to be in times of pandemic.

It was reassuring that not one single recreational boat (or any other craft) could be seen on the water.

Approaching the Terrace Tunnel, traffic remained light, with perhaps only half a dozen vehicle behind me and nothing in front. This  is in stark contrast to normal holidays periods and weekend when the approach roads to the tunnel are actually busier than during the working week! The tunnel itself had one car in front and three behind me.

The “Z” service station fuel price board lights were still out; there was light foot traffic on the city footpaths; and car traffic was the lightest I’ve seen it all week.

Oriental Bay parade was busier, with a steady stream of bicyclists and pedestrians, though no one was lying on either the main or smaller beaches in the Bay;

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Evans Bay Parade was equally busy with walkers and pedestrians. Most kept to the two metre rule. A few did not.

A police car passed me on this stretch of road. That would be the only police seen until around 3 to 4pm. In Hataitai, these two police vehicles were seen parked side-by-side. The constables appeared to be taking a break; chatting with a young lady leaning on one car window (waaaay closer than 2 metres, folks!); or checking their devices;

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[Images have been redacted for privacy/occupational reasons.]

Perhaps one of the most bizarre things seen during this lock-down crisis is this sign on a “Four Square” shop (location not to be disclosed). The  white sign states;

“*NOTICE*

Maximum of 10 people allowed in store at a time. Please keep your distance of 2 mtrs from each other, Thanks, […] FourSquare”

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The reason the sign is utterly ridiculous? This particular “Four Square” is little bigger than your average Dairy. The aisles are hardly a metre apart and the small size of the store would make it near-impossible for ten people to keep a 2-metre distance.

This is why when businesses demand to open to the public, and promise – hand-on-heart – to implement safety protocols: Do not take them at their word.

If we had acceded to demands from  Universities NZ and Hospitality NZ to continue allowing foreign students to enter Aotearoa, and for bars and restaurants to remain open – while “promising social distancing” – the infection would have most likely spread like wildfire throughout the country.

This government is right to be firm in maintaining the lock-down. Lives depend on how we respond to the contagion.

On the way home in the evening, the city was the most deserted I have ever seen it. Except for street and commercial lighting, and a few vehicles, it was the closest I have ever compared it to a post-apocalypse movie. I spotted one ambulance and later, north of Melling, one police vehicle that had pulled over a late-model sportscar.

Wellingtonians seemed to be heeding the call to stay home and not venture out.

More than ever, we must all maintain the safety protocols; wash hands; maintain safe distance; restrict your “bubble”; don’t try to ‘cheat’. As infectious disease epidemiologist, Jonathan Smith, warned us;

The enemy we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not an opinion. This is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. Stay strong and in solidarity knowing that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people continue getting sick and dying.

[…]

This virus is unforgiving to unwise choices. As this epidemic continues, it will be easy to be drawn to the idea that what we are doing isn’t working and we may feel compelled to “cheat” with unnecessary breaches of social distancing measures.

Which is why the community must do it’s bit; the Police have to come down hard on those who flout the rules; and the business lobby (and their National Party allies) stops pressuring the government to loosen the lock-down rules. The lock-down is porous enough as it is.

In fact, I totally concur with Martyn Bradbury’s call to extend the lock down to six weeks;

The health math demands 6 weeks. Incubation time of the virus is 14 days, but there are cases where it has been 19 days and 27 days, so we went into lockdown on Wednesday 25th meaning the majority of infections will appear by April 8th in the second week of the 4 week lockdown, but we need to KNOW the damned virus has been completely eradicated, so that takes us out to April 21st for the last possible incubation date and we would need at least 2 weeks of no new infections to know the sacrifice had been worth it.

[…]

Death Cult Capitalists, Matthew Hooton, Mike Hosking & Gareth Morgan are all crying out that 30 000 deaths is acceptable as long as neoliberalism can get back to work so the stress on Jacinda to lift the lockdown at the end of the 4 weeks is building, regardless of the above public health math.

The simple truth is that Jacinda must extend the 4 weeks to 6 weeks because if we come back at 4 weeks and the bloody thing keeps spreading, she will get blamed.

It gives me no pleasure to advocate for an extension. I’m now working six days a week (to minimise the number of people required to work at a given work-place) and I miss my partner who I haven’t see for over three weeks. (We have our separate homes and “bubbles”.)

But it’s either extending the lock-down or ending it prematurely. The virus does not respect human being’s arbitrary rules. It thumbs it’s nose at us and our social and legal structures (if covid19 had thumbs and a nose).

And if the Prime were to cave  to pressures from the business lobby, as Martyn Bradbury points out, her political enemies and other sundry armchair experts would blame her for the consequences.

We need to go the distance. If necessary even , extend the distance. Don’t ever forget; we can out-think and out-wit covid19. That is our unique strength.

We just need to use our wits.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,283

Cases in ICU: 4 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 2

 

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References

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Universities seek travel ban exemption for students

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Hospitality industry asking customers to sign in

Elemental: Hold the Line

Daily Blog:  Why Jacinda MUST keep us locked up for 6 weeks

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened on Good Friday

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

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Acknowledgement: Evans

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Life in Lock Down: Day 13

8 April 2020 3 comments

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April 7: Day 13 of living in lock-down… and unlucky for those who are superstitious. A day when there was a ray of sunshine from an otherwise bleak day of worrying signs.

Today, as RNZ reported;

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield reported 54 new confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, bringing the total number of cases to 1160. Twelve people are in hospital and four are in intensive care, including one person who is in a critical condition.

Today’s new figure is down from the 67 new cases reported yesterday.

If that downward slip – from 67 new cases yesterday to 54 today – becomes a solid downward trajectory, then god knows it’s been worth it. The damage to our economy; the closure of businesses (some permanently); the loss of jobs; the billions borrowed to keep this country afloat; the likely crippling of our tourism industry; and the effort made by so many people to do the right thing during the four week lock-down…

It is a little thing, but something to hold on to.

Our heroic Prime Minister warned us;

Now is not the time to change any of our behaviours.” – Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, 7 April 2020

Because only after two weeks, irresponsible and supposedly mature adults, are calling for a relaxation of the lock-down.Many of those clamouring voices are from the business sector for whom – apparently – the Dollar trumps people’s lives.

Even while National Party Leader Simon Bridges was calling for tough quarantine measures of travellers arriving in our country, so as not to re-introduce the contagion into our community, his economic development spokesperson, MP Todd McClay, was calling for relaxation of our already porous lock-down shield;

“New Zealanders are doing there bit here, largely across the board the vast, the vast majority of people are respecting these rules. I think if the government says they trust people around self-isolation, that there will be ways for businesses to open up.

I think if you’re a clothing manufacturer, or a small business that’s working from home it can be contactless, you will show that you will adhere to and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules, but we need to be doing everything you can to keep these businesses running.”

National’s inconsistancy of tough border controls and relaxed domestic lock-down will only achieve one thing: breathing life back into the contagion and giving the virus a second chance.

It would undo the last two weeks of sacrifice, for immediate gain.

It must not be allowed to happen.  The government must be allowed to stay the course and the mainstream media must stop amplifying the steady stream of hystrionics from self-interested businesspeople like “Mad Butcher” group chief executive, Michael Morton. When interviewed by RNZ Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson on 7 April, he was unashamedly blunt;

“If you open up and doing 20% of your trade, well, you’re going to lose a significant amount of money.”

Anyone who thinks that businesses could open “and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules” is delusional or feeble-minded. Even in supermarkets like Pak N Save, where aisles are wider than smaller retailers, there are still significant numbers of shoppers who pay little heed to the two-metre social-distancing rule.

Or joggers like this clown, today (7 April) who ran past two women on Oriental Parade – within elbow-touching proximity;

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— despite the fact that Oriental Parade has a ridiculously wide footpath for pedestrians, joggers, and even bicyclists;

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He just couldn’t be bothered maintaining a safe space between himself and the two women. And he’s not alone. This blogger has seen too many other people for whom maintaining  safe “social distancing” is just not a priority. Even Simon Bridges “forgets” to keep to the two-metre rule;

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People not keeping their distance is dangerously common at the supermarkets.

Add to that all the other retailers Todd McClay wants re-opened with added foot-traffic; people not respecting; safe “social distancing” etiquette and we have a recipe for disaster.

You can be assured of one, simple inalienable fact: if Jacinda Ardern and the government were to follow Todd McClay’s and the business community’s demands to re-open businesses, the results would be predictable: a resurgence in infection. People would get sick. People would die.

And people like Todd McClay would blame Jacinda Ardern.

Stay staunch, Ms Ardern. Lives depend on your steadfastness.

Meanwhile, my work day started with my usual drive past the Park’N’Ride  on my street. There were just three cars present. A good start I thought.

Then getting on to the main road and onto the highway, I observed the commercial vehicles on the road around me; a “CMS” van; 5 ambulances; a flat deck light truck carrying stacks of beehives; a skip bin truck; 2 vans bearing the “ZAP!” logo (the driver of one van visibly in uniform, obviously working); a Kiwirail van; 2 “Downer” vans; a “Jina’s” fruit and vege van; a green “Toll” truck; a pest-control van (company name not visible); 3 police cars; an “AA” Road Service ute; “New World” delivery van; a “Rangitikei” free-range chicken van; “Nilfisk” van; a “Kiwi Green” marked van; a “Laser” plumbing van; a “Fulton Hogan” roadworks truck; a “OS” marked van; a “L.G. Anderson truck; a van marked “BBC” (bathroom company); a gravel hauling truck; 2 “JETS” covered trucks; a Mainfreight” truck; a “McAuley’s” container-truck; a “Strait NZ” van; an “Absolute Control” marked van; a white “Caffe L’affare” van; Wellington Regional Council ute; et al.

There were definitely more police cars visible and – worryingly – more ambulances.

The traffic north of Melling Interchange was once again light; three or four cars ahead or to my rear at any given time. Around Kelson, traffic increased to approximately a dozen cars in my immediate vicinity. By the Melling Interchange traffic was the heaviest I’ve seen it in two weeks with around two dozen vehicles around me. By Ngauranga, the “numbers continued to be “heavy” (heavy  compared to the last two weeks). By the time I reached the Terrace Tunnel, traffic had thinned considera=bly to about half of what I had observed further north.

Courtney Place looked “dead”; nil traffic.

At Oriental Bay, people were cautioned not to stay on the beach with lit messages;

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The weather was chilly with a blustery wind so it was unlike anyone would be sunning themselves on the sandy beaches today. A quick glance confirmed my thoughts: no one lounging on the sand.

But there were still plenty of joggers and like the fellow above, not all were showing courtesy by respecting the 2 metre distancing rule.

More worryingly; the Evans Bay Marina Carpark appeared to have even fewer freedom campers’ vehicles than the previous day;

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The campers had clearly “up sticks” and moved on. Aside from international air travel, it is hard to think of a more efficient vector for viral transmission than freedom campers driving around New Zealand; stopping in small towns and larger cities; and passing on their infection.

To paraphrase Peter, Paul and Mary, Where Have All The Freedom Campers Gone? And should anyone be making enquiries? Do the rental companies install GPS trackers in their vehicles? If so, the information gleaned from those devices could be troubling.

Perhaps it is time for “freedom camping” – aka the “low  end” of tourism – to be curtailed.

On the way to Miramar, the fifth police car in a day was parked on the center median strip on Cobham Drive (main route to Wellington Airport). Reassuring to see the Police around. Perhaps they could look into the mysterious Case of The Missing Campers?

Meanwhile, if we thought that Todd McClay; “Mad Butcher” group chief executive, Michael Morton; and other money-hungry nuts were bad enough, the Award for the most insanely irresponsible Person in Aotearoa New Zealand has to go to this prize fool:

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The virus has not yet been eradicated; new infections are still happening; and Seymour wants the lock down lifted before the four weeks is up?! Is this man deranged?

Worse still is this comment from him;

“Every day that we are locked down people are losing money, they’re losing businesses, they’ve got mental health issues that are going to arise.”

Not only is he valuing money over people’s lives – but he is exploiting mental health as a cloak to give legitimacy to his despicable suggestion. In effect he’s saying, “Never mind the risk to others; we want to make money; or else we’ll blame our supposed poor mental health on this government and the PM.”

Cue: sob story on RNZ, Newshub, TVNZ, et al about “depressed” businessman who can’t make money.

Congratulation to  Seymour for hitting rock-bottom. This is about as bad as it gets for a sleazy, opportunistic politician desperate for publicity and votes.

I’m not sure which is worse to be afraid off – the virus or a psycopath masquerading as a Member of Parliament. Maybe they’re related.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,160

Cases in ICU: 4 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 1

 

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened on 7 April

TVNZ: Simon Bridges calls on Government to quarantine, test everyone still arriving into NZ

RNZ:  More industry and small businesses could reopen – National

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Mad Butcher CEO claims government decisions hurt butchers

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Simon Bridges admits he ‘should have been further apart’ from supermarket staff in photo shared online

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Additional

RNZ:  Covid-19 Pandemic Timeline

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also  published on The Daily Blog on 9 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 12

7 April 2020 2 comments

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April 6: Day 12 of living in lock-down…

Another day of a near-empty Park N Ride carpark;

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covid19 - wellington - park n ride carpark 6 april 2020

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And another day of near-empty Wellington streets;

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covid19 - wellington - park n ride carpark 6 april 2020

.covid19 - wellington - park n ride carpark 6 april 2020

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Light traffic on the motorway. No apparent increase in volume. Commercial vehicles sighted; a gravel-hauling truck; McAuley’s Transport; a tow-truck; “Dole”-branded truck; container-truck; another container truck, “McAuley’s”; “Downer” flat deck truck; a Hyundai traffic speed-camera van north of Kennedy Good Bridge; a police car at the Melling Interchange; a Waste Management truck; a skip-bin truck; 2 “Kiwirail” utes; 2 “New World” covered trucks; “Mainfreight” truck; “Noel Leeming” truck; an ambulance; “Rescue” ambulance; “EBT” container truck; “Chubb” van; “KAM” double tandem truck; “Super Freight” truck; 2 “Mainfreight” trucks; firefighting appliance; Traffic Management truck; “PTS” container truck; train-replacement bus; firewood truck (empty); “Salvation Army Family Store” truck; a bus with “driver training” illuminated signage; 2 unmarked road-works trucks; an unmarked covered truck; “Red Wolf” security van; “Toll” green truck; “Chemdry” van; ambulance with lights and siren; “Laser” plumbing van; another gravel hauling truck; another ambulance; and a “Chill” branded van. Commercial vehicles passing me on the other side of the road were not always able to be clearly identified.

Traffic north of Lower Hutt remaining light with only two or three  vehicles on the motorway any one time. Approaching Melling Interchange, traffic was near non-existent. Traffic was equally light south of Petone with perhaps three in front and three to my rear. Traffic at Ngauranga was heavier as SH1 and SH2 merged. Even then, there appeared to be around eight in front and eight at behind me. Traffic at the Terrace tunnel was almost nil, one in front, one at back.

The price board at the “Z” service station in Vivian Street was still dark.

Heading to Miramar, it suddenly occurred to me that the Evans Bay Marina Carpark – almost always full with freedom camping vans-  has nearly emptied out. Yet, it was full at the beginning of the lockdown.

It is clear that the occupants have decamped and have moved on. All in the last two weeks.

If this is how “freedom campers” show they are responsible tourists, then we are better off without this low-end part of the tourist industry. The temptation to “hit the road” and enjoy what little remained of their holiday seems to have been too much for them.

At my work, management has implemented a new plan to purchase supplies for clients. It is a good plan (albeit needing some tweaking to mitigate food safety risks), even though it’s taken two weeks to put in place.

Later that night, I’m driving through Wellington’s Arras Tunnel near the War Memorial. There is a road-marking work gang in the tunnel; two of the four lanes have been “coned off”, reducing to two lanes. The work gang is painting road markings.

I find this remarkable. Until now, the NZTA has stated that all normal road works have been suspended and only urgent, emergency work will be undertaken;

“In accordance with the Government guidance, major project work (Capital Works) is not seen as an essential service and work sites and workers have been stood down for four weeks.

Services to maintain the site can continue as essential services to ensure these sites remain safe. This includes things like traffic management and environmental controls. We will continue to manage and monitor environmental risks and traffic management plans to protect and ensure safety for the travelling public. It is crucial that we preserve the integrity of the asset and render worksites safe.”

Road markings are “Urgent work”?

Has the NZTA authorised this work or has the contractor decided to undertake some work-sneaking? I have emailed NZTA for clarification.

Throughout my entire day, from 9am to when I roll into my driveway at about 8.30, I sight only one police car  all day. There were more police on the roads before the lock-down.

Meanwhile the National Party, various businesses, Simon Bridges, and David Clark lead the race to see who can be the most irresponsible.

Simon Bridges

His drive from Tauranga to Wellington exemplifies the sense of privilege and entitlement that pervades some people in our society. Mr Bridges justified his drive by citing his “constitutional” duties;

“I don’t take these things lightly, but I am the leader of the opposition, I’ve got constitutional duties, I’m running a committee in extreme circumstances where there is no Parliament.”

Is the virus aware of Mr Bridges’s “constitutional” duties?

Simon Bridges is unfit to lead this country.  His display of an utter lack of judgement shows he has no future in politics.

He should and must resign before the next election.

David Clarke

As above.

Businesses

The Warehouse tried it on. So did Jenny Craig. Golf courses (for “mental health”!?). And even a sex shop. Plus umpteen other businesses.

Make no mistake: Every. Business. Is. Essential. Or so their owners and shareholders will insist.

“My business is not essential”, said no business-owner, share-holder ever.

They will cite overseas traders; poor families needing their services (which they only discover when it suits them); “mental health”; physical health; etc.

Mad Butcher” group chief executive, Michael Morton, was interviewed by RNZ Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson on 7 April. He was quite blunt;

“If you open up and doing 20% of your trade, well, you’re going to lose a significant amount of money.”

We should be crystal clear on this: businesses want to open up their businesses to trade as normal – despite the world being in the grip of a deadly pandemic – not because they feel sorry for poor people not being able to buy warm blankets, beer, or play golf, or lose weight through weight-loss programmes; or buy sex-toys.

They want to open up to make money.

It’s that simple.

Don’t let businesses; their political allies; and self-serving deluded apologists tell you otherwise.

They want to make money.

And if, in the process, the pandemic spreads throughout the country and the body-bags start to pile up at mortuaries – they will deny all responsibility for their breath-taking selfishness and point the blame at Jacinda Ardern.

They want to make money. And they will do it over our dead or dying bodies.

The National Party

I swear, it seems to me that political ideology and sheer stupidity go hand-in-hand. Exhibit Number 1: National’s Todd McClay who is demanding that – essentially – all businesses be allowed to re-open. This would cut the lock-down from four weeks to two. Because if all businesses can claim to be “essential” (and what business isn’t “essential to it’s owners/shareholders?), then how is a lock-down a lock-down?

On 6 April, Mr McClay was bitterly complaining to RNZ’s Morning Report;

“The government needs to remain agile when it comes to allowing businesses to operate during the lockdown, if they can prove or show that they can do so safely.

To date the decision making has been too arbitrary and there are too many inconsistencies. For instance, allowing dairies to open but not local butchers or greengrocers, agriculture to continue but not forestry, cigarettes to be manufactured but community newspapers cannot be printed.

An example of this is Noel Leeming – they’re allowed to sell you a jug, but not a cell phone, but the person that’s packaging that … contactless sale that’s being delivered to the door, they’re already at work. Or the warehouse that’s allowed to sell you a car battery, not car polish.

We know that agriculture is functioning, I’d ask what’s the difference between that and forestry – an industry that is hugely important to the central North Island.

I think if you’re a clothing manufacturer, or a small business that’s working from home it can be contactless, you will show that you will adhere to and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules, but we need to be doing everything you can to keep these businesses running

I think if you’re a clothing manufacturer, or a small business that’s working from home it can be contactless, you will show that you will adhere to and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules, but we need to be doing everything you can to keep these businesses running.”

What is really crazy is that a supposedly well-educated, sane, intelligent person could endanger hundreds; thousands; tens of thousands of lives by advocating that businesses be allowed to re-open before the virus has been eradicated.

The breath-taking scale of Mr McClay’s short-sightedness should be seen for what it is: a danger to our own well-being and lives.

Through equal measures of quick action and pure luck, we have dodged (thus far) the covid19 bullet.

People like Mr McClay, Mr Bridges, certain right-wing commentators; and businesspeople would put us all back in the line of that bullet. They will put our safety and lives at risk for money.

These people are a menace.

Buzzword of The Day

National’s media minders have issued a new buzzword for their MPs to use. See if you can spot the “magic” word:

Let’s try and deal with some of the randomness where one is an essential service and one isn’t, let’s be agile and potentially we can move to a more risk-based system.” – Simon Bridges, Leader, National Party, 5 April 2020

The government needs to remain agile when it comes to allowing businesses to operate during the lockdown, if they can prove or show that they can do so safely.” – Todd McClay, National MP,  Economic Development spokesperson, 6 April 2020

Simon Bridges and Todd McClay have forgotten that the virus can be even more agile.

Let me quote an expert who is very familiar with the threat we are facing

“The enemy we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not an opinion. This is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. Stay strong and in solidarity knowing that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people continue getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don’t.

[…]

This outbreak will not be overcome in one grand, sweeping gesture, but rather by the collection of individual choices we make in the coming months. This virus is unforgiving to unwise choices. As this epidemic continues, it will be easy to be drawn to the idea that what we are doing isn’t working and we may feel compelled to “cheat” with unnecessary breaches of social distancing measures.” – Jonathan Smith, Infectious disease epidemiologist, 21 March 2020

 

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Current covid19 cases: 1,106

Cases in ICU: 3 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 1

 

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References

RNZ:  More industry and small businesses could reopen – National

RNZ:  Bridges defends Wellington to Tauranga commute

RNZ:  Coronavirus lockdown – Is the Warehouse an essential service?

RNZ:  Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Golf clubs could perish if greenkeepers barred from caring for greens

Adult Toy Mega Store

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Mad Butcher CEO claims government decisions hurt butchers

TVNZ: Jacinda Ardern does not want lockdown to last ‘a minute longer than needed’, but says it won’t finish early

NZTA: Roadworks and projects

Elemental: Hold the Line

RNZ:  Covid-19 – What happened on 6 April

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Why Jacinda MUST keep us locked up for 6 weeks

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

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Acknowledgement: Evans

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 8 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 11

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April 5: Day eleven of living in lock-down…

My one day of rest for the week, and an opportunity to mow my lawns – which I’d been delaying for about three weeks. (On the plus side, the damp micro-climate in my back yard yielded three lovely fresh mushrooms for breakfast today, along with chorizo sausage and two eggs.)

First up, TVNZ’s Q+A at 9am.  A great interview with Dr Ayesha Verrall who said it was too early to tell how we were progressing with controlling cid19. We needed more data on community transmission, she said.

Dr Verrall was also concerned with how covid19 could be easily transmitted in lower socio-economic areas where low-income families were living in over-crowded housing.

She was forthright in advocating more restrictive practices, saying that the more retail outlets like Noel Leemings, Mitre10, etc, that were open to the public, the more gatherings would occur where transmission could take place.

In a crisis like this pandemic, it’s more worthwhile listening to scientists and medical professionals that business people and National Party politicians agitating for businesses to re-open earlier.

Following Dr Verrall was National Party Leader, Simon Bridges. He advocated full quarantining of arrivals to Aotearoa as well. Which would be fine except for a long time National was advocating tax cuts when faced with the growing pandemic crisis overseas. It was only after the government implemented a ban on all students from China that Mr Bridges fell in line with travel bans for people from affected nations.

Mr Bridges also strongly advocated more border controls; more testing; and more tracing. He made no mention of strengthening the lock-down and closure of non-essential businesses. He is mostly silent on the issue, as National is well known for it’s strong link to the business community.

Interestingly, the Word of the Day for Simon Bridges seemed to be “agile”; used so many times during the interview that this blogger lost count. “Let’s be agile” and variations thereof was his mantra.

An interview with ACT MP; libertarian, and spokesperson for promoting the spread of the covid19 virus, David Seymour followed. His concern for privacy and individual liberties would be laughable considering ACT’s  past support for increasing surveillance powers for the GCSB, Police, and SIS.

The covid19 virus would like to thank Mr Seymour for his support.

Following David Seymour, Dr Mel Bunce from the University of London gave her thoughts on the state of the media, as revenue from advertising dried up, weakening the fourth estate when it was needed most to report on the worst epidemic in 102 years.

She suggested that the proposed merger of NZME and Stuff was a two-edged sword. On the one hand a larger corporate entity might weather the current economic melt-down better than two smaller companies.

But on the other hand, she pointed to Bauer Media Group suffering financially and closing many of Aotearoa’s most well-known magazines as it withdrew it’s operations. She said a similar fate to a merged NZME/Stuff could  close up to 90% of the country’s media.

Rodney Jones from Wigram Capital Advisors offered his insights and research that China had under-reported deaths in their country by up to 40,000. He said we could not look to China for solutions because we coulkd not trust their data. He suggested that China will have negative GDP this year.

He also questioned how the pandemic would impact on globalisation – echoing the sentiments by others that the virus would do to neo-liberalism which progressives had failed to achieve.

Jack Tame finished the programme with a statement that Q+A would be doing another episode during Easter  (unlike it’s counterpart on TV3).

After lunch, sticking to the stay at home,exercise locally protocol I went for a walk around the block. The weather was fine and it was perfect to enjoy the quiet of a Level 4 Lock Down Sunday.

Unable to procrastinate any longer, it was time to pull out the lawn-mower and attack three (more like four?) weeks of turf growth.It’s unfair, I said to some passers-by: lawn-mowing should not be required during the Virus Apocalypse…

Did Bruno Lawrence have to mow his lawns in The Quiet Earth? Will Smith in I am Legend? Charlton Heston in The Omega Man? Grass continues to grow despite the slow collapse of civilisation-as-we-know-it…

At 1pm, Jacinda Ardern and Ashleigh Bloomfield make a televised address to the country. The latest figures are disclosed. There are more cases of covid19 and two more infection “clusters”.

Worryingly three people are in ICU – two are critical. Our death toll may rise.

Ms Ardern then made a rare departure from form, referring to “idiots” who are not taking the crisis seriously. She refers to the moron in Dunedin who deliberately coughed and sneezed at people whilst filming himself and uploading it onto social media. He has since been arrested and charged.

Standing on my front lawn at 1.55 – just in time to see a “boy”-racer (in late 20s, early 30s? too old to be a “boy” racer?) roar past at high speed. Seconds later, the sound of a police siren and a police car appears from around the corner, flying past in hot pursuit.

He went that way!” thumb pointing, as I ‘helpfully’ called out to the police car (it was unlikely he heard me in the 1 second he sped by).

Who said that lock-downs were boring? I was witnessing a live-action episode of “Police Ten-Seven” in front of my own house!

(The one positive thing about near empty streets?  Police chases become less problematic with fewer vehicles on the road and pedestrians out and about.)

That evening, I ‘Skyped’ my parents. They are in self-isolation. The pandemic affects their region as well.

With their age and under-lying medical conditions, a covid19 infection would make life very hard for them. It took a while to explain what Aotearoa’s lock-down meant and why only (supposedly) essential services were allowed to open. I described what a “bubble” meant and how – if it was religiously followed – it would stop the virus from transmitting to others. I explained it was legally backed up by a declaration of a State of Emergency and the edict to stay home and exercise locally was not a Take-It-Or-Leave-It choice (David Clark, take note!).

My youngest sibling, who has severe multiple sclerosis, is in strict quarantine by his carers. For him, covid19 would be an automatic, quick death sentence.

Following my parents, I ‘Skyped’ my partner. It’s been nearly three weeks since I last saw her in person. It was a joy to see her face and we spent half an hour or more sharing what we had done today; the short-lived excitement of witnessing a police-chase in my own street. There was cheeky banter exchanged and our plans for tomorrow. She is still working long hours for her organisation, though it’s done from home by phone, ‘Skype’, or video conferencing.

Tomorrow we begin Week 3 of lock-down.

Whether or not we begin to control the virus and see fewer people fall victim to it depends on what we do collectively. In short, it’s up to us.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,039

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 1

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References

RNZ:  PM – David Clark ‘needs to be a role model’

RNZ:  Covid-19 – What happened on 5 April

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: What kind of Police State do you call this? Why Faafoi & Clark should get slapped and what the hell is the CTU doing?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

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Acknowledgement: Evan

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 7 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 10

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April 4: Day 10 of living in lock-down…

I wake up to a fine Saturday morning which normally would be like an early Christmas. But it’s Day 10 of Level 4 Lock Down. What  will my fellow New Zealanders be doing on a day like this – staying home in lock-down, or venturing out en-masse to every park, walk-way, beach, river side they can find? The TAB won’t be taking bets on that question (if they were open).

Today would be a perfect day to mow the lawns. As someone kindly pointed out to me recently, I’ve neglected them for two weeks too long. Mind you, the damp micro-climate on my back yard “lawn” has produced half a dozen mushrooms thus far…

Today is not lawn-mowing day. I’m filling in for a colleague who has been pulled off duties with our clients when it was realised his wife worked at a major supermarket and he helped out on-site. In effect his “bubble includes our six clients; six of his colleagues (including me) and several hundred Wellingtonians who are customers at the supermarket his wife works at.

“Not optimal” would be an understatement. The masks, latex gloves, hand-washing, and wiping our shoes’ soles with disinfectant would be meaningless with the extent of his contact with so many other people.

So I’m doing his shift this afternoon/evening, making it a six day working week.

If any of us catch the virus, I suspect we’ll all be pulling a six or even seven day working week. Best not to think about it.

Wake up in time to catch Simon Shepherd on Newshub Nation on TV3.

First up was Grant Robertson. While I have utmost respect for the gentleman and the hellish job (matched only by our own Wonder Woman, Prime Minister Ardern), he doesn’t add much new to what we already know.

There’s some persistent questioning about why the government didn’t step in to buy Bauer Media Group’s magazines (The Listener, Metro, Woman’s Weekly, et al) that it closed on 2 April.

Bizarre. It has taken an unseen micro-organism to bring down the mighty pillars of neo-liberalism, with a  clamour that the State acquire (for $1!) part of a magazine empire. The blessed irony of it all; state-owned media! Only a handful of other countries exist where the State owns or controls media publications.

In only thirtysix years the neo-liberal edifice of the free market has come crashing down. To paraphrase H.G. Wells, the free-market neo-liberal system was…

“…slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all [progressive movement’s] devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”

This time, the “humblest thing” that slew the free market was not bacteria, but an even smaller, more distant cousin, the virus.

Even the Soviet Union last twice as long.

To drive home the point of the utter failure of the neo-liberal system, Finance Minister Robertson pointed out just how fortunate we were that the mania for “small government” by the Right had not been implemented in this country.

Host Simon Shepherd asked;

Simon Shepherd: “Is there a risk that at the end of this we’re going to be a nation with has a massive public sector and not much private enterprise?

Grant Robertson: “No, I don’t believe so. The New Zealand private sector was robust and strong and full of innovative people coming into covid19, and it will be on the other side.

I think what we have learned out of this is that having a robust public sector is vitally important when you have a crisis like this, and so that will be important.

Grant Robertson also made it clear that the tourism sector would have to change after this crisis was over. We certainly need to wind back the foot traffic currently trampling over the countryside. Add to that the hyper-commercialisation of our tertiary sector which is heavily reliant on students from other countries to pay our education bill (and is often a back-door conduit for  high levels of immigration which our infrastructure is ill-designed to cope with).

Perhaps it’s little wonder that Simon Bridges’ earlier strident calls for tax cuts had fallen on deaf ears. People could see with their own eyes what was happening in China, then Europe, and now the United States. A strong collective response – in the form of The State – could be the only viable defence against a fast-spreading pandemic. People understood that a few extra bucks in our wallets/purses was hardly going to protect us from an invisible enemy.

Simon Bridges didn’t just “not read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building.

Newshub Nation presented a wide range of interviews and the case of Jess Delabarca was an example that the contagion could affect any of us, young or old. The young may be “bullet proof”, but not “virus proof”.

One of the two panellists, Professor in Politics and International Relations, Jennifer Curtin, expressed her shock at Bauer Media Group’s sudden closure. She also pointed out it was difficult for the State to buy/bail out one private media company  – without then supporting the entire sector. In effect, the free market model would be utterly turned on it’s head, with the State acquiring one distressed company after another.

The late Robert Muldoon’s dire warning in his “Dancing Cossacks” political ad that “one day the State would own everything and you know what that’s called” – was wrong in only one respect. The companies themselves were clamouring for a State/taxpayer buy-out.

The capitalists were jumping ship, having hit an invisible viral iceberg.

At the conclusion of the programmwe, Host Simon Shepherd announced that Newshub Nation was taking a “break for Easter and would be back in two weeks. Which, considering that the entire world is facing an apocalypse, was an optimistic view. Hopefully there will be a live audience to watch his programme in two weeks time.

On the way into work, it was another moment to observe the streets around me…

The railway Park’N’Ride carpark was empty;

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The white motorhome, first noticed on 31 March parked on a major thoroughfare toward SH2 was still parked in front of the same property – but had moved – now facing the opposite way;

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Spotted long the way; three ambulances; a double-tandem gravel-hauling truck; a “New World” delivery van; a “Pacific” double-tandem fuel tanker; a patient-transfer ambulance SUV; “Fulton Hogan truck; and a “Newbolds” van.

As if a weekend from the 1970s, there appeared to be few commercial vehicles on the road. What little traffic consisted of mostly ordinary motorcars.

The traffic on SH2 was still light; approximately four cars ahead, and a similar number behind me. Traffic became lighter to the north of the Melling lights. Arriving closer to Wellington on the motorway, traffic thinned out even more, with perhaps three or four cars ahead, and similar to my rear.

The day was beautifully sunny, a near perfect summery day though we’re now feeling the chills of autumn. Though the harbour was placid and calm there were no recreational boats of any kind on the water. Yachties and other recreational boaties seemed to be heeding the call to stay of the water.

At the Terrace tunnel, there were six on-coming cars, nothing to my rear.

Driving through Wellington, vehicular traffic was light to non-existent. Not the busy times pre-Lock-down, when roads were busier on Saturdays than during the working week. Bicyclists were out and about, with two or three around me at any one time. There were plenty of strollers enjoying the lovely weather but not many observing the two metre rule.

Approaching Chaffers Street New World supermarket, I noticed shoppers carrying their re-usable shopping bags and – fresh cut flowers? A brief stop at New World confirmed my observation – the supermarket was selling flowers;

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A florist was supplying the retailer with fresh flowers. An “essential” service?! Oh hell, why not. Sex shops , weight loss industry,  and golf courses all think they’re essential as well. In capitalism, everyone thinks their business is essential. The stench of self-entitlement – like affluent yachties flocking to their holiday homes – is pervasive.

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The longer people willfully flout the lock-down the longer this crisis will be with us. The longer law-abiding citizens will have to live with the massive upset to their lives whilst others are enjoying their impromptu holiday. The more people will get sick.

And the greater the likelihood that the death toll will rise.

I liken those who flout the lock down as those who drink and drive. They endanger others with their recklessness.

If this worsens, it’ll be time to borrow a leaf from our Aussie cuzzies and go hard on those who are putting the rest of us at risk;

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I don’t care what excuses – usually concern for poor families – are put forward. Having retail outlets such as The Warehouse open for public trading will be an open conduit for the transmission of the virus. If low income people need blankets, heaters, and other winter-ralated goods, let them be distributed free of charge by the State. The greater the need, the lower the cost should be commensurately.

If the State can subsidise private companies and their employees we can assist those at the bottom of the socio-economic  heap.

Continuing my drive to work, I took the Oriental Bay route. I saw a light-sign asking people;

“Enjoy your beach walk but don’t linger”

— clearly a reference to people previously congregating on the beach, often in close proximity, and adding to the threat of viral transmission.

Most people were doing the right thing, with only a couple of dozen people on the sand and two in the water;

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As I drove around the bays, another observation struck me. Where pedestrian numbers were heavy, the 2-metre physical  distancing rule was mostly ignored. Where pedestrian traffic was more sparse, people made more effort to walk around each other.

In effect, where physical distancing was most needed, it was less employed.

Another reason to minimise and restrict retail outlets opening and recreational activities that attract crowds.

I also noticed a fair number of bicyclists riding on the footpath, making it harder for pedestrians to physically distance themselves from the riders. Which was mystifying considering the near lack of vehicular traffic on the roads. At this point in time, bicyclists could practically “own the roads”.

Arrive at work. Carry out formal sanitising protocol before entering premises; sanitise hands; wipe shoes with disinfectant; send call to unlock gate. Inside, re-wash hands with hot water and soap. Routine completed, work begins. Remember to re-stock my satchel with latex gloves and ASTM Level 1 mask. (The latter offers minimal protection. Practically pointless to wear it when outside. But with so many people flouting lock-down protocols, any protection is better than going out “naked”.)

The afternoon and evening passes quickly. All clients are reasonably health, except one. He is diabetic T2, obese, and in poor health. He is suffering diabetes related complications. He is nil symptomatic of covid19 but if he caught it, my belief is that it would be a death sentence. Luckily the facility is in total lock-down – even management are banned from entering (and this has been rigorously enforced).

I work in close proximity to him. If he is infected, it will be on my conscience.

It is night by the time I leave.It is again deathly quiet. No pedestrians. No vehicular traffic. No sound of cars, trucks, or motorbikes. The airport is silent. It is a deathly silence I’m still finding hard to get used to.

Except for the lights on in houses along the street, I could be the last human on Earth.

And something else… smells I never noticed before. Without low vehicle and almost no aircraft emissions, the air is cleaner than ever. There is a subtle sweet smell in the air. Flowers? Perfume?

I sanitise my hands in the car.

The trip home is uneventful. Along the motorway I do a rough count of  vehicles-per-kilometre: two.

I see four ambulance on my trip homes. One bus. Three police cars (two of which are attending an incident by the Kilbirnie Fire Station). There is a Hyundai radar-van parked on the side of the motorway just south of he motorway. Pointless, considering the near non-existant traffic. It’ll be slim picking tonight for traffic enforcement/revenue gathering. Another police car sighted on SH2, lights flashing, parked behind a car that may have broken down.

Then home. Shoes are removed and left outside (a habit I’ve always practiced); open door; straight into the bathroom to wash my hands. Keys wiped with disinfectant.

“Dinner” is light. It’s too late to cook anything so it’s cold left-overs.

Tomorrow, it’s a day off. Watch TVNZ’s Q+A; mow the lawns; go for a walk along my street. Rest.

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Postscript:

As the Bauer Group exploit the covid19 crisis lock down and close down a long list of well-known magazine titles, this letter to the editor in the April 4-10 edition (the last ?), by former Minister of Communications, Ian Shearer, was published. It appeared before Bauer Group made their announcement to shut down The Listener and reads almost like an epitaph dripping with irony;

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Acknowledgement: @BarbSturmfels

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Mr Shearer was a minister in the Lange-led government which initiated the mad craze of privatising state-owned (ie; owned by you and me) assets. Like The Listener. [Blogger’s correction: Ian Shearer was actually a Minister in the Muldoon-led National government from 1975 to 1984. Apologies for the error. – Frank Macskasy]

Like privatising and re-nationalising Air New Zealand several times over, it hasn’t worked out well, has it?!

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Current covid19 cases: 950

Number of deaths: 1

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Grant Robertson hints at potential rent freeze for business

RNZ: Covid-19 – Major magazine publisher Bauer Media closing down

Wikiquotes: H.G. Wells

Adult Toy Mega Store

RNZ: Jenny Craig and storage facility staff told they are essential service

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Golf clubs could perish if greenkeepers barred from caring for greens

RNZ:  Resident furious outsiders ignoring lockdown to use holiday homes

Smart Company: Business owner fined $5000 as NSW Police enforce coronavirus lockdowns

NSW Gov Clinical Excellence Commission: Application of PPE in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

RNZ:  Covid-19 wrap –  What happened on 4 April

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 6 April 2020.

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