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About Carrots and Sticks

Written By: - Date published: 2:41 pm, April 4th, 2020 - 119 comments
Categories: covid-19 - Tags: , ,

The country is haemorrhaging (bleeding and suffering) and the people are confused and fear for their jobs and the future (even) more than usual. It is not clear when the restrictions imposed on us will be lifted; they may even be extended.

The Government is going for broke in stamping out the virus. They are re-writing parts of the rulebook as they go. Actually, it comes down to interpretation and implementation; on paper, things never look as they are in reality.

Police powers have increased but they seem to have followed a ‘kind’ approach so far.

There seems to be a growing chorus of disagreeing voices with a few dissonants expressing an unease over the economic and social costs, in that order. Interestingly, some of these seem to come from political corners and the likes.

As always, there is a hard core of people in the population who think the rules don’t apply to them. Indeed, these law-skirters may be invincible and never get sick with COVID-19 and they are the best drivers on the road too. That is, they may not show overt symptoms, although I hazard a guess that these folks do also think they know better than their GP and would not seek medical attention until it is way too late, but they can still be carriers and spread the virus to others.

Rather than cooking up Draconian measures to ‘educate’ these misbehaving malcontents that would be like a 1080-drop in the middle of the CBD to deal with a few ‘pests’, the Government might consider an incentive scheme rather – you catch more flies with honey.

These days, ‘good’ behaviour is not rewarded, socially or otherwise. In fact, one gets the impression that ‘good guys’ never come first. Anyway, being an obedient law-abiding citizen does not give you much in the way of bragging rights. Of course, there is the virtue signalling and the moral posturing with the finger wagging and, the all-time favourite, finger pointing (hunting scapegoats) that often goes hand-in-hand with a conservative punitive attitude. The kind of behaviours that can turn any sane person into a rebel without a cause and go against what is considered socially acceptable, with obnoxious and/or risk-taking behaviours and what have you.

Saving lives and jobs in their community apparently does not take priority over their personal urges, wants, and desires for some individuals. This may not be surprising given how we have been conditioned to look after Number One – individual needs take precedent over collective needs – combined with our ‘she’ll be right, mate’ attitude. Being considerate of others in our society is not a consideration for some.

So, let’s give all of us another incentive to stamp out the virus ASAP and move down the alert levels quickly. I propose Government gives every Kiwi $100 each day for each confirmed case less than the day before. Yesterday 3 April, we had an increase of 49 new confirmed cases. If today that number is 47 (Edit: it is 52), we all get $200. The lowest daily increase then becomes 47, et cetera. This will be in place for, say, two weeks to put a time limit on it. It should be reasonably easy to calculate to overall direct cost of such an incentive scheme. The goal is to drive the number down as low as possible (zero) within these two weeks.

Could it Work? Would it work? Better odds than Lotto with a much bigger Jackpot 😉

Can you come up with a different and/or better incentive scheme?

119 comments on “About Carrots and Sticks ”

  1. A 1

    I like it!

  2. indiana 2

    Any T&C's to your proposal?

    • Incognito 2.1

      What I’ve got at the moment is in the OP and I invite you to provide constructive criticism and/or propose something better.

  3. pat 3

    A Conrona Virus Lesson [sic];

    someone may be able to clean up link


  4. weka 4

    Do we know (a) how much this is an actual problem? and (b) what the motivations/reasons are? (I'm assuming a range of reasons).

    • Incognito 4.1

      Nope, but from what I’m reading/seeing on-line, the numbers of people dobbing in others (narking), and judging from observations in my local area, I’d say there is an issue with adherence and compliance. People seem to be confused about the rules not realising or thinking about the intention of these rules and instead focussing on the exact interpretation (i.e. what can/can’t I do) and not on the why.

      I believe that this is the majority of ‘flouters’, but there always is an element in/of our society that doesn’t give a shit and they spoil it for everyone.

      If there is no problem as such, then the whole OP should be ignored and filed in the ‘meh’ archives ;-). Although, an extra incentive might speed up the good work that we’re all doing and also provide an extra economic stimulus (cash in people’s hands).

      • weka 4.1.1

        I wasn't thinking there is *no problem, but more curious *how much*. Both for just understanding what is going on, but also if the carrot dollars are a good response.

        What kinds of things are people doing? I've heard about the kava parties, and the Queenstown backpacker party. But are there people just generally ignoring the whole thing and doing what they want? Or lots of groups secretly socialising? I just don't have a good sense of it yet.

        • Incognito

          In my area, there too many people out and about, partly due to the nice weather, but also because of the rule that you cannot buy more than two items per visit to the supermarket (which is contributing to the long queues). Others have told me they’re not going for a walk or bike ride because it is too crowded (!) in their local area.

          Police may have a better idea of the size of the ‘problem’.

          There are always people who’d object to doling out tax payers’ money ‘for nothing’ but at the same time there are discussions on UBI. If we could stamp out the virus over the remainder of the 4-week lockdown period and spend a couple of billion (??) dollars it may pay off in the medium-to-long term.

          As I said, I welcome people to come up with other ways to motivate people to help stamp out the virus. Too much focus on (the) sticks, IMO. People who technically don’t break the rules but nevertheless are found ‘guilty’ in the court of public opinion must be punished/penalised …

          • weka

            I like the idea of wardens and using whatever media to reiterate the point. I think the Public Health Order yesterday will make the boundaries clearer, but there is still leeway within that.

            The comment about people going to the dairy with their kids for an icecream and sitting on park benches without cleaning them needs addressing and I think at this point that should be around physical distancing and hygiene with an emphasis on what essential might mean eg if you are going stir crazy with the kids then go out and get some groceries and get an ice cream and exercise at the same time.

            The alternative, which is to basically curfew the whole population while people are still trying to get their heads around it may be a problem long term. I'm mindful of the beyond 4 weeks and what happens if we have to be in Level 4 over the winter.

            I don't know what the solution is to places being busy. There's a conversation to be had there about how to manage population density. I live in the country for a reason. Again, am thinking about the months beyond this four weeks and how we could get people on board with the changes in behaviour that are necessary.

            Likewise the supermarket thing, which strikes me a logistical. I've seen suggestions overseas of opening 24/7 and thus creating more jobs, but there are obvious downsides to that too. If we are in this for the long haul I can see new systems of ordering and pick ups/deliveries. People also adjusting to buying more at a time and going less frequently and a supermarket having a system for managing that.

          • Barfly

            For FFS "you cannot buy more than two items per visit to the supermarket" are you misstating or are you thick as fuk? 2 items of the same product FFS there is a major bloody difference 2x bread 2x bacon..?(hey 1kg pak) 2 x 12 eggs 2x 1kg cheese 2 x 1 kg sausages 2 x 125g "boutique cheese" 2 x 5kg potatoes ..do you get the idea??

            [Please tone down the personal abuse, that was really unnecessary to make your point. – weka]

            • weka

              mod note for you Barfly.

            • weka

              I understood it to mean 2 items of each thing, and the comment still made sense. Lots of families need more than two.

              • Incognito

                Correct, two loaves of bread, for example, which don’t go far in a family with growing kids. Now the panic buying has eased up somewhat and supermarkets can keep up with demand, it might be a good idea to ease up on some of the restrictions in items per customer per shop to enable people to do fewer shopping trips. This may help shorten those ridiculous and frustrating queues.

                Thanks for the Moderation note; I’d think high stress levels may have played a part in it.

                • weka

                  I think so.

                  Apparently the buying a few more than normal each week has had an impact on supply lines too. Maybe there's a sweet spot between discouraging people from buying too much but keeping things normal enough that they don't feel the need to buy more.

                  Queues must be terrible. There will be people that can't manage physically to do that too.

            • Barfly


        • Chris

          A guy had the cops called on him for having beer on his verandah.

      • weka 4.1.2

        People seem to be confused about the rules not realising or thinking about the intention of these rules and instead focussing on the exact interpretation (i.e. what can/can’t I do) and not on the why.

        Yeah, I forget that that is how lots of people operate, they need the rules to be clear and don't work with the intention so much.

      • KJT 4.1.3

        Had more trouble with, "narkers" in our area, who make up their own interpretation of "the rules". Seem to be mostly the ones who listen to fools, like Hosking.

  5. Adrian 5

    We could pay some out of work actors to parade through the streets in big black coats and a scythe over their shoulder calling out “ Bring out your dead “. That should get a bit of focus.

  6. pat 6

    I am not sure this is a serious suggestion ( i myself see a lot of negative aspects) but how about a set distant lockdown release date…say 12 weeks…and then as data is collected there is a reduction or increase as indicated by that data, somewhat like the doomsday clock…am aware that we have a loose version currently with the stated 4 weeks subject to review.

    • Incognito 6.1

      Not a bad idea, IMO. If only the Government could clearly articulate the criteria and plan for moving out of lockdown, regionally or nationally. A clock would enable people, schools, and businesses to prepare and start shaving 😉

  7. Would we have to pay anything back if confirmed cases go up?

    Or would be benefit if there are surges and then a reduction?

    • alwyn 7.1

      It would pay us if they only reported new cases every second day wouldn't it?

      Suppose the actual numbers were, from Day 1 to Day 7 – 78, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90 92.

      Report the numbers accumulating them each 2 days. Then we would report them as.

      Day 1 = 0. Day 2 = 160. Day 3 = 0. Day 4= 170. Day 5 = 0. Day 6 = 178. Day 7 = 0.

      Let's see. That would be how much? Of course it is silly but not any more so than the system where we don't publish the number of tests done each day. There we give an average over a week so no one can actually check that the number we are doing has any real connection to the claims made by the politicians.

      • Incognito 7.1.1

        Suppose the actual numbers were, from Day 1 to Day 7 – 78, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90 92.

        Let's see. That would be how much?

        That would be $0 because the lowest daily increase of 78 is at the beginning of the period and all subsequent daily increases are higher than 78 (on your calculator, > 78).

        They have been reporting the number of daily tests again in the daily updates but that’s not the number of primary importance here.

        Again, people seem to focus more on the absolute number than on the change, which should be downward.

        • lprent

          They have been reporting the number of daily tests again in the daily updates but that’s not the number of primary importance here.

          Actually the number of tests is important. If there was a significiant pool of people associated with people known to have the disease, then a wider range of tests associated with them should have shown a significiant increase in asymptomatic carriers. The increase in the number of test performed and checked has been been going up significantly.

          That hasn’t happened so far or we’re in the lag between testing and analysing. It appears that is either not the case or that we’re having less spread or that there are populations that we haven’t seen. Which is presumably why the net has been widened again to anyone exhibiting respiratory symptoms.

          Later next week will be the interesting period.

          • Incognito

            I agree the number of test is important, but of secondary importance for this post 😉

            I don’t think the lag between testing and analysing (result) has changed; it has always been reported as between 24 and 48 hours AFAIK. There could be a lag between becoming a (asymptomatic) carrier and testing positive, if that’s what you mean. I don’t know if there are any hard data on this as it would mean infecting healthy volunteers and then waiting to see when they return a positive test result. Slightly unethical 😉

            The number of daily test has and still is increasing but the number of cases seems to have no clear correlation with this. It could be a good sign but, as you said, it is too early to tell. By the end of next week, we should have a better idea.

            It could also mean that the previous testing regime and previous case definitions were actually adequate under the circumstances here in NZ. But you won’t know till you measure. My gut feeling was that we were doing fine with the testing but it was concluded or decided rather that it was better to err on the safe side. Public pressure may have been a factor too.

            • lprent

              I agree the number of test is important, but of secondary importance for this post

              For the purposes of this post, yes. I finally got around to reading the post this morning. I was responding to your comment in the backend 😈

              I don’t think the lag between testing and analysing (result) has changed; it has always been reported as between 24 and 48 hours AFAIK. There could be a lag between becoming a (asymptomatic) carrier and testing positive, if that’s what you mean.

              The virus shedding pre and post-lag vs symptomatic is the dangerous one. Because this virus starts shedding before people start feeling crook, and continues after they get over their slightly hoarse throat – that is why this disease is so dangerous. Then you only pick it up if someone else infected by them gets symptomatic and after a cluster of people have been infected.

              With the testing lag, basically people who are tested should just go into quarantine until they're cleared. Just reading the news reports, it looks like there is a behaviour that a number of people get tested because of association, but proceed to wander around like untinking dorks.

              My gut feeling was that we were doing fine with the testing but it was concluded or decided rather that it was better to err on the safe side. Public pressure may have been a factor too.

              It looks to me like they have been targeting the tests in pretty closely to the diagnostic need. They started at a low base because that is all that they had in terms of capacity and followed the 80:20 law.

              Targeting symptomatic people at the border and contact to known cases was the correct usage because it allowed the spreaders from the border to be identified before they caused outbreaks. . That is what has been allowing them to identify clusters like Marist Girls or that cluster in Southland. But basically supporting the isolation of contacts was the primary focus.

              They expanded the capacity and kept the same focus – only just widening a few days ago. But most importantly they've been making sure that the labs doing the testing weren't getting overwhelmed. There is nothing quite as dangerous in a pandemic as getting medical resources swamped.

              What they're now starting to target those with any respiratory symptoms is trying to identify any clusters with a community spread so that they can lock those communities down. I suspect that Matamata cluster was caught that way.

              Once they manage to test their latest 6k test capacity, I think that they ratchet it up again so that they can saturate any future identified cases with tests to knock outbreaks down faster. There are always a few idiots who think that they're immune and could never be carriers.

              Mind you – there are few idiots wherever. Just look at the mindless fuckwits playing scalp hunting with David Clark. Too busy playing peacetime games and not focusing on the actual issues. They really need to read more about what is going on in New York or Uruguay right now.

          • alwyn

            I've not actually come across a definition of what they are reporting in the daily "new cases" number.

            It clearly isn't the number of positive tests from samples they have taken that day. Apparently it takes a number of days to get the results back so they can't know tomorrow at 1300 hrs how many new positives they got from samples taken today. It also doesn't seem to be, although perhaps it is, that the number they report today was the number of positives from Tuesday's tests say, from which they would have the results.

            What is it from? Do you know?

            The number of positives is also, I would think, dependent on the number of tests they do. If they miss Sunday, because everybody has Sunday off, then about Wednesday next week will have very low positives. Do we pay out on those because we didn't do any testing?

            If, on the other hand we actually did, and checked, 5000 tests and got quite a lot of positives would we pay out the next day when the results from only a very low number of tests were reported?

            You don't like my proposal of the odd results if we only reported the numbers every second day. What would happen if we didn't check the samples every day? Perhaps we found it was more efficient to only do the analysis of samples every second day, and only reported the numbers therefore every second day?

            We would get very strange results, wouldn't we?

            However I remain curious. What do the 82, or what ever they were, new positives reported today really mean?

            Incidentally I was not aware that they had restarted publishing the number of daily tests. Thank you for that information.

            • Incognito

              I’d think that they report on the test results received over the last 24 hours. This could mean results from samples taken between 24 to 48 hours earlier. I don’t know for sure, but the important thing is that they report on it in a consistent manner and at the same time each day, which they’re doing as far as I can tell.

              You’re correct that there could be a correlation between the number of tests run and analysed and the number of results reported. IIRC, one weekend (was it last weekend?) they reported a slightly lower number because of fewer tests conducted over the weekend. Interestingly, the number of daily tests has ramped up but the number of daily additional new cases seems quite static. In any case, a lower number of new positives because of fewer tests sets a new minimum to beat for pay out; as soon as testing resumes in full, e.g. after a weekend, the number will rise and there will be no pay out.

              Do we pay out? And when do we pay out?

              Since I’m more interested in the concept of incentivising the population than in the finer details – I’m not in charge of setting policies – I’ll pass, but feel free to come up with a scheme that you think could/would work well/better, but keep it simple to understand.

              TBH, I didn’t understand your example of the odd numbers 😉

              A new positive is a verified and confirmed positive result from the PCR test that came in within the 24-hour period, IMO.

              I don’t know if they’re publishing the daily testing numbers on their website but they seem to mention these in their press announcements.

              Edit: it seems they do report these and more. For example, today: https://www.health.govt.nz/news-media/media-releases/82-new-cases-covid-19

    • Incognito 7.2

      No, money only changes hands into the hands of the NZ people if the number (i.e. the daily increase in confirmed cases) goes down and below a minimum daily increase that can change and only within a set period.

      I can elaborate and give a working example if really necessary. Preferably, don’t ask me questions like these and put your thinking hats on.

  8. Carolyn_Nth 8

    In Sweden they are going for people deciding for themselves on the best behaviour. Many people are willingly complying with physical distancing and self isolation. But the authorities are still allowing things like contact sports.

    Their Covid-19 death total looks quite high.

    However, the other side of it is the negative impacts of lock down, and stay at home. eg NZ's Women's refuges report an increase in reports of domestic violence during lock down.

    It may depend somewhat on the incentives and culture within a country or community for compliance to the lock down – whether the population is used to state dominated authoritarianism, or a more liberal community based ethos.

    Social media includes those who rebel against any authority, distrust them, and some see the lock down as a (possibly left wing) conspiracy.

    No idea how widespread it is.

    • pat 8.1

      "Sweden reported 612 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to around 6,000. The death toll has reached 333, with fatalities now running at about 25-30 a day, according to the Swedish Health Agency."


      "But Sweden’s liberal approach, which aims to minimise disruption to social and economic life, is coming under fire as the epidemic spreads in the capital.

      “We don’t have a choice, we have to close Stockholm right now,” Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the Karolinska Institute, told Reuters.

      She is one of around 2,300 academics who signed an open letter to the government at the end of last month calling for tougher measures to protect the healthcare system."

      Time will tell but I dont think its likely to prove the best strategy

      • Carolyn_Nth 8.1.1

        One of the other factors is that Sweden has done limited testing. Germany, on the other hand has done extensive testing, followed by isolation and tracing contacts. This is possibly a major factor.

        I have read elsewhere, can't remember where, that widespread testing, followed by rapid contact tracing and isolation is a key factor in controlling the virus.

        • alwyn

          "Sweden has done limited testing".

          That I was not aware off. The South Korea, and Singapore, experience seemed to show the truth of you comment that "widespread testing, followed by rapid contact tracing and isolation" was they way to go.

          I don't think I like the Swedish approach at all.

        • pat


          not as limited as all that….and there appears little relationship between incidence and testing

          • Incognito

            I think that’s because it doesn’t take into account when the testing started and how aggressively they tested in the beginning. It’s just an overall aggregate number.

            • pat

              perhaps but given that it cannot be reliably claimed that testing volume plays a significant role in containment/eradication. Given that all countries are constrained in their ability to test, even if not by capacity then by time ( a negative test today tells you nothing about tomorrow). It is the nature of testing that is important.

              That may change if a reliable antibody test becomes available AND long term immunity is confirmed.

              • Incognito

                The relationship between testing volume and containment/eradication is not a linear one, I believe. There has to be certain minimum number of tests, especially if highly targeted (cf. case definitions), beyond which we’ll see the Law of Diminishing Returns come into view. I think we be entering this transition stage.

                • pat

                  which supports the practice adopted here in NZ….there may be a case made for a community test of a random sample to ascertain a level of community infection that could potentially pick up asymptomatic cases but that dosnt require testing of anyone who desires it and is best controlled by the epidemiologists….I understand that is being examined.

                  Despite the criticisms by some I believe we are being very well served by our officials.

                  • Incognito


                    I believe some testing stations were over-run once the criteria were changed/broadened. It puts more strain on staff and resources with little benefit for the overall general health of our population in terms of stamping out COVID-19, IMHO.

                    • mpledger

                      Also, if people get a test and it's negative today, if may lure them into a sense of false complacency. They may catch it the next day.

                    • lprent

                      They may catch it the next day.

                      Or they already have it but haven't been shedding viruses yet for the virus to be detected with a swab. What has been noticeable with covid-19 is that the swab test starts getting results between 1 and 5 days after people were known to have been infected.

                    • Incognito []

                      You both make good points. A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean what (some) people seem to think it means (e.g. party hard and flout all the rules). It is important that we all act/behave as if we are carriers even after a negative test result. This message seems to have been lost among all the others. Similarly, close contacts of confirmed cases did not require a test but had to stay home in their ‘bubble’ under Alert Level 4. I think this one was particularly confusing for some.

    • Incognito 8.2

      Yes, there are negative consequences of the lockdown, which is one reason to keep it as short as possible. We certainly don't wish to experience increased domestic violence or suicides because of the lockdown and/or the sharp economic downturn. The longer it continues, the higher the risk that it will become a truly traumatic experience for many with all consequences.

      Comparisons with Sweden or the so-called Nordic countries are fun and good rhetorical examples but it never changes the fact that Swedes and Kiwis have quite mentalities and attitudes.

      I wasn’t referring to rebels on social media but to the ones out and about who may be flouting the rules.

      • Carolyn_Nth 8.2.1

        Well, it looks like the police approach has changed tonight, and the police are gonna use more (rhetorical, but law enforcement penalties) sticks.

        • Incognito

          Hadn’t seen that, Ta.

          Will read it tomorrow in full because the day is fast disappearing on me – we do get an hour extra later tonight.

          I prefer the carrot 😉

          • weka

            reading that, it's kind of mind blowing that the govt told everyone to stay home, didn't put a law in place to back that up, and everyone just stayed home for the most part. We did good.

            Now ten days later, yep, put the law in place to deal with the people not complying.

            I also prefer the carrot, or at least having a carrot so the stick isn't necessary.

  9. Of course there is already a big incentive – while a month is the nominal length of the lockdown it will be longer if the virus is still around.

    I expect some parts of the country to come out earlier than others, that will because they did the right thing more than the rest of us

    • Incognito 9.1


    • Largely due to two events that took place before the lockdown began – a Hereford conference in Queenstown and a wedding in Bluff – it looks like the Southern District may be already have a problem coming out of Level 4 any time soon.

      • Yes, sadly, and I live in Dunedin too – but I don't begrudge others getting out earlier than me if they're safe … I can imagine for example say Waimate coming out of lockdown, with cops sitting on the roads out of town, and then Timaru with the cops moving their roadblocks outwards as the clean area gets larger

        • weka

          I hope they do it town by town but I suspect it will be more likely to be province by province. Or something in between.

          • Paul Campbell

            I think that they will have to b e practical about it – what can they enforce? if your town has 10 roads out of it it may not be practical, but Glenorchy with 1 road will be

            • weka

              certainly restricting the SDHB area would be much easier, Haast/Lindis/Danseys pass and then a bit more complicated around Oamaru.

    • Carolyn_Nth 9.3

      And for that kind of incentive to be possible, there needs to be extensive testing and rapid contact tracing and isolation.

      Widespread testing and immediate feedback is likely an incentive in itself. This likely brings home to an increasing number of people how they are impacted by the virus.

      I think immediate and accurate feedback to people and groups is important in incentivising people to achieve outcomes in a range issues and goals.

      In our individualised times, a lot of people don't have an accurate idea of the biger picture in things that impact society in a number of ways.

      That myopic, self-focused response can be seen in people spitting at front line essential workers because they are not (immediately?) getting what they perceive they need.

      • Incognito 9.3.1

        In order to get more people on board, if at all necessary, is to use or tap into their myopic self-focused minds. We can ‘re-educate’ them later 😉

  10. Stunned Mullet 10

    Sounds like a bit of fun – so how much would it cost over a couple of weeks ?

    If it ran until numbers halved from current new cases wouldn't it be around 20*100*5M = 10B ?

    Sounds like a fair whack to incentivise everyone to prevent a small number of people from not behaving like numpties ?

    How about instead the numpties and locked up for the duration of the lockdown ?

    • Incognito 10.1

      That would be a $10 billion stimulus package, which may be needed regardless.

      You can play with the numbers so don’t get hung up on them. The question is whether it would make sense to provide additional incentives to help stamp out the virus ASAP.

      BTW, I like the idea of poorer people and families benefitting from this proportionally more than the well heeled, i.e. it is progressive in nature.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    The facts in NZ are:

    Nearly 1000 cases, one death, a handful in hospital with the numbers decreasing.

    The one death was from someone in the high risk group.

    The evidence here is that for the vast majority the disease is relatively harmless. It seems reasonable to assume the reason that we don't have more serious cases is that the vulnerable groups are benefiting from the general self-isolating, and hence not getting sick.

    Taking all this together, wouldn't the sensible thing to do be to isolate the at-risk people, and let everyone else get on with getting the economy running again?

    Which ever side of the political spectrum we are on, surely we should all be concerned about the massive loss of jobs, and want to see the current situation loosened as quickly as possible.

    I am not meaning stopping all the measures. Rather we should increase the testing, and isolate any sick people. And also isolate the at risk people. Then let everyone else go back to work.

    • weka 11.1

      thanks mate, how long do you think I should plan to stay in isolation for? What if I don't want to?

      Letting everyone who is not at risk and who isn't sick get back to the old life is a surefire way to spread covid in the community. Which means an overloaded health system and more deaths. The biggest group of people transmitting covid is not at risk/elderly people, it's mostly younger people who've been socialising.

      • aj 11.1.1

        … how long do you think I should plan to stay in isolation for? What if I don't want to?Letting everyone who is not at risk and who isn't sick get back to the old life is a surefire way to spread covid in the community.

        Exactly. And it might mean the highest risk people have to remain in lockdown for 2,4,6,8 months while the virus sweeps through everyone else. Including those who have contact with that at risk group, to keep them sane,feed, and alive. How do you think one group in society is going to handle that for a long period, while the rest carry on with life? Dumb idea.

        • weka

          yep. I suspect that lots of people don't know what is entailed in making sure that at risk people are ok. It would also mean that family couldn't visit their relatives in old people's homes.

        • mpledger

          The at-risk group are also the group that are more likely to need to go to hospital for reasons other than covid-19.

          But that becomes a pretty dangerous place if covid-19 is spreading through the youngsters because even young, healthy people may need hospital level care if they catch covid-19.

      • tsmithfield 11.1.2

        The problem with the "stamp it out" argument is that there is no way of knowing if it has been stamped out. Even zero confirmed cases doesn't mean any at all.

        So, we, at some point, need to treat this like any other notifiable disease.

        So at what point would you say we should relax the restrictions? Do you think we should be locked up until zero cases or something higher than that?

        If it is something higher, then we don't fundamentally disagree. It is just where we draw the line.

        • Incognito

          You raise important questions to which we, at least, don’t yet know the answers.

          The OP is about what we can/could do to get out of the lockdown ASAP. We’ve been given four weeks and towards the end of the four weeks we should have good idea of what comes next (AKA we cross the bridge when we get there).

          It is quite feasible that if the number of new cases becomes zero in Southland, for example, while in other parts of the country they’re not quite zero yet. In that case, I’d expect that Southland could go down in Alert Level earlier/faster. And vice versa, if the number of new cases starts to rise again, the Alert Level will have to be rapidly increased.

    • RedLogix 11.2

      I linked to a YT a few days back that explicitly modelled the various options and 'test and isolate' is indeed that is the optimum method if you are in a position to do pretty much universal testing.

      Unfortunately NZ is not yet able to do testing intensively enough for this to work yet. Ideally we may be able to get to this at a later stage.

      By contrast just isolating the ‘at risk’ people is a very weak method on it’s own. It only has some utility as part of a broader program; after all people cannot stay in isolation forever.

      Interestingly this logic also applies to nations. How long can we keep NZ isolated for?

      • tsmithfield 11.2.1

        The announcement today was a similar number of cases identified with twice as much testing. So, there can't be a lot out there.

        So, we probably don't need to be at level 4 which is totally recking the economy.

        We could step back to level 3 which would allow a lot of businesses to start back up. But increase the testing and make sure sick people are quarantined and those that are at risk are isolated. So, it is not just letting the disease run uncontrolled.

        So far as letting people into NZ, I think this is OK if everyone who comes in goes into mandatory quarantine for two weeks. For people coming for an extended stay that would be fine I imagine.

        • weka

          If you delete the white space from the bottom of your comment before you post, we won't get those big gaps.

        • RedLogix

          We are just at the inflection point in the growth rate, bang on the 10 day period the models predicted.

          The big problem with this particulars virus is this asymptomatic transmission period … in control system terms it's the equivalent of 'transport delay' (or 'deadtime'). When it's the dominant term in the process it makes controlling a process far more difficult … much more so than most people think is reasonable. This is because pure transport delay is relatively rare in nature and humans are not evolved to conceptually handle it very well.

          This means there is a very real risk when you start to remove controls, because it will be another 10 days before you see the impact … which could be much larger than you expect.

          • tsmithfield

            I do understand that.

            Which is why I would want any relaxation in terms of activity to be accompanied by an increase in testing and isolating those who are sick.

            I think the other variable is people's good will and willingness to comply. If this goes on too long, then people will start to flout the restrictions, which could end up being counter-productive.

            The other thing is that we need to have some target where restrictions can be relaxed. That is certainly going to be higher than zero, unless we are to be locked up all year.

            So, at some point, the type of strategy I propose will need to be implimented. The way it is looking at the moment, it could be quite soon.

            • Incognito

              Yes, some good points in that comment.

              The long tail could indeed become an issue, which is why I suggested to add more carrot to get ‘buy in’ from the people.

        • Incognito

          The current best estimate is that about 1% of the cases are (due to) community spread, which is very pleasing and reassuring if true. However, we shouldn’t take anything for granted and relax too early because it could easily flare up and spread beyond our control. This is what we must try to avoid within these four weeks. If successful – it’s not very clear what this will look like – then we can relax down to Alert Level 3 or 2 even.

          • tsmithfield

            I think four weeks is probably baked in. But going longer than that is going to start to stretch the level of tolerance that people have to being effectively under house arrest.

            So, one way or another I think we need to be able to go to a strategy fairly soon that allows reasonably normal activity along with expected hygienes etc, and more testing.

            • Incognito

              Today was Day 10; 18 more to go? Doable? Or do we need more and/or better incentives?

          • Graeme

            There's also a very large number where work is still ongoing to determine the origin of the infection.

            Cases attributed to community transmission appear to be only those where a link to a cluster or overseas travel can be explicitly excluded.

    • Incognito 11.3

      I’m not familiar enough with the latest modelling studies but the at-risk group is not a small number.

      If I understand you correctly, you suggest that all people with known risk factors should stay in isolation indefinitely. I think the associated risks are too high to consider this as a viable strategy option. However, if the plan of stamping out and eradicating the virus fails, we may have to find other ways of keeping the vulnerable safe.

      We are currently in a stamping out phase so let’s stamp it out, altogether; united we stand, divided we fall.

      • tsmithfield 11.3.1

        A lot of the at-risk groups are in the likes of retirement homes. It should be relatively easy to isolate those types of facilities. The biggest risk is that carers bring the virus in with them.

        In the end we are going to have to do something like this because I don't think a lock down can last until there are zero cases. And how would we know that anyway? Unless everyone in NZ is tested, even zero confirmed cases doesn't mean there aren't any at all.

        • weka

          "The biggest risk is that carers bring the virus in with them."

          That's right. It's not possible to isolate them. It would also mean no visitors. Can you imagine what that would do to elderly people?

          "A lot of the at-risk groups are in the likes of retirement homes"

          And a lot aren't. What happens to them?

          • tsmithfield

            The point is we are probably actually at level 3 on the alert system at the moment.

            According to the level Level 4 perscription: "This is the top-level and would be activated if it is "likely" COVID-19 is not contained nationally or at a local level. There would have to be intensive and sustained transmission with widespread outbreaks."

            The current state of play looks much more like level 3 to me: "It would come into effect if authorities believed that there was a heightened risk that the illness is no longer contained. This could mean that community transmission is evident or that multiple clusters of COVID-19 break out."


            The restrictions at level 3 are quite high as well. But at least the economy can function. I think level 3 restrictions along with more testing will be as effective as what we have now.

            • Incognito

              I think nobody in charge would or could say with confidence that it is contained now. It is too early to tell. There are several clusters and they’re growing.

            • weka

              The 4 Levels are kind of strangely structured, I think of them has also having a range within each one. At the moment we are at the bottom of L4, trying to not get to the top.

              Level 4: Likely that disease is not contained.

              That is where we are at, and the point of the lock down is to eliminate covid. What you are suggesting is that we stop trying to eliminate it, and let it spread in a somewhat constrained manner. That will mean more deaths (probably a lot more), longer at whatever level, indefinite isolation for vulnerable people, serious strain on the health system, and as others have pointed out, still with large negative consequences on the economy.

              • tsmithfield

                No, I don't think it needs to spread any more than it is now. And the objective of elimination can still be achieved at say level 3.

                But for that to work we would need as much testing as possible so the sick are identified and quarantined. So, loosening would need to be accompanied by more testing.

                • weka

                  "And the objective of elimination can still be achieved at say level 3"

                  The people who are experienced in pandemic management say otherwise, and the whole point of L4 was to create the conditions that would enable eliminations.

                  You seem to be still missing the point that people going to work and play as per normal is *how the virus will transmit, and that breaking those chains of contact is necessary to contain that. What you are suggesting won't, it might slow transmission a bit, but then we might just get big outbreaks that are ahead of testing.

                  There's a time lag between becoming infective and symptoms appearing and getting tested and in that time, the person with covid will infect 2 – 3 other people, who will then go on to infect 2 – 3 other people each, and so on. This is how we turn our currently somewhat contained transmission into an exponential cluster fuck like other countries.

                  We simply don't have the resources to have BAU and test everyone and then manage the hospital system. This is why we have lockdown.

            • Gabby

              I'm quite glad you don't get to decide.

        • pat

          you do realise that without the virus under control the economy will not be functioning in any case…numerous businesses will shut their doors anyway, a significant proportion of the workforce will not venture out to work, the sick leave will be significant, we risk collapsing our medical system ….and without the lockdown the wage subsidy serves no purpose and will likely disappear……you think business is going to function in that environment?

          The looting business maybe

          • tsmithfield

            See my reply to Weka above.

            The current state looks much more like level 3 to me. So why not go back to that. But with more testing. If we can track the cases down through testing then we can be much more specific about how we deal with this problem. At the moment it is cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.

            • pat

              more like trying to drive in a spike with a tack hammer…..and you best hope we manage it

            • Incognito

              We went from Alert Level 2 to 4 in two days. I don’t think it’ll go the same way in reverse.

            • weka

              "If we can track the cases down through testing then we can be much more specific about how we deal with this problem."

              It doesn't work without staying home, because by the time testing and tracing is done, exponentially more people have become infected.

              The only way we have a chance of catching up with the current infections is for people to stay put while testing and tracing is done. The more people stay put now, the more likely it is that we can drop back through the levels. If people don't stay at home, we will probably go to beyond level 4 and that's not going to be pretty. It will make what's happening now look like a holiday.

            • KJT

              Problem with testing is that it, the virus doesn't show antibodies and/or symptoms for several days after it is infectious.

              My medical knowledge is just enough to be dangerous, first responder, but even I can see that information from testing will be historical rather than preventative.

              The approach of treating everyone as if they have it, for a period, makes sense.

              • weka

                This ^

              • Incognito

                Not quite. The PCR assay measures bits of RNA coming from the virus itself. This is why some tests of materials or surfaces, for example, can give a ‘positive’ because it picked a bit of RNA left behind. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are/were viable virus particles present that could infect somebody. If there’s not enough RNA in the swab, e.g. because it’s too early in the infection and the viral load is still (too) low, the test will turn a negative.

                I agree with the rest of your comment 🙂

    • lprent 11.4

      The evidence here is that for the vast majority the disease is relatively harmless. It seems reasonable to assume the reason that we don't have more serious cases is that the vulnerable groups are benefiting from the general self-isolating, and hence not getting sick.

      That would be the dumb approach – yes. Perhaps you should look at closely at New York to see how far it gets you?

      They were running much higher test levels than we are, and now they have a full scale epidemic. Their main numbers of their case load now isn't the old and vulnerable, it is the primarily the late 30s, 40s, and 50s – in other words the mainstay of the economy.

      The people there who were staying in their homes early were the elderly and vulnerable. The young and the healthy went to work. Now they are the ones flooding the hospitals.

      With a virus like this with a high infection rate and a large asymptomatic incubation it becomes a crap shoot. The healthy youngers aren’t immune to have bad effects – they are merely less likely to die from it. At least up until the time that the medical resources run out – they they die from a lack of support.

      FFS grow up and learn..

  12. Adam Ash 12

    Most of the covidiots ignoring the law wouldn’t know a carrot if it was presented on a silver platter with written instructions. Perhaps we need a week using President Dutere’s stick .

    • Incognito 12.1

      Let’s not use that kind of stick on our fellow Kiwis. That’s not who we are!

      • KJT 12.1.1

        Brainstorming is good.

        If staying alive is not sufficient carrot, though, I'm not convinced your suggestion would work, either.

        Digging into a lot of the, so called, "rule breaches" they are not really increasing the probability of virus spread, and the time spent by police on them, would have been better used contact tracing and chasing up isolating returning travellers.

        Noted many are by youngsters, as I've said. "Ten foot tall and bulletproof". Some thoughts about how they can "let off steam" in a monitored way, may be useful.

        • Graeme

          Yesterday I was working (building a fence to keep the surplus stock we have from works being virtually closed) within sight of one of the main Queenstown trails.

          Usage of the trail would have been a virtually normal levels for local usage, maybe more. I gave up counting approaching 100 because I'd missed too many. At one point there were 10 people in the 50m of trail I could see.

          People weren't stopping to chat though, and seemed to be making an effort to keep their 2m clearance. But still a lot of people out and about. Those on bikes would have been doing a 20km circuit.

          There's also a lot of cyclists out on road bikes doing big rides.

          But these are mostly adults or family groups, the kids / young adults have disappeared around here. Even the boy racers have gone quiet.

          • KJT

            Thinking about it. The usual hoons doing burnouts around the place, seem to have stopped for now. Being in a river valley we usually hear them anywhere near town.

            A lot more people walking locally, family groups and adults. Expected as so many more at home.

            Haven't seen anyone not keeping to two metres, apart from the odd cyclist zipping past. They are still keeping as far away on the path as they can.

            Many amusing tableax involving teddy bears appearing, and chalked encouraging messages.

            Everybody smiles and says, Hi.

            Nice to have so little traffic, and brilliant sunny weather to go walking.
            My farm worker son is going a bit stir crazy. The harvesting has been completed, and his next job, fencing has been deemed “non essential” for now.

        • Incognito

          It’s ok to disagree 😉

          It’s not just about staying alive yourself, but (also) about not being an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic ‘super-spreader’ infecting others who could die. The young could easily fit into this category.

          The authorities (…) seem to take the flouting of the rules very seriously and I think this is for a good reason. We have been given four weeks and are spending billions of dollars on this. We cannot take short cuts and/or be(come) complacent.

      • Adam Ash 12.1.2

        Respectfully, BS. In living memory New Zealanders have never been tested like this before. Unlike Bosnians, Syrians Ukrainians and citizens in many other strife-torn countries the average Kiwi has zero experience with how to cope with real adversity. It could get very nasty here surprisingly fast. Rice is now rationed. Supermarket queues are still well behaved. But its a powder keg waiting for the spark.

        • Incognito

          You wrote @ 12:

          Perhaps we need a week using President Dutere’s stick .

          Which is a call to arms and a ‘licence’ to kill fellow Kiwis. We don’t need this here and now in New Zealand. Your comparison with those “other strife-torn countries” is misguided and misleading.

          But its [sic] a powder keg waiting for the spark.

          I assume you own at least one gun because you strike me as one scared little bunny with your fear mongering.

          If you cannot address the content of the OP, take your comments elsewhere, e.g. to OM, thanks.

          • Adam Ash

            Thanks for the rebuke Incognito.

            My first post was on topic re carrots n sticks. Extreme stupidity requires extreme firmness if we are to make it thru this. Maybe not THAT extreme, I agree, but remember troops attending to rioters in the depression and general strike years gone by.

            My reference to folk who are perforce more ‘experienced’ than us was to note how naive we are when it comes to dealing with really hard times. Ive been in a situation where nice decent Kiwis got a bit short of tucker and it went downhill very quickly.

            So the carrots and sticks need to be ‘encouraging’ enough to keep the lid on. Its all very polite part way thru Week two. Lets hope it stays that way.

            I don’t think trivial incentives for good behavior will be enough to keep the covidiots off the street – they will needs a firmer hand

            I hope these musings don’t offend

            • RedLogix

              My reference to folk who are perforce more ‘experienced’ than us was to note how naive we are when it comes to dealing with really hard times.

              We all like to think we're fundamentally 'good' people and we'd all do the right thing in adversity. You are correct in that most kiwis have never encountered real hardship and have no idea how they'd react to it. We've gotten very used to the idea that bad things happen elsewhere and we will always be safe enough.

              Worse still most have never had to face a life and death dilemma, very few have had our moral courage truly tested. Indeed many people are quite naive when it comes to their own capacity for evil.

              Most people only think they're 'good' because they've never had the opportunity to do something evil and actually get away with it. We rely on the law and safe food in the supermarkets for social stability more than we like to think.

              When faced with chaos our ancient enemy disease brings us, we depend on firm and authorative government to protect the nation. The ground has shifted, and we must re-balance with it.

            • Incognito

              Those musings did not offend in the slightest because you did a much better job of explaining them, thanks.

              Sometimes, a firm hand is needed and sometimes a stern warning suffices.

              I’m not particularly wedded to my own proposal as laid out in the OP and subsequent comments, but I would not call a $10 billion package a “trivial incentive” 😉


              • Adam Ash


                iI respectfully say ‘trivial’ because a) it does not work out to much per person, and b) it is not well targeted to ‘hit’ those who may otherwise be inclined to break curfew.

                IMHO most folk are being good out of civic duty (plus a desire to survive). The money would be better spent on helping those in dire need, plus supporting enforcement efforts. The State of Emergency allows the armed forces to be used. We need to make sure defaulters are caught and confined and the sooner the better. A stronger presence on street corners would welcomed by most.

                • Incognito

                  During the course of the OP and commentary, we ended up with a working example of $10 billion distributed across 5 million New Zealanders at $2,000 per person. Unless you’re an overpaid beneficiary or working for the minimum wage, I’d say $2,000 in the hand is not trivial. Combined with all the Government initiatives, $10 billion is not trivial. The idea is that it will serve two goals: 1) motivate at a personal level, and 2) get as much money flowing into the economy as quickly and as much as possible. Targeting would make it more complicated and possibly miss both points. As I said, many seem to have a problem with doling out money and targeting is often their ‘solution’.

                  He [Oliver Hartwich, executive director of the NZ Initiative, a free market think tank] also cautions against spending on poorly targeted and expensive interventions such as a universal basic income.


            • KJT

              Yes. Many people remembered the troops in the depression, and "Masseys Cassocks" and the laws against feeding strikers families.

              Both examples of heavy handed State repression, which should never, be repeated.

              I suggest re reading my post and the "Zombie Apocalypse" reference in it.

  13. greywarshark 13

    I like the idea of incentivising parents to get their children occupied in reading writing and using imagination and paying them money to do so.

    Set a task for the day for kids (and parents, it would work either way) perhaps finding or writing a haiku poem and sending it in would get a payment of $5 grocery voucher at any of the supermarkets. Families that are short of money, are often likely to be the ones that have had a cursory education ie one where they cursed having to learn at school and do serious homework!

    Making lemonade out of lemons in this way would involve a lot of work, at government end but that is of no matter, compared to the good it would do. And the kids would get enthused, be doing something, sneaking others work whatever, it wouldn't matter, they would be learning new stuff, and realising that learnings can get you money, and that might stick for the future. I have people in my own family, nice, good, people but have never gone beyond basic schooling and don't seem to have any resilience in raising their standard of living by getting better jobs through increasing their education standards and skills.

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