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Children: the pandemic has only just begun

Written By: - Date published: 11:09 am, April 5th, 2020 - 113 comments
Categories: covid-19, david clark, Economy, health, International - Tags: , , , , ,

I’m always intrigued at the capacity of most humans to be self-delusional in the way that they favour to believe regardless of facts. Nothing else could explain the delusional idiots like David Farrar and his mischievous minions like Sean Plunket and Heather du Plessis-Allan wanting to go back to their business as usual – their ministerial scalp collection.

It also appears in the odd statement and comment wanting to drop the lockdown sooner rather than later. Their presumptions about relative economic damage of the lockdown compared to letting the virus rip through the healthy younger parts of our workforce show a serious disconnect from reality. 

Oh well, I guess I’ll have to point out the obvious level of dumb stupidity. But first lets review the global situation..

While New Zealand has, so far, we’ve appear to have been pretty good at making sure that we have contained, for the moment, the spread of covid-19. But that just puts us in the middle of the pack. Have a look at this New York Times article on reported cases. Obviously there will be some testing discrepancies.

Then you look at the outbreak countries.

The charts are not without limitations. Each country may have different reporting guidelines, which makes precise comparison among countries difficult. Some countries may be less proactive about testing or reach a limit in their ability to test, which could cause their numbers to be understated.

Still, these charts provide a way to measure the overall trajectory of the coronavirus in each country and give insight into which ones are far from controlling the virus.

All of these countries below have seen an average of more than 2,000 cases per day in the past week, and most of them are not showing any signs of a slowdown.

Basically there is no real difference between the progress of reported cases in most of the countries. Mostly rapid climbs, occasional signs of drops – like South Africa or Taiwan or Lebanon, and signs of outbreaks after a drop or constraint as the epidemic gets out of control again – like Japan.

The only real sustained differences are for China and South Korea, both of whom currently appear to have constrained the outbreaks for significiant .

They have a distinctive shape. Sustained drops with potential outbreaks being constrained.

When you look at the detail about who is getting sick and why, then the best place to look right now is in New York with its transparent reporting. For instance this BBC article “Coronavirus: The young doctors being asked to play god“. My italics, but I see this kind of report out of all of the hotspots worldwide.

And this medic, in her early 30s, tells me the stress is intense. Nearly everyone who arrives at the ER needs to be intubated and put on a ventilator. That would normally be a job done in the Intensive Care Unit. But they are overloaded.

These people need “pressors” – meds that will keep blood pressure up. And that is a job normally done by specialist nurses. But there aren’t the nurses to do it. So people who are untrained are having to do it. “How can I not worry when there are patients not getting the care that they need?”

And she says it is not just the old who are falling prey to this. “There are patients in their 30s and 40s with no pre-existing conditions. Equally, we had a 90-year old man the other day who was brought to the ER after he had fallen at home. He had a broken leg – but he also tested positive for coronavirus – even though he was exhibiting no symptoms.”

It is a confounding virus, is Covid-19.

So when I see calls like this following comment, I really have to ask why the media reporting in NZ is so poor that this mindless ignorant fool simply doesn’t understand the risks to our economy they are calling for. 

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.

Now there are so many false understandings in this comment, that you have to wonder what sewer he has been hiding it. Probably kiwiblog where out many of our most deluded dimwits live in NZ.

Basically this was a line being spun a month ago before the evidence of how the disease actually operates in population who know about it came to light. It isn’t the unexpected onslaught that we saw in China or Italy where the disease spread well before detection.

If you look at where the outbreaks have been happening recently – the people who are most at risk are mostly the healthy and mid-age who are still working. That is because in places like the US, UK, Germany or here, the vulnerable and aged have generally self-isolated themselves. People without adequate support systems like the US have left their people working in a stew of ever increasing exposure levels. So when they get exposed enough, their immune systems can collapse and they get sick. 

Only a simpleton or someone extremely resistant to reading could still think that there is no risk to children, teenagers, 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s. But I guess there are still some of them around. While it may be a lower probability than the over-60s, the probability is still there. And as the level of virus load in the population increases, so will the number of younger people having their immune systems compromised.

We don’t even know for sure yet if the auto-immune responses actually do activate enough to prevent reinfection, yet this commenter wants to test that with most of the population of NZ. 

In avy case, with each of these workers falling sick, there will be a pile more of their colleagues, friends and family having to self-isolate because testing can’t identify if they are infected until up to a week after they have been infected. As someone who has run a  number of workplaces – I can’t think of anything more damaging to the economics of the country of having workplaces going up and down like a yo-yo.

Talking about fools. You only have to look at idiots making potshots at Ministers of Health for something that has little to do with their job – like this fuckwit statement from Sean Plunket this morning – related only to David Clark going for a ride on a safe track on a offroad bike. 

The question of this Minister’s removal is not a debateable point.

At a time when our government and authorities need to have a moral high ground and exercise an unimpeachable authority to ask great sacrifice of citizens this Dr of Theology’s fall from grace is beyond redemption.

Of course it is debatable. Changing ministerial coordination in the midst of a pandemic is a potentially major problem when we haven’t gotten near to controlling the epidemic here. Plunkett should take some time to read the history of exactly how much the lapses of control by key people during the epidemic in 1918 crippled the ability to  

What isn’t debatable is that Sean Plunkett is an idiot who really should be fired as being a paper weight in a crisis. Too stupid to actually understand the risks. Too irresponsible to avoid doing unnecessary harm.

But then again, I think exactly the same about my colleague who made the same call in a post yesterday. When I finally read his ridiculous rant, I couldn’t find a single reason that I could recognize in the post why David Clark should have been fired apart for some kind of simpleton moralistic bile. Basically the same rant that Sean Plunket repeated.

Or David Farrar with a similar level of cabin fever and hobbydom. Look at this pile of false equivalences yesterday on testing. Remember that what he is talking about is the nationwide testing capacity in an environment when air flights are extremely limited. And then he compares national tetsing levels to testing at a very local area a long way from other testing labs..

It is simply nuts that the Government keeps saying we are only testing at 50% of our capacity and that we want to test, test, test yet 50% the Southern DHB lab is refusing to test 50% of swabs.

So he made that statement with absolutely no idea about what the actual level capacity of testing in Southland is. It isn’t in any of the material that he referenced. In all likelihood, since both he and the article referenced only the solitary testing lab in Invercargill, the tests were being rejected there because they didn’t have capacity to all of the swabs from local doctors. So they triaged them as they should do.

Nor did he apparently check the flights out of Southland to areas with a higher testing capacity.  It doesn’t matter how many testing kits are issued in a DHB area. What matters is the capacity in that area to process the kits.

Southland, because of a series of events, has a high outbreak number. So does Otago at a lesser level. That is why the Southern DHB has the largest number of cases in the county despite having a smaller population of 330 thousand. The Auckland DHBs of Auckland and Waitemata and Counties Manakau have  about 1.6 million and have mere kilometres of driving between their testing stations. The distance between Invercargill and Dunedin is about 360km.

The point of the post appears to be the final paragraph.

This is why the Minister of Health should be in Wellington. He should be angry. He should be threatening to fire people unless this is sorted.

For instance the administration of the Southern DHB is in Dunedin, which is where David Clark is. What good would he do ringing from Wellington that he couldn’t do with a local phone call.

David Farrar is another willfully stupid partisan idiot who doesn’t bother to check the available data. It is the kind of dumbass sloppiness that you come to expect when he is irresponsibly practicing mischief. More interested in his ministerial scalp collection than facts or the potential harm he causes.

All of the evidence to date is that where is sufficient level of infection and no lockdown, we get classic epidemic conditions. Everything spirals out of control overwhelming the medical systems. We’re not close to getting to the point where we can make a decision on how to start to end the immediate lock-down without causing outbreaks.

Could the children in the room, please take some time to educate themselves and stop being bored and mischievous? This is a serious outbreak – contain your boredom and hobbies until we get over it. Otherwise you’ll just cause serious harm to yourself and others.


113 comments on “Children: the pandemic has only just begun ”

  1. Poission 1

    The alarm and solutions to the CV outbreak came from experts in complexity theory,it is still necessary to listen to them.


    Our top recommendations for governments:

    1. National Lockdown

    In much of Europe and North America, the explosive growth of COVID-19 means that a 4-6 week strong lockdown is necessary to stop the outbreak. Such lockdowns may be politically difficult to implement, and they always entail significant short-term economic and social costs. But their effects are dramatic, and their duration is short. Two months after China imposed its lockdown, China has virtually eliminated local transmission of COVID-19. Wuhan is now safer than London or New York, and China’s economy is on the path to recovery. Without China’s strict lockdown, the economic harm to China from COVID-19 would have been orders of magnitude greater.

    During a strong lockdown, regions which are less affected by the virus can help provide resources to those in need. The lockdown also gives time to dramatically scale up the supply of COVID-19 test kits and capacity to process them. If the number of infections is dramatically reduced using the lockdown and a massive testing regime is initiated, COVID-19 can be controlled after five weeks without extreme social distancing measures. A strong lockdown would minimize both the harm to individuals, as well as the economy.

  2. Andre 2

    There's a lot of commentary flying around about perceived inadequacies in our testing regime here.

    I'm sure the actual experts have a handle on it, but one metric this armchair epidemiologist can easily pull is the ratio of tests performed to cases. By that metric we've tested a lot, and we started quite early in our epidemic.

    NZ 35:1 (950 cases, 33,116 tests, 6867 tests per M population)

    Oz 50:1 (5550 cases, 285,675 tests, 11,203 tests per M)

    South Korea 45:1 (10,156 cases, 455,032 tests, 8,875 tests per M)

    US 5:1 (306,854 cases, 1,570,108 tests, 4,743 tests per M)

    Spain 2.5:1 (124,870 cases, 355,000 tests, 7593 tests per M)


    • lprent 2.1

      I've been moderately impressed on the way that they've actually been able to scale up. It will always be lumpy because on one side you have public calls like test, test, test.

      On the other side you have test centres that have a limited and uneven ability to increase capacity. They are scattered all across a large area country with limited travel and freight. To scale they require equipment that comes from warehouses that have limited stock and competing demands. And you also require to get reasonably skilled staff who unevenly distributed.

      I haven't seen anything on how they've been doing it. But to go from a nominal 1500 capacity to a nominal 6000 in two weeks is more akin to a miracle than most people probably realize. You only have to look at the amount of time it took to setup the original testing system to realise how long these things can take.

      I'm just hoping that they aren't overstressing their staff because we will need them for quite a while.

  3. peterh 3

    The rant about the economic harm is coming thick and fast, they know a very good job by all concerned to halt this virus is seen by most NZrs, so they are gearing up hit the Govt on economic issues

  4. weka 4

    I hope this is boredom and not political strategy.

    • lprent 4.1

      I just applied Hanlon's razor.

      Hanlon's razor is an aphorism "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity", known in several other forms.[1] It is a philosophical razor which suggests a way of eliminating unlikely explanations for human behavior. Similar statements have been recorded since at least the 18th century. Probably it is named after Robert J. Hanlon, a person who submitted the idea to a joke book.

      Generally I find that it gives a better explanation for our dilettante mouth pieces around the media than malevolence.

      If I start to consider something to be deliberately malevolent then my reactions tend to be somewhat more focused. Less on scratching the tick and more focused on eradication – like whaleoil or lauda finem.

    • Chris 4.2

      Even the government is letting out noises along these lines, couched in caution, but it must just feed the right wingers champing at the bit for anything to support an easing up of things. I don't think the government at this stage should be so forthcoming with such messages, not right now.

  5. Wayne 5


    Calm down. People are allowed to have views that don't agree with yours.

    • KJT 5.1

      They should have some basis on fact, However.

      Although Iprent expressed it in his own way, he is right about the foolishness.

      The stuff from right wing inclined shock jocks is totally irresponsible.

    • lprent 5.2

      I am aware that people have views different to mine. Hell I have bill’s post that I completely disagree with on my server. That doesn't mean I can't express my views about their views as well. So I do. Why do you have a problem with that?

      I actually use facts in my posts. Bloody hard to find those when you read David Farrar or Plunket or whats her name eh? The only point that I could see to their posts was that they were bored.

      But please entertain me – in the points I raised on Farrar's testing post – wht possible justification could you make to support that piece of false fact fatuous trash? That was just outright irresponsibility.

      • Wayne 5.2.1

        I don't have a problem with you having a different view. It was your approach, with a quite bit of abuse thrown in ("wilfully stupid partisan idiot") that nothing DPF or Plunket have to say has any sense. I suppose it was the sense of entitlement of "I am smart, they are dumb" that annoyed me.

        Both DPF and Plunket are smart people. In fact DPF has been pretty supportive of the great majority of the government measures. Him having a flick at David Clark was pretty reasonable in the circumstances. It didn't call for the level of abuse that you heaped on him.

        • Morrissey

          Both DPF and Plunket are smart people.


          I've counseled Wayne before that he is now released from the yoke of Cabinet irresponsibility and is therefore free to stop telling lies. Obviously he's mentally still in what the likes of another habitual liar, Matthew Hooton, calls "the Beltway."


        • lprent

          …nothing DPF or Plunket have to say has any sense…

          I couldn’t see any real sense in the 4 posts / articles I referenced. What I saw was a group of people looking to grab a scalp at any cost.

          Both DPF and Plunket are smart people.

          Smart isn’t the same as intelligent or knowledgeable or appropriate. Someone could be smart by doing something the removes a minister based on some kind of insane moral stance, but complete stupid removing the head of a crucial ministry at a crucial time with the consequent issues that fall out of the coordination.

          If you read the historical material on what happened in the 1918 epidemic in NZ with key figure removal – you’ll find some particularly useful examples on how ‘smart’ that is. I read them up at the War Memorial Museum decades ago. It was a sobering experience. Mind you reading about generals who ‘won’ their battles and lost their wars was in the same mould.

          I’m not ‘smart’ and I tend to be mildly irritated by those who are. They have a tendency to take idiotic shortcuts that I wind up having to fix up at some point. I’m surrounded by smarter people than me all of the time. My skill is to be knowledgeable about systems in general and the number of ways that systems can screw up. That is after all my underlying profession I get employed for – even if it is current expressed as code and radio frequencies.

          But I notice that you haven’t noted anything in my post that was incorrect apart from, effectively, my ‘tone’. Is there anything substantive that you have a problem with?

        • Psycho Milt

          Both DPF and Plunket are smart people.

          That makes their playing "gotcha" for shits and giggles in this case all the more reprehensible. And it makes DPF's propaganda against the people running our testing laboratories a despicable act that should see him getting called way worse than lprent has.

        • Gabby

          It's difficult to conceive a level of abuse of the malign gnome that would be undeservedly high.

    • dv 5.3

      What a great well reasoned answer Wayne.

      Any thing to say of substance?

    • Peter 5.4

      Maybe you might enjoy:


      [You have used 6 different user names in 17 comments. Pick one user name and stick with it, thanks – Incognito]

    • Anne 5.5

      C'mon Wayne, its just lprent's style which admittedly is more robust than most. 👿

      • lprent 5.5.1

        I have had my meeting style described at least once as 'blunt force trauma' (and blogs are pretty much meeting places). Meetings with me are usually short as I like working on whatever the current project is rather than talking.

        I'm only interested in processes and results. I tend to find that expressing what I mean clearly gets those as clear as possible as fast as possible. If it offends some peoples sense of dignity, then I'm reasonably confident it usually won't be fatal. I'm also sure that progress will be faster next time.

        But what else do you expect from ex-production manager turned programmer (with a accidental sideline in blogging).

        • Incognito

          I thought it was a strong post and despite the subtle language and nuance, you managed to get the message across.

        • Anne

          Just in case I have been taken the wrong way – its happened before – my comment was in jest.

          I actually like lprent's style because there is little ambiguity and he's non-partisan. I've been on the receiving end once or twice. The moral of the story? Don't say anything too silly when lprent is around. smiley

    • Chris 5.6

      You're not aware of how ridiculous that sounds, are you?

  6. observer 6

    The best possible outcome is that the NZ government is accused of over-reacting because not enough people get sick and die.

    It's idiotic, but I wouldn't want to be in the experimental group where the government's measures are proved right by implementing the alternative.

    • lprent 6.1

      🙂 exactly.

      The 20:20 hindsight crowd can get screwed by a fence post for all I care about their opinions. I keep looking at New York or Ecuador for the alternative and not liking it.

    • Chris 6.2

      That's a key message right there that the money pricks need to have shoved down their throats.

  7. Peter 7

    It's a bit unfair to criticise Sean Plunket for being an idiot. It's simply a career choice which he continues to practise. At least credit him with mastery.

    David Farrar? The same.

  8. Full marks to Jacinda and her team: I thought she got the balance absolutely right when she said at her presser today something along these lines – we can either have a health system or an economy. If we come out of level 4 too soon we'll have neither.

    Contrast with Trump – we can't let the cure be worse than the problem. 'Merica's fucked!

  9. Propagandists like DPF will have it both ways: if the government's approach fails (ie we get a swamped health system and many deaths), they'll rail against government incompetence in not closing the borders early enough, not forcibly quarantining people etc; and if the government's approach is a success (ie health system copes OK, few deaths), they'll rail against government incompetence for subjecting us to lock-down and wrecking the economy in a big fuss over nothing. Basically their writings on the subject are malicious in intent and should be seen as such.

  10. adam 10

    I'm confused why you think it's so hard to replace a minister at this time. The role of associate ministers are there for just that reason. Also what happens if a minister goes down with the virus – are you saying we can't replace them? The system should have more flexibility to cope with the unexpected, and incopentance. I know we all got use to incopentance under the last government – that's no excuse to tolerate it in this one.

    Please note: I have issues with Clark and the MoH on the treatment of disabled in this crisis – which in my humble opinion – has been utter crap. So if the minister I have a bone to pick with, makes a mistake somewhere else – I'm more than happy to have a go, and add it to the list of fubar's by a minister.

    The government has done the right thing keeping us at lvl 4 and the longer the better I say. I can see us going out, and back into lvl 4 over the next couple of years. This virus is not going to go away quickly if the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 is a guide. It has all the hallmarks of not being a quick fix.

    I do wonder if the call to go back to work is not fear speaking at a sociological level. A type of hysteria to prove everything is not that bad, and if we only got back to acting 'normal', then everything will be OK.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 10.1

      I do wonder if the call for Clark to be stripped of his ministerial responsibility for the health 'portfolio' is not fear speaking at a sociological level. A type of hysteria to prove everything is not that bad, and if we only got back to acting 'normal' (calling for ministerial 'heads' to roll over inconsequential mistakes), then everything will be OK.

      Continuing to give Clark's mountain bike ride 'air' might result in very slight harm – just imagine the harm done if ‘we’ had remained unaware!

      If the health minister goes for a mountain bike ride during a level 4 lockdown, and there's no-one there to witness it, does it really matter? Tick tock…

      • weka 10.1.1

        As adam mentioned, there are those for whom Clark has long been considered a liability and that he shouldn't have the job. The reasons for that are valid. I disagree with removing Clark over the bike thing, and also disagree that replacing a Minister is an easy/light thing, but that's different from whether Clark should be Minister at all (I don't have an opinion about that).

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          Weka, I agree with almost everything you just wrote, and like you I don't have an opinion on whether Clark should be Minister at all.

          I agree with adam that relieving Clark of his ministerial portfolio immediately would be easy to do, but have doubts that it would be wise under the circumstances.

      • adam 10.1.2

        Your tribalism is showing Drowsy M. Kram.

        I took the bike fuck up, as a chance to remove dead wood. But if you want to support a minister whose actions have put many disabled people in – at best – risky situations, at worst – effectively issued a death sentence. So feel free to miss my point.

        But get this – politics is harsh taskmaster and when disabled people die on Clark's watch. I will not be calling for his firing. I'll be calling for his arrest and imprisonment.

        • bill

          I don't think Clark's wankery is anything like the threat that would come from the following thinking catching hold here Adam.

          Andrew Cannon is the CE at Voyage Care – supporting adults with physical and learning disabilities, brain injuries and autism.

          Also today, three services (in Somerset, Derbyshire and East Sussex) where GPs have contacted the teams to say that they have deemed the people we support should ALL be DNR. No consultation with families, no best interests. Mostly working age adults. We will fight this.

          — Andrew Cannon (@VoyageCEO) April 1, 2020

          • Rosemary McDonald

            Yes bill.

            And here in Godzone just the other day we had everyone's favourite Uncle Ashley stating categorically that it was his understanding that paramedics would not be performing CPR on anyone who had Covid 19.

            A hasty near retraction from St. John's…talk about 'reviewing their guidelines.'

            Of course, who's to know if the person gasping their last is infected? So one who have to conclude that the Precautionary Principal would apply and none would get CPR.

            Your link also led to others…like the aged care facilty residents who suddenly had DNAR forms attached to their files.

            We have all absorbed the not so subtle messaging about 'triage', and doctors having to make 'difficult decisions' about who gets the ventilator and who gets to grasp their last in a lonely side room.

            Already we have doctors standing over a 68 year old with a disabilty and try and scare him into signing a DNR form.

            I will never trust a doctor I don't know again.

            It's not looking good Bill for the past it and less than perfect.

            Not looking good at all.

            • weka

              "Already we have doctors standing over a 68 year old with a disabilty and try and scare him into signing a DNR form."

              Was that in NZ?

              • Rosemary McDonald

                That happened to my partner last June. I was there. Peter had an alarming episode of syncope which found him in A&E. By the time Dr DNR arrived with his precious form they had found no obvious clinical explanation for the faint. Heart, lungs, blood, brain and cognitive function all normal.

                Yet, according to the doctor, CPR would most likely entail breaking his ribs and possibly damaging internal organs, he would get pneumonia and ICU mught not even accept him as s patient.

                We had heard of similar happening to other disabled people.

                Some doctors and nurses are ok. Peter has had long term relationships with a few.

                Others simply don't see you as a life worth living if you have an obvious disability.

                And Ardern banging on about kindness ain't going to change that. Folk a lot of the time aren't kind. And it's easier to be unkind to someone who is different.

                Here in the margins…

                • weka

                  thanks Rosemary. Was that the A and E doctor that was treating Peter, or someone else tasked with presenting DNRs?

                  Why would ICU not accept him as a patient?

                  There are a lot of what ifs in that doctor's list 🙁

                  What does the HDA or commissioner say about being presented with a DNR form in that situation? Or hospital protocols?

                  • Rosemary McDonald

                    Yes. It was the same doctor. The doc who had told Peter there was nothing obviously wrong with him to explain the fainting thing, and the same doc who ran him through the cognitive impairment test. Which Peter passed with flying colours.

                    When he was trying to get Petervto sign the form after listing all the horribleness that would ensue from performing CPR and over interventions I interjected..and was told by the Good Doctor to butt out. I had suggested that this was something we could discuss at a later date…

                    Peter negotiated a 15 minute attempt to save his sorry arse should shit get real…but neither of us would expect that would be respected by all doctors.

                    Weka. Peter and I have spent way too much time in hospitals dealing with non disability related health issues. We have experienced the best and the absolute worst of attitudes towards disabled patients and their loved ones.

                    We have little trust in the system as a whole because of the lottery…you simply don't know which type of health professional your going to strike on the day.
                    I would strongly recommend people with disabilities avoid hospitals like the proverbial.

                    • weka

                      I hear you. It's similar for me, because of other kinds of experiences (not life threatening, but life wrecking if you know what I mean). Trust has to be earned, person by person. NZ is still so naive about health system culture and power dynamics.

                      Seems like a conflict of interest for the treating doctor to be presenting a DNR form in that situation. I'd expect a third party to do it, where the patient's rights are clearly centred.

        • bill

          I can forgive myself wondering if Clark (or much of the rest of the government) are actually calling the shots at the moment. Or put another way, I wonder if it might be the case John Ombler (All of Government Controller) and the teams built around him are the ones calling the actual shots, with NZs elected representatives relegated to a supporting role that provides the political legitimacy that's necessary to "sell the programme".

          About a week back I tried to find info on John Ombler. All I know is that he's a very long serving and high ranking civil servant – a mandarin.

          As to who appointed him, a description of his job title, who he accountable to, what his powers are, or who's accountable to him – I can find precisely zip, zilch and nada.

          If it's the case that important facets of governance have been ceded to technocrats, then Clark's role (like others) is more show than substance….superfluous to the real job of governance at this time.

          • Incognito

            I think you’re on to something there.

            • McFlock

              Not really.

              In regards to Ombler's title, it's sort of a "these are my credentials" situation. The PM authorises it in a time of emergency, so it goes. FWIW, including the state services commission to coordinate all-of-government response alongside DG Health and Civil Defence seems to plug a wee organisational hole in the pandemic response plan. I didn't see much about financial assistance and evaluating how "essential" specific services are last time I read it.

              As for the role of ministers, no they're not interchangeable in an expert-led response, because sometimes experts hyperfocus and make basic errors just like all our keen "Monday morning epidemiologists" online. Someone familiar with the situation needs to maintain oversight and recognise when an important tangential factor hasn't been addressed, or see the signs that the experts are gradually getting out of their depth. Not least of all, to also be in a position to see why a recommended action is important without an upteenth briefing on the same topic because the fifth-replacement minister hasn't learned what makes a good diagnostic test unsuitable for mass screening.

              Frankly, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between governance and management. Whether that leads to (or merely handily justifies) the idea that ministers are interchangeable, I don't know or even particularly care.

              • lprent

                What McFlock said. I was trying to explain the way that our government actually works to my partner last night. I kind of lost her when I started to discuss the make up of the Executive Council and why Civil Defense, the Military, and the Police aren't actually controlled by cabinet.

                • bill

                  So can you supply the information around (or a source explaining) who would have appointed him, and a description of his job title, including who he's accountable to, who's accountable to him, and what his powers are?

                  I'm looking at all this and a part of me is thinking "Christchurch" – when the Labour Party happily endorsed the National Party throwing away democracy (its oversights) and vesting "everything" in NZs own Henry VIII wannabe.

                  I'm not saying this is the same. But apart from the fact it's not a cabinet minister sitting as the apparent head of things, I'm not really seeing the difference either

                  • lprent

                    He will have been appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Executive Council.

                    He will be accountable to the Crown. And specifically to the State Services Commissioner.

                    Whoever it is will report to a minister, in this case probably the Prime Minister or the Minister in charge of State services.

                    None of this is anything that I have to look up, it is the case for all senior public servants and part of our constitutional underlying basis.

                    But what you have to remember is that this isn't a republic – it is a monarchy albeit a representational one.

                    For his job description, I'd have to look up the legislation and/or whatever was presented to the GG describing limits to whatever is in the Act. But I suspect that it will be in the civil defense act(s) or health act(s). I'm working today, so I won't start digging down for the specific wording.

                    • bill

                      This spaghetti from the National Security Handbook is the closest I can find to any notion of an All of Government Controller….the term or position simply doesn't pop up in any search of any act or document I've looked at. (Which makes it kinda difficult to find an answer to the questions I have)

                      New Zealand’s “Coordinated Incident Management System” (CIMS) is a framework of consistent principles, structures, functions, processes and terminology that agencies can apply in an emergency response.It enables agencies to plan for, train and conduct responses in a consistent manner, without being prescriptive.

                      CIMS relates to the management of a response; the Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) structure sits above this if the situation is significant or complex enough to demand a coordinated strategic response at the national level.

                      The lead agency under the CIMS framework would also be the lead agency with respect to the ODESC response.

                      The “Controller” (a formal CIMS designation) should expect to have a role briefing Watch Group (comprised of 'senior officials') and ODESC meetings.

                      Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) ( National Security System Directorate [NSS Dirctorate]) will also appoint a liaison officer to manage the interface between the operational response (CIMS) and the strategic response (ODESC).

                    • lprent

                      Looks likely. It is a coordination function.

                      Yawn – off to bed after I get this upgrade to my mail system complete.

              • Incognito

                Thank you for that explanation. I confess being quite ignorant about these things 😉

                FWIW, I did not have in mind interchangeable ministers, this never occurred to me (was it in Bill’s comment? If so, I should read it again). I was more thinking about David Clark not front footing the press conferences, just as Stuart Nash, for example, is nowhere to be seen.

                I hinted at this earlier:



                • McFlock

                  If they're "superfluous", as Bill suggested, they're interchangeable.

                  The PM fronts up regularly for the policy stuff. The mandarins front up for the actual management of that policy. Everybody keeps things as clear as possible, and there are fewer people to provide mixed messages, and nobody has to screw around with zoom at the media conferences.

                  The MoH started dedicated covid pages quite early in the piece, and seems to have worked into the govt covid adoption quite well. When the media start pushing tests and masks in detail, with specifics on availability, and any other systemic issues that might crop up there might be more for ministers to actually front up to.

                  • Incognito

                    Ah, I see, Bill used “superfluous”. My bad.

                    Yes, I agree with your comment. If I’m interpreting it correctly, you’re saying that it is about clear delineation of responsibilities and duties (and less about politics, thank God). Nobody wants others to put a spoke in one’s wheels 😉

                    • McFlock

                      Especially at the moment. Having a couple more people authoritatively sticking their oar in about what constitutes "allowed out during isolation" would be the icing on a shitcake.

                      Everyone's basically saying the same thing: "stay home as much as possible and don't be a dick about it". But the edge cases of "can I drive 500m before I start biking? What about 550m?" are tending towards dickishness. But then some cops seem to upping their own dickishness as well.

                    • bill

                      Superfluous to? Well, that would be the real job of governance at this time – ie, making the decisions and calling the shots. That's not "interchangable" regards their role of securing public confidence in the lock-down. And please also note the note that caveat comes with, aye?

                      McFlock is simply, and yet again, engaging in bad faith.

                    • bill

                      But the edge cases of “can I drive 500m before I start biking? What about 550m?” are tending towards dickishness

                      Hey McFlock. You do understand that Clark wasn't looking to go on a bike ride for exercise, right?

                      If he had hooked the bike on the back of his van and driven off Opoho because the hill's too steep to cycle up, then fine. I for one would have had no problem with that whatsoever.

                      His motivation was no different to a surfer driving to the beach for a surf – not exercise, but pleasure. The difference being that "Jo" going surfing isn't up there telling everyone they have to forego a multitude of everythings because there's a crisis needing dealt to.

                    • McFlock

                      Oh ffs, Bill, just because I think you're completely wrong to catastorphic levels doesn't mean I'm arguing in bad faith.

                      If a minister is superfluous to the functioning of government then individual ministers are interchangeable and we can fire and swap them with no impact on government. And your ill-advised demands for Clark to be fired would be fine because acting as a figurehead to maintain public confidence in the lockdown would be his only damned job.

                      Well, here's a surprise for you: it's not. Even if actual experts are managing the government response, that's simply business as usual for our system of government. Civil servants manage the operations, ministers set the policy boundaries of those operations and determine whether the policies are producing the desired outcomes. That's their primary fucking job. And it's an important one for democracy.

                      And I don't get why you're incapable of understanding that principle.

                    • lprent []

                      And I don’t get why you’re incapable of understanding that principle.

                      I think that bill is getting on to the aristo people in power thing fallacy. That doesn’t apply here particularly. If someone does something stupid, then you look at what they are required to do in their role rather than being a prurient Mrs Grundy.

                      Which is why I really don’t get this level of righteous moral indignation.

                      Going biking has absolutely nothing substantive to do with his job any more than (takes an example from the history of this site) Shane Jones wanking in a hotel room does. Both are individual choice, not illegal, a lapse into stupidity, and at best a minor PR faux.

                      With Shane Jones the issue was that he was using paying for the damn porn with a government credit card. That was a clear breach of his contract and duties as a government employee. That was what got him dropped as a minister. That it was about the 3rd or 4th time that he’d done something monumentally stupid was what led to most of the authors and labour commenters on this site pushing for him to be dumped out of cabinet.

                      But just calling for a firing because of a minor lapse of judgement. Well my view on that is expected for journalists to do to fill out a dead news day and for mischief makers do because they’re irresponsible dimwits uninterested in good government or anarchists and revolutionaries because they want to break the system to force fundamental shifts. Doesn’t mean that I’m interested in it – nor probably is McFlock.

                    • McFlock

                      Oh, and get over the damned bike ride already.

                    • joe90

                      His motivation was no different to a surfer driving to the beach for a surf – not exercise, but pleasure.

                      Four out of every five times surfers drive to the beach it's to grovel in small, shitty on/cross-shore chop. Grovelling is an absolute chore but it's key to attaining and maintaining the skill/fitness levels that make surfing pleasurable.

                    • KJT

                      Something wrong with actually trying to do some things for "pleasure" during the lockdown.

                      I thought the idea of flagellating, wearing hair shirts and praying, to cure plagues, went out in the Middle ages. Apart from Texas and Washington, of course.

                    • bill

                      As I said further down thread (10.2.2.), if a country's Chief Medical Officer can be stood down "because hypocite" on actions taken around a lock-down, then there's no compelling reason why a cabinet minister involved in the exact same public messaging in the same situation can't be too. Yes?

                      And again. I've no problem with someone going for a bike ride and have repeatedly said as much, including in comments below my post.

                      @ Lynn

                      On Ombler (I can't decipher "the aristo people in power thing fallacy." btw) – are you suggesting there's something wrong with seeking an understanding of how power is arranged and exercised?

                    • McFlock

                      Clark was given a police warning for clearly violating explicit terms of the lockdown? No, none of the above, he was just photographed pushing the limits of a couple of gray areas in the NZ lockdown (how far to go for exercise and what exercise types should be undertaken).


                    • bill

                      A cabinet minister doing shit that carries the potential to undermine public confidence is a real thing son – just as is the case for a Chief Medical Officer.

                      If you genuinely view the issue as being about a bike ride, then the actual issue's way beyond you, and you probably need to simply go away and interact with people who agree with you a simple bike ride is a thing worth any to-ing and fro-ing over.

                    • McFlock

                      Bill, you're reminding me of a dysfunctional workplace I once had. A few dozen people, most of them incorrigible gossips. Every other month there was some comment about how someone had made a major mistake at work, and they were absolutely going to be fired because of it. Such an offence is unforgivable by any employer!

                      Some people were stood down. Some people had no visible repercussion whatsoever. The one dude who was fired was kicked out quicker than the gossips had time to distribute the news of his infraction.

                      Dude fucked up. Not overly essential to the role, and he's getting shit for it anyway. Boss spoke to him, he did a mea culpa, they moved on.

                      The lockdown hasn't been cancelled because he screwed up. Everyone commenting on it thinks he screwed up. So he hasn't damaged public confidence or whatever the fuck. And his error was significantly and clearly less than that of the Scottish CMO's – therefore his punishment is less.

                      tl:dr yeah, it pretty much is about mountain biking.

                    • weka

                      Hey McFlock. You do understand that Clark wasn't looking to go on a bike ride for exercise, right?

                      If he had hooked the bike on the back of his van and driven off Opoho because the hill's too steep to cycle up, then fine. I for one would have had no problem with that whatsoever.

                      His motivation was no different to a surfer driving to the beach for a surf – not exercise, but pleasure. The difference being that "Jo" going surfing isn't up there telling everyone they have to forego a multitude of everythings because there's a crisis needing dealt to.

                      There are apparently good reasons to drive not bike the access and to drive instead.

                      Pleasure is an important part of exercise (mentally and physiologically). Pleasure is also a crucial aspect of managing mental health and stress. It’s also central to managing the pandemic beyond the moment. I think you're really stretching things here.

                      Even just looking superficially, there are obvious differences between Clark and the Scottish situation. If we're talking about public perception, then a Minister of Health treading a grey area and then apologising for overstepping, is not a problem because it clarifies the boundary and what is appropriate behaviour.

                      Blatantly breaking the rules (the Scottish situation) is another matter. If Clark had gone to his bach for the weekend, I would expect more consequences than the bike thing.

                    • bill

                      It's the same behaviour being indulged in by two people in very similar positions with regards to their relationship to the public and their potential impact on perceptions and wider public behaviours.

                      The bike has got nothing to to with it. Neither has the holiday home.

                      It's public figures making demands on the general populace, then disregarding the very same demands they've made of everyone else.

                      If "Jo Nobody" had driven up to that bike track and gone for a bike ride, I'd have been sympathising with them if they'd got into any trouble as a result – because they aren't public figures making demands on the behaviours and actions of others.

                    • McFlock

                      Joe Nobody took the photo. No repercussions whatsoever. Because it wasn't clearly against the rules. Because the extent of the "demands" wasn't clearly applicable to mountain biking at that stage. Unlike the Scottish CMO.

                      The demands weren't clearly applicable to that situation because the extent of possible harm isn't clear. The rules are in place to limit the extent, speed, and distance of infection spread. The risk from solitary and hazardous activities is to first responders. That is why the rules have since been made more clear.

                      So there's no clear breach and no demands expected of others but not followed himself. Unlike the Scottish CMO.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          Tribal is as tribal does. Where would any of us be if every inconsequential fuck up resulted in the 'removal' of "dead wood"?

    • weka 10.2

      I'm confused why you think it's so hard to replace a minister at this time. The role of associate ministers are there for just that reason. Also what happens if a minister goes down with the virus – are you saying we can't replace them? The system should have more flexibility to cope with the unexpected, and incopentance. I know we all got use to incopentance under the last government – that's no excuse to tolerate it in this one.

      I haven't seen anyone say a Minister can't be replaced if necessary. I've also not seen anyone calling for Clark to be fired give a decent explanation of the impact of changing Minister at this time (which should be part of the decision). Without an explanation of that how would we know how hard it is? And I've not seen a decent discussion about who might replace him (also relevant so we don't end up with someone worse at the job).

      • adam 10.2.1

        If we look at the associate ministers:

        There is Jenny Salesa who holds 2 ministerial positions already. Minister for Building and Construction and Minister of Ethnic Communities – Not heard any negative comments about her in those roles. She attended the local church for community events regularly when I lived in Onehunga.

        The other is Julie Anne Genter, who holds one Ministerial position. Minister for Women. Julie did a good job in taking over from Twyford after his brain fade. Only downside is her young family, but she has proven herself very capable so far. And like Jan Logie, a tad under utilized.

        Look the position is in some ways symbolic, and in others it is a harsh roll where no one is ever happy. My issue is simple, that the relationship between disabled and the Ministry is quite bad, and has only got worse with this crisis. In a purely symbolic gesture Clark could have said or done somthing to make the MoH pull it's head out of it's ass. Or in the harsh taskmaster roll, he could have ordered them to do somthing constructive to improve the relationship, or lose their jobs.

        I say he needs to be replaced, because he in M.I.A, offers very little in the way of leadership, sparse on the comment front, prone to lapses in judgement, and as such is hardly a minister with his hand on the wheel.

        • weka

          Yep, something needs to be done about the MoH sooner or later and Clark has had his chance. I'm still not convinced now is the time for a change, although it's hard to see when would be given everything going on.

          I'm sure Genter would be more than capable. Not sure that Labour can give her the full position given the whole coalition agreement thing, don't know how that works, and they may not want the Greens to have that position of power especially in election year. Otoh, strong L/G leadership would work very well for the left going into the election.

          Don't know much about Salesa.

          • lprent

            Genter would probably make a hash of it. Public health is essentially a rationing system with an extremely careful hand needed to balance it and the people in it – some with personalities that make Genter’s ego look like a fledgling. Moderation and consensus has not been a notable part of her nature.

            It is good training for her in government. But really she is probably better learning there and excelling elsewhere.

            But basically, every Minister of Health is widely hated and viewed as being incompetent. It is the nature of the role. I’m not sure that Genter would survive it.

            • weka

              Interesting. Was Helen Clark hated?

              Do you mean Genter would be better off out of parliament altogether eventually?

              I'm not sure why the MoH is such a hard problem to solve. My impression of the disability sector issues is that as with WINZ, putting the budgeting issues aside for a minute, there are hefty cultural issues. How people get treated matters and there's really no good reason that I can see for either department to keep treating people like shit, other than its entrenched in the culture and we haven't had a Minister willing to do something about it. Some of that will be a hangover of the doctor/nurse knows best attitudes. Maybe Ministers get picked to match that.

          • Rosemary McDonald

            An indication of where a Minister's heart and interest lie and where they seek their information is to have a look at their Diaries.

            JAG had AssMinHealth disability and was swapped out for Salesa.

      • bill 10.2.2

        If a chief medical officer can be let go their hypocrisy, then I'm sure a mere cabinet minister can be relieved of their portfolio for theirs, no?

        Scotland‘s chief medical officer has resigned from the government after breaking coronavirus lockdown rules by visiting her second home.

        Dr Catherine Calderwood agreed to step down just hours after “unreservedly” apologising for the trip to Fife and withdrawing from giving public briefings.

        She said that she took the decision following a discussion with first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said that the issue “risks undermining confidence” in the government’s advice.

        “I am deeply sorry for my actions and the mistakes I have made,” Dr Calderwood said in a statement.

        Or to take what Lynn has written (puzzlingly, given his reaction to commentary) a step further – the children need to simply just leave the room.

        Could the children in the room, please take some time to educate themselves and stop being bored and mischievous? This is a serious outbreak – contain your boredom and hobbies until we get over it. Otherwise you’ll just cause serious harm to yourself and others.

  11. Muttonbird 11

    I'm sure he's competent enough so perhaps the reason for David Clark's apparent low profile is that he doesn't agree with the policy the government is taking.

    • Incognito 11.1

      Operational independence and avoiding interfering with Ashley?

      • Anne 11.1.1

        The most likely scenario and good on him for having the intelligence to recognise it. He is the Minister of Health (known for being the most thankless portfolio of them all) and he is not a medical expert. The Director General of Health is the one who should be front footing the day to day updates to the crisis and he is doing so with flying colours.

        Clark’s job was to lock in place the government agreed process to be followed – which he did – and then step back in favour of the medical experts. When the time comes for the gradual move out of lock-down and back into something akin to normal then I expect we will be seeing more of him.

        The bike ride was probably a post-emergency activity to help relieve the stress that must have been building up inside him over recent weeks.

        His detractors would do well to think about that instead of jumping in all guns firing.

        • In Vino

          I agree Anne, except that it always seemed to me that Minister of Education was an even bigger kiss of death than Minister of Health..

          • Anne

            I suspect every new Minister of Education and Health are convinced they are the one who gets these portfolios sorted once and for all and they will be heroes. It never happens. 😉

        • Muttonbird

          I could go along with that I guess.

          Must say I've always had an issue with ministers not being particularly experienced in their portfolios.

          Key used to rotate his front bench a lot, so much so that it appeared a deliberate strategy to move mistakes on, and to avoid scrutiny.

          I found that meant most ministers in his government had little or no continuity, or even idea about what they were doing beyond the very basics of management. They were politicians answerable to Key’s ideology first, and familiar with their field last.

        • Incognito

          The bike ride was probably a post-emergency activity to help relieve the stress that must have been building up inside him over recent weeks.

          IIRC, Clark said it was his only chance for some exercise between his (work) commitments. That seems to have been ignored/lost.

  12. Foreign waka 12

    As expected, lots of politics everywhere.

    Now by what I see in the "boring" world of everyday people working in "essential" services is this:

    I try to limit my movements so that I am not getting infected, not the other way around.

    But since we all need to eat, one trip I do need to make is to the Supermarket.

    Getting groceries is becoming slowly the most hated activity. When I arrive after already 12 hours in the churn there are long lines of people who have all day to get this done. But no, they have to go at a time when those who still work have to do this. Why do I know that they have choices? Flip flops and a T-shirt is not working attire.

    When I finally get into the store, I can see a lot of chocolate and Coca Cola but no bread, and I mean NONE. No flour, baking ingredient so that you can make you own? NONE. Shelves are empty and I am getting really p…. off with those hoarders.

    I was standing there last time looking at completely empty bread trays and a couple of ladies (nurses?) looking at one other horrified. We have to feed families too.

    I hope they bring the military in to sort this because it is not right that those who work in essential industries/services are now being "punished" by not getting any basic food.

    • weka 12.1

      That's a good point about rationing for people that can only shop at certain times. I doubt it needs the military, supermarkets could be organising several shifts in a day of putting out essential items.

      Might be good to email the supermarket if you have time and point this out to them.

      Fwiw, and this may not help, but some of the shortages will be people spending more time at home and doing more baking.

      • KJT 12.1.1

        Flour is a packaging problem.

        Mills ran out of the retail size bags.

        Flour to non retail outlets was in large bags, 20 kilo.

        And. Of course we are all doing baking.

        Expect it to be sorted soon.

    • Carolyn_Nth 12.2

      Or request that the online click & collect "PickUp" system be for essential workers only?

      You select a time you'll collect the groceries in advance. That means the supermarket workers can ensure essential workers get essential items put aside for them in advance.

  13. Carolyn_Nth 13

    The human cost is evident in reports from some of the global hotspots where the situation got out of control before the government took measures: hospitals overwhelmed in Italy, New York and the UK. Elderly people in rest homes in Spain abandoned by their carers, and military found old people dead in their beds.

    Some doctors and nurses in the UK dead from Covid-19. And Unite UK is reporting that 5 bus workers have died with it.

  14. DSpare 14

    I gave up commenting a few years ago, though I do still occasionally browse the site. Too busy, and political engagement is a fair time-sink. But I seem to have plenty of time on my hands again, for some reason..

    Lprent made a few typos here that I would like to see clarified. I skimmed the comments, but they seemed to be mainly diverted onto the Clark issue. So if I skipped over clarification there, it would still be good to amend the OP.

    1/ [paragraph after Plunket quote ends] "… crippled the ability to"

    2/ [parag by South Korea graph] likewise lacks conclusion; “…constrained the outbreak for significant”

    3/ Distance from Invercargill to Dunedin is 215km not 360km (maybe referencing DN to CHCH distance by mistake?)

    4/ "avy" instead of "any" – which I am surprised the spellcheck let through (is that even a word?)

    • lprent 14.1

      I’ll have a look at them after my next round of code tests.

    • weka 14.2

      the problem with the spell check here is that it uses US English. I'm in the habits of ignoring the underlines for misspelled words because there are so many that aren't misspelled.

  15. Observer Tokoroa 15

    Don't Mind R & B

    What has soured sweet Rosemary McDonald in old age?

    Is it her loving appreciation of Bill, who lives on a strange planet ? I know they are both happiest when they can rubbish intelligent people who do valuable work.

    It's a pity though. It really is about time they cleaned up their own mess.

    • left for dead 15.1

      Iprent,mcflock OT,etc,

      A day is a long time in a blog, Clark will be gone by the years end,maybe Hodgson can take over the mantle again, Churchill did.

      Mine you he was mostly unloved in the end.

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