Big day in politics today. Do we stay at level 4 or do we ease it up?
If it was up to me I would extend it. The new infection rate has decreased rapidly and is at low levels. If elimination is the goal however then the daily infection rate obviously has to hit zero. And I defer to and am happy to by advised by the exerts.
And the problem is that the Government is not quite there in terms of its announced conditions for easing the lock down. From Derek Cheng at the Herald:
… the country’s top health official has conceded that a key measure in determining whether New Zealand should come out of lockdown is a week shy of being “gold standard”.
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield revealed that work was continuing “at pace” to improve contact-tracing, even though Cabinet needs robust information for its decision today about whether to ease or extend the four-week nationwide lockdown.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the work didn’t necessarily consign New Zealand to the fate of an extended lockdown.
“Don’t read into anything,” she said when asked about the possibility of a longer lockdown due to the ongoing work on the national contact-tracing system.
Contact-tracing, however, remained one of the crucial factors she listed among the key criteria for today’s decision, which will be revealed at 4pm.
Other public health criteria for the decision include the level of community transmission – where the origin of infection is unclear – the amount of testing, border restrictions and the capacity of the health system, including ongoing access to personal protective equipment.
Other key factors Ardern identified were the impact on the economy, the public attitude including people’s and businesses’ willingness to comply with alert levels, and the Government’s ability to work out, communicate and enforce those restrictions.
The portents are good.
But we run the risk of a bounce back of cases if reinfection rates increase.
Also with the greatest of respect the Government has not handled the education sector issues well. The message is far too confused.
This guest article by School Principal Kaye Brunton in the Herald is rather chilling. Particularly where she says:
I think that one of the things that has made New Zealand’s Covid-19 response so successful thus far has been our trust that the Government, and particularly Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has had our backs.
Until now we have had the sense that we have been doing this for the greater good and that we are all in this together. That has been at the heart of the Prime Minister’s moral authority to lead us.
As an educator in a tightly-knit low-decile community, I’m immensely concerned about the contradictory and shifting advice on alert level 3. I worry that it puts this goodwill, and the successful Covid-19 response it has driven, at risk.
Not only in that it makes no sense to allow dozens of bubbles to mix at a school — while police will break up groups of adults if they congregate — but also that the cut-off point for this policy is conveniently matched to the age at which children can legally stay home alone. This clearly suggests it is not an education-related or a public health measure, but a plan to get parents back to work.
At least half of our teaching staff are immuno-compromised. Many of our students come from families with immuno-compromised family members (including me, the principal). It simply feels incredibly risky, and the latest “class bubble” approach doesn’t seem much more satisfactory.
Opening schools at level 3 so that parents can return to work while there is still a risk of infection seems to be far too risky. And as Kaye points out the potential consequences for poor communities are worse than for wealthier areas.
Alert level 3 rules that force some families to put their lives on the line, while others are able to stay spectators from the safety of their bubble, are not equitable.
Meanwhile the Financial Times have again praised Ardern in this article titled “Arise Saint Jacinda a leader for our times”.
But the article clearly highlighted that there were ongoing issues particularly with education, issues that have been acknowledged by the Department particularly in this passage:
This is a big complex project that is being undertaken at pace so we know it will take time to get it right.”
We do need to get this right. Which is why I think a further extension to the lockdown is the right thing to do.