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How does the government handle a pandemic induced world recession?

Written By: - Date published: 8:54 am, March 13th, 2020 - 152 comments
Categories: capitalism, Donald Trump, economy, Simon Bridges, uk politics, uncategorized, us politics - Tags:

So Coronavirus is working its way through the world.  And put to one side the human misery the virus is causing, the effect on the world’s economy is terrifying.

Political leadership has not helped.  In the United States within days Donald Trump has gone from downplaying the threat and suggesting that everything was fine to banning travel from Europe, at least the non English speaking part. And it seems clear that he at least mispoke, and caused a great deal of consternation by doing so.

The stock markets have responded appropriately.  This morning the Dow Jones crashed by 10% in initial trading and in the United Kingdom the FTSE 100 had its worst day since the 1987 stock market crash.  It really makes you wonder about Trump’s viability given he has always seen the stock market as an indicator of his performance as President.

Professional sport has been affected.  The NBA has suspended its season following positive tests for two players.  In Italy Serie A soccer has been suspended for a month.  When soccer is suspended in Italy you know things are dire. There is even talk about the Tokyo Olympics being postponed.

And in Thailand hordes of monkeys normally fed by tourists have taken to rioting as the food runs out.

To me recent events highlights two features, the world’s economy is so finely tuned to consumption that when there is a temporary blip to the flow of new Iphones and flat screen TVs or overseas holidays then significant effects to the world’s economy happens.

And pure market economies do not provide the best response.  Either in terms of their testing and management of the crisis.  Or who they choose to support to make sure that the effects are minimised.  China and Hong Kong have managed to slow down the spread of the virus and testing is common. They are also able to maintain rigorous curfews the likes of which may not be possible in Western nations. 

Testing is important. In South Korea the testing rate is 6,692 per million people.  In the United States the rate is 23.  No wonder community spread is so prevalent in the United States. Current reported rates must be only the tip of the iceberg.

Oil prices have crashed.  This has placed the shale industry, already a very inefficient way of producing oil well and truly into the red.  Trump has responded by promising relief.  From the Washington Post:

The White House is strongly considering pushing federal assistance for oil and natural gas producers hit by plummeting oil prices amid the coronavirus outbreak, as industry officials close to the administration clamor for help, according to four people familiar with internal deliberations. President Trump has touted the growth of oil and natural gas production under his administration, celebrating their rise in politically crucial swing states such as Pennsylvania. But many oil and gas firms were hammered Monday by the price war that broke out between Saudi Arabia and Russia, driving oil prices down in their steepest one-day drop in almost 30 years.

For ordinary people the prospects of relief are not so good.  From the Hill:

Senate Republicans say they will not be rushed into accepting a House Democratic bill to provide paid sick leave and a variety of other safety-net aid to people affected by the coronavirus.

“I don’t think we ought to be stampeded into doing something that we wouldn’t otherwise think is a good idea. We need to respond in an appropriate way and in a targeted way, not just throw money at the problem,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Cornyn said the House bill appears to be an effort by Democratic leaders to “score political points”  by pressuring GOP lawmakers to accept an array of welfare spending that they know would be tough for conservatives to swallow.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday morning panned the House bill as “an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances.

“Instead of focusing on immediate relief to affected individuals, families and businesses, the House Democrats chose to wander into various areas of policy that are barely related if at all to the issue before us,” McConnell said.

In New Zealand we are fortunate so far.  There is no sign of community spread, current numbers of infections are stable, and we have a health system that works well usually. The Government has a series of measures that will be announced next week. It is likely they will include help for certain sectors as well as a stimulus package. Maybe they should think about a Universal Basic Income.

And I cannot believe how poorly the opposition has handled the crisis.  Their responses so far appear to be to demand minimum wage increases not be implemented, to play politics with an issue that demands responsible political leadership, and to promise a bonfire of regulations, including presumably those designed to protect health, speaks volumes.  This is Trump quality leadership right here in Aotearoa.

But don’t take my word for this.  How about this from Matthew Hooton in the Herald:

When a party’s first response to a global pandemic is to demand looser health regulations, we must ask if it is a serious player.

National’s announcement on Monday of a “bonfire of regulations” was inane. Like the party’s overarching “economic plan” released a month ago, this week’s effort was entirely devoid of substantial content, consisting mainly of social-media slogans.

While the party’s finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith continues to make considered contributions, Simon Bridges and his brains trust of Paula Bennett and Todd McClay seem to have decided the election can be won by empty sloganeering and praying the Ardern regime implodes.

More travel restrictions are anticipated to be announced today.  The Government’s response to the first appearance of local community spread and to pressures on the economy could be the determining issues of this year’s election campaign. We certainly live in interesting times …

152 comments on “How does the government handle a pandemic induced world recession?”

  1. observer 1

    A common flaw in politicians (and by extension, those of us who comment on or are involved in politics) is go on auto-pilot. To repeat some set response, instead of reflecting and realizing that something is new. "We already know the answers, now what is the question?".

    That's what Bridges has done on Covid-19. "Cut red tape" was obviously a line prepared well before Coronavirus dominated the news. Unfortunately for him, the question has changed – massively so. But he just repeated the answer to the one nobody is asking now.

    In the last couple of days he's toned it down a bit, probably because of the widespread criticism. Too late.

    • tc 1.1

      If we had a half decent media Simon would be grilled over his govt's 30% underfunding of our health system which all but collapsed mental health to keep other bits semi afloat.

      It's not like this gov't's had 3 terms to effect change like his did.

  2. MrCans 2

    Simon Bridges is an analogue politician in a digital environment.

    If Aotearoa goes a week without a new case, it'll be remarkable – and mark us out as a country that;

    a) has significantly differing factors in terms of virus vectors to those countries bearing the brunt of it

    b) learned a lot from the measles outbreak last year

    c) has ALSO been incredibly lucky thus far

    Every day that passes that we prevent new cases, avoid community transmission etc, is a day that we get closer to a vaccine etc.

    • McFlock 2.1

      The measles outbreak was community-established from the get go, because that's how measles rolls (R0 of something like 12-18).

      NZ has limited ports of entry, and anything other than plane has an extended lead time for symptoms to develop en route (e.g. yachties and cruises). And we've been good at identifying and dealing stopping direct air transport from the least-controlled countries (outbreak-wise).

      But yeah, luck counts too.

    • We still don't have a vaccine for SARS, the previous serious coronavirus outbreak (~20 years ago), it's unlikely we'll have a vaccine this year, maybe not even next. We have to plan on not having one, most of us will get it until we build up a herd immunity, so slowing the virus is really all we can do so that the fewest people possible die.

  3. Christopher Randal 3

    National will lie as much as possible to retain the Treasury benches.

    Simple Soimon is very much out of the Trump mold. 

  4. Andre 4

    You know it's become serious when Hair Farce One bans white people from visiting.

    • Anne 4.1

      Yeah, but they speak different. They got weird languages that nobody understands. Sure they're white, but they're real backward compared to us Americans. You only gotta look at their weird looking houses n'things.

  5. Tel 5

    The first thing the government needs to do to handle a likely recession is close our border to all international travellers now. Australia is a ticking time bomb on our back doorstep. We're currently seeing a spike in numbers of infected in Australia… will this be the Milan of the south pacific? The one card we have up our sleeve is we're an Island(s) and with that isolation means we can at least weather the storm and avoid the illness getting here and overloading our hospital system. That's a huge amount of resources, money, time, and importantly lives saved.

    Next thing to do is for everyone to stop being selfish, lower our expectations, be more compassionate, and hopefully with the help of government that cares about it's citizens and their health as much or more than our wealth we'll come out of all this without members of our families or friends dead.

    All I see from Labour currently is complacency. That's not a good plan, never is.  Maybe it is a time for a change of government here?

    • observer 5.1

      Change to what?

      I really don't think that listening to public health officials constitutes "complacency".

    • mickysavage 5.2

      If you think that a change in government will result in a less selfish more compassionate leadership that cares about people then I am afraid I have some bad news for you.

      • Rosemary McDonald 5.2.1

        The predominant message from this government at the moment seems to be around mitigating negative impacts on the economy.

        Idiot me would have thought it more important for our Health Minister to be visiting /skyping his Aussie offside rather than our Finance Minister.

        If it's all about 'compassionate leadership and caring about people…'?

        Not that the Other Mob would be any different.

         

        • Ad 5.2.1.1

          The response to economic shock is completely appropriate because that is where the primary impact to New Zealand is, and probably will be. 

        • McFlock 5.2.1.2

          Health ministers don't need to coordinate. Aussie has its own unique issues in dealing with an outbreak, so do we. There is limited crossover.

          Technical engagement at lower levels is important, definitely. And that happens not just with Aus, but across the board. Revision of case definitions, research about the virus, vaccines, tests, and treatments, all of that is already happening.

          Finance, on the other hand, can work at cross-purposes.  Country A loosen controls or whatevs, countries from country B have protections that give them an advantage. The other thing is that this is a new phenomenon – it's largely a real economic issue, not overstimulated manbabies suddenly getting less confident about the price that other overstimulated manbabies will pay for abstractions like stocks or futures. That takes higher-level discussion to figure out how to approach it.

          We're talking about literally not being able to work because your tools and supplies aren't being produced or imported into NZ. Went into the Warehouse today, no needle files at that store. Is that a stock issue, or are 70% of the world's needle files made in Wuhan? Who knows.

           

    • RedLogix 5.3

      I'm expecting a total international travel ban within two weeks, if not from NZ's perspective but perhaps globally.

      Puts me in a bit of a quandry; I need to travel back to NZ within a few weeks for important family reasons … but if getting to NZ is doubtful, getting back to Aus feels like a forlorn hope. There will be millions of individual decisions like this …

      • Stunned Mullet 5.3.1

        What's the point of a total international travel ban when the virus is already circulating on all continents apart from Antartica ?

        • RedLogix 5.3.1.1

          In the long run, or at least until an effective vaccine/treatment is available, everyone will be exposed and at least 60% or more will be infected. I agree we are probably past containment because virtually all govts around the world have wasted four weeks of opportunity with ill-advised complacency.

          Now our best hope is to slow down the rate of new infections so that the 10 – 20% of people who develop a serious case do not overwhelm our health system. This has a big impact on the ultimate death rate. People you know will die of this, it's just a case of how many now.

        • Macro 5.3.1.2

          It's called "Flattening The Curve"

          Here is an explanation of what that means, and how it will help:

          https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/what-flatten-curve-chart-shows-how-critical-it-everyone-fight-n1155636

  6. Ad 6

    It's already evident that the global economic impact to New Zealand is going to be far worse than the local health impact. 

    So it is completely appropriate for our Minister of Finance to align the NZ government response to the Australian one as the two Treasurers meet. A bit of luck that the Minister of Finance had already put into place a $12 billion infrastructure package that will keep the construction sector afloat for at least 7-8 years. 

    I also see the Prime Ministers' measured and carefully calibrated response being a textbook example of how to reduce panic and to lead with calm and clarity. 

    Also the health officials are being remarkably steady and well informed. 

    We are currently looking like one of the best-positioned states to handle this impact. 

  7. Graeme 7

    We've got tourists from US and Europe arriving in New Zealand daily and I'm starting to see, mainly in visitors from US, some symptoms.  Yesterday I had a woman, probably in her 70's with a very persistent dry cough, and a complete inability to ask a coherent question, across the gallery counter for 5 minutes over minor purchase.  The incoherence isn't that uncommon for the demographic, usually from the meds, but this woman wasn't well.  I was left wondering what's going to happen to her.

    It's only a matter of time, and probably not very much, before ALL travellers, anywhere are subject to 14 days quarantine.  We need it here very soon or we won't have a functional health system.  There's community transmission in Australia and US now, we should have restrictions.

    To me, Trumps statement was an invitation, and licence, for all countries to do the same and impose 'retaliatory'  travel restrictions.  I'm open as to whether this leadership was intentional.

    • Sacha 7.1

      The incoherence isn't that uncommon for the demographic, usually from the meds, but this woman wasn't well.  I was left wondering what's going to happen to her.

      Cabinet post in the Chump administration.

    • Robert Guyton 7.2

      I've long suspected that Queenstown will be the rent in our health fabric.

      • Graeme 7.2.1

        I'm surprised / impressed that we haven't got cases here already.  But visitors are going to Riverton as well.  Cases in US appear to be in the top end of town, New Rochelle, well that's very much top end of NY, and Tom Hanks, who may have spread it around the top end of Sydney.  These are people who will travel independently and widely when they are here.

        Medical profession in Queenstown has been on full alert for a couple of weeks, very different process going to doctor now.

        • RedLogix 7.2.1.1

          very different process going to doctor now.

          I had to visit my GP here yesterday for several minor matters, and to my relief found the waiting room empty and all the patients standing outside (fortunately under shelter as it was pissing down) waiting for their turn.

  8. Sacha 8

    In New Zealand we are fortunate so far. There is no sign of community spread, current numbers of infections are stable, and we have a health system that works well usually.

    Let's not get complacent about our remarkably low number of reported cases so far. Actual numbers infected will be higher already.

    Detailed post graphing numbers like that from around the world: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

    A recommended read.

    • mickysavage 8.1

      Yep good read. The optimistic interpretation is that no community spread means that it is not entrenched here.  The pessimistic interpretation is that we have not detected it so far.

  9. RedBaronCV 9

    In managing the immediate health aspects I'd like to see more common sense advice spread. A lot of companies are probably already doing this but cutting out hot desking if possible and sanitising everything on site regularly, getting anyone who can work from home to do so, and chopping out larger gatherings. And also looking at a longer term outlook. Even if we stop it spreading drug treatment /vaccine is some  way off so what contact do we have with each other? Is there a community signal that people who may need help can use? I believe that during the spanish flu, a teatowel tied to the front gate signaled for assistance. What is the modern update? Can we use people  who have had it for any useful activity? some advice around eftpost machines ATMs etc?

    On the economic side better research for articles would help? Yes tourism will take a hit but it is a sector with Yoyo money in it comes in and goes straight back out again.  So what is the net effect of this – might be smaller than the headlines.

    How do we support people who can't work from home but who should stay home. Do we look at some form of UBI but with a tax surcharge for 2021 so that it is clawed back from those who don't need it longer term so they either don't sign up or have to pay the amount back.

    Do we extend paid sick leave minimums ( & suggest CEO pay decreases for large workplaces to offset the cost) plus some help for smaller workplaces.

  10. RedBaronCV 10

    And two more things –

    what access do we give the billionaire boltholers to NZ on a private jet to our health system

    Kiwisaver funds – some have over 65 money which can be taken out at will and people who want to change from aggressive to balanced funds. I'd like to think the Reserve bank is in discussion with them so that if withdrawals exceed a certain % or  if the switch demands do the same then under certain circumstances the Reserve bank will open a liquidity window for them so that they can pledge certain holdings and receive cash in exchange if needed – bank managed funds may not need this. Panic selling is not great for investors.

    In the 2008 crisis a lot of reasonably well managed finance companies went illiquid with the result that investors lost all their money  and when the mess had died off a little the  mortgages were acquired for cents in the $ by bigger/bank players who then received repayments over time largely in full. Instead they  chucked a bundle at South canterbury finance benefitting only a few.

     

     

    • mickysavage 10.1

      Thanks to the last Government one of them, a member of Trump's cabinet, has an automatic entry to the country.

      • Andre 10.1.1

        If you're thinking of "Young Blood Transfusions" Thiel, he isn't a member of Cabinet. The closest he's been to actually being a part of the administration was the transition team, and some sort of advisory group thing.

        But I'd imagine any kind of advisory group came to a rapid end when Genghis Don made it obvious the only advice he is interested in is his own. Which wouldn't go down well with the overstuffed egos that infest those kinds of groups.

        If it's someone else that actually is a cabinet member, do tell.

      • Incognito 10.1.2

        Chris Liddell?

    • joe90 10.2

      I'd hope they bring their own shit.

      A luxe bunker, it seems, can take many forms.

      Dr. Stein said that another Sollis member, an heiress in Southampton, N.Y., built a medical isolation room complete with a ventilation system.

      The word “room,” however, hardly captures it. Dr. Stein said it is equipped with a negative pressure system to restrict the circulation of pathogens, and is basically an isolated guest wing consisting of a bedroom and kitchen stocked with IV hydration, medicines, lab supplies, gloves, gowns, masks, oxygen and food, as well as a set of dishes and linens.

      In certain pockets of Silicon Valley, where tech-elite survivalists drool over abandoned missile silos that were converted into luxury bunkers, coronavirus is precisely the doomsday scenario they’ve been preparing for.

      Marvin Liao, a former partner at the venture capital firm 500 Startups, has been stocking up on canned food, water, hand sanitizer and toilet paper in anticipation of an outbreak, and has lately been scoping out a high-end air purifier called Molekule Air, which costs $799.

      “I don’t know if you’re ever ready for this,” Mr. Liao said of coronavirus. “But I think that you’re probably better prepared than a lot of people, because at least you’ve thought about it and at least you’ve stocked up. Worse comes to worse you’ll have a lot more cushion than a lot more people out there.”

      Jon Stokes, a former Silicon Valley prepper who left Silicon Valley for prepping reasons (he lives in Colorado now), echoed that sentiment. He said that he had stockpiled about four months’ worth of food, and recently purchased a stethoscope and a pulse oximeter that measures the oxygen saturation in red blood cells to monitor his family for signs of the virus.

      http://archive.li/MTEO9

  11. Jimmy 11

    It amazes me that we still only have 5 cases of the virus. I thought it would have been more by now as once it gets in it seems very hard to stop.

  12. A poorly understood underlying issue with COVID 19 is it's unusual silent transmission pattern, people being infective anywhere from 2 – 14 days before they show any symptoms. In some cases, no symptoms at all.

    This creates a very unusual problem for societies to manage, one that we are not instinctively wired to manage well. It means we tend to either under or over react to the problem. As an automation engineer, when I'm closing a feedback loop (which is directly analogous to responding to an epidemic) something called transport delay, or deadtime, is always the hardest feature to manage. It means that when you make a change to the system, in this case imposing, or removing, control mechanisms like quarantines, travel restrictions, social isolation, closing schools and workplaces … there is a typically five day delay before you see a response. 

    If you move your control too far or too quickly, there is a very real chance that you will overdo it, and suddenly the system response overshoots badly five days afterwards. The same in the other direction, we've already seen govts fail to understand this delay characteristic properly, and have wasted weeks while it was silently moving about the community. 

    This is going to be the hardest aspect for govts to deal with effectively. If we are careless enough to get this wrong, we could see a whole year of wave after wave of COVID 19 scything through our communities.

    • Poission 12.1

      those being tested were infected two weeks ago,some nice analysis (and analogy with the second half of the chessboard approaching)

      https://necsi.edu/gradually-then-suddenly

      If you wanted to accelerate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 quickly and cheaply you’d be well advised to encourage mass gatherings.

      If, on the other hand, you want to do the opposite you’d encourage ‘social distancing’, increased hand washing as well as other personal hygiene measures. Because they are — hopefully — ‘leverage points’ these may well make a much bigger difference than we might intuitively believe.

      • alwyn 12.1.1

        "you’d be well advised to encourage mass gatherings.".

        Oh dear. That sounds rather like the fabled "measles parties" from the days before we had vaccines for the disease. I had measles as a child but I certainly wasn't deliberately exposed. Does anyone know for a fact that they really did exist?

  13. Adrian 13

    For fucks sake, its the flu, a nasty one but it's not the Black Plague, we have seen it before with SARS.

    And if the Black Plague arose again now its effects would be a fraction of what they were 500 years ago simply because of scientific knowledge.

    I understand already in the States Anti-Vaxxers are devastated that there isn't a vaccine they can refuse to take!.

    • joe90 13.1

      careful…

    • RedLogix 13.2

      Why you shouldn't listen to any random person on the internet with an opinion. And why a strong global health system is essential.



    • tc 13.3

      Sars/mers had over twice the fatality rate and was a lot harder to transmit/catch, containment worked as it wasn't as contagious. 

      Covid-19 spreads with ease and I wonder how many people got it through no eye protection thinking the mouth/nose mask was enough.

      Science doesn't save you, applying it's learnings do so,  that's for leadership.

      Liverpool V althetico Madrid occurred with thousands of supporters travelling to the UK yesterday, Anfield was packed.
      PSG V Borrusia was at least behind closed doors however the Paris police gave PSG fans permission to gather outside anyway.

      Leadership fail ! That's inviting it over for it to be spread around, 

  14. Aaron 14

    What do you mean our health system works well usually? It had 9 years of underfunding by the National government and Labour/NZ First have continued the tradition, there are constant articles in the media about problems caused by this chronic underfunding and that's before we even mention the mental health system.

    Basically it's bursting at the seams and has no capacity to increase it's workload. If the government doesn't put huge quarantine procedures in place to slow down the rate of infection our health system will be completely swamped and the death rate will head into 4% territory that Italy is experiencing.

    • RedLogix 14.1

      What do you mean our health system works well usually?

      Hang about and you might get to see what happens when it doesn't work at all.

    • Incognito 14.2

      Sure, not all is well in and with our healthcare system. However, not all healthcare is the same. For example, a waiting list for cataract operations is not the same as a queue for angioplasty.

      I have no idea what you mean by “huge quarantine procedures”. Quarantine whom, based on what, where, and for how long, for example.

      Death rate from COVID-19 is > 6% in Italy, AFAIK.

      • Aaron 14.2.1

        @Incognito you seem to be just sniping around the edges of my argument rather than dealing with the core issue but I'll answer anyway:

        The countries that took the virus seriously and instituted serious quarantine procedures (and these are are well known) have had a death rate of below 1%. Places like Italy where they didn't act with urgency have had (as you say) rates of 6%. 

        My point was that feeling complacent because we have a good quality health system is not a wise move at this stage. Even if it was the best in the world it might still not cope with a fast moving pandemic

        • Incognito 14.2.1.1

          Ok, let’s ignore the ‘rough edges’ of your argument and look at your core issue, which is to put quarantine measures in place now. Rather than giving an unconditional and unqualified answer, I think it is fair to ask what you have in mind. For example, all of those measures (“and these are are well known” [sic] is too vague IMO), immediately here in NZ? I believe that so far the measured and balanced step-wise response by and from Government has been adequate and in-line with evidence. It has put or at least tried to put much of the responsibility on the people. Infections happen in the community and likewise, effective prevention needs to take place at community level. If people ignore expert advice then there’s nothing (a) Government can do. In any case, the community (i.e. the people) and Government need to work together, hand-in-hand so to speak, to do the best they can under the circumstances. For example, Government might increase travel bans and people can change their (personal hygiene) habits.

    • Louis 14.3

      @ Aaron. Did you think it would all be fixed up in just 2 years? Contrary to what you think, this government are funding health in the billions.

      https://www.labour.org.nz/what_we_re_doing_in_health

      • Aaron 14.3.1

        @Louis, thanks for the party political broadcast but my point was the system is over-stretched right now and not able to handle an extra load – just as it's about to get one. Labour Party talking points are not going to be any use if the system gets overloaded.

    • mickysavage 14.4

      My dad and my partner have had to use the health system over the past few years.  It is bloody good.  All strength to the people involved making it work.  Sure funding needs to be increased which the Government has done over the past couple of years.

      It worked well for them.  We do have to make it work better. 

      • pat 14.4.1

        "parts" of the health system work very well….others barely function

      • KJT 14.4.2

        The staff are generally excellent, in my experience.

        However the underfunding cracks are showing. Papered over by staff dedication.

        Like, our local hospital running out of beds on a normal Monday night.

        Those I spoke to hope that the onset, which they regard as inevitable, is slowed down enough so they can cope.

  15. ianmac 15

    Doesn't seem to be any news out of Africa. 

    No cases?

    Under reporting?

    Huge spread?

  16. swordfish 16

    .

    More travel restrictions are anticipated to be announced today. 

    Yeah, pity they weren't as decisive weeks ago when it was needed … but that would've required foresight & backbone.

     

    The Government’s response to the first appearance of local community spread … could be the determining issues of this year’s election campaign.

    Once again, re-active rather than pro-active.

    You don't wait for community spread to happen before reacting … you do everything in your power to prevent it & you do it early … the kind of urgent & exhaustive measures that we haven't bothered with … an attitude exemplified, I have to say, by the pompous preening pontificating comfortably-off ID Politics virtue-signallers here (what might be called the Clintonista Shill-Boys) … 2 weeks ago they were as casual as fuck about COVID-19 … now they've suddenly woken up … unfortunately about a month too late.

    Meanwhile … as I replied to Ad on Open Mike:

    Whereas we are 5 infections

    ;
    Many more than that, I'd say.

    Silent spread from Pre-symptomatic, Asymptomatic & Mild cases … but like the US & various other Western nations … we're in the Don't Test / Don't Tell phase where the economy is prioritised over human life… as opposed to taking urgent & decisive action to slow it down & prevent overwhelmed hospitals & needless death.

    (Note: Pre-symptomatic (100% of those infected with COVID-19 go through Pre-Symptomatic incubation period of up to 2 weeks),
    Asymptomatic (around 20% of infected experience zero symptoms)
    Mild cases (around 60% of those infected experience symptoms similar to a cold)

    • joe90 16.1

      2 weeks ago they were as casual as fuck about COVID-19

      Who was as casual as fuck about COVID-19?

      • Incognito 16.1.1

        https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200121-sitrep-1-2019-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=20a99c10_4

        The Event highlights from 31 December 2019 to 20 January 2020 at the top give an insight into the chronology.

        • joe90 16.1.1.1

          Who were the Clintonista Shill-Boy[s]  being as casual as fuck about COVID-19?

          • Incognito 16.1.1.1.1

            A figment of imagination, perhaps? I don’t quite see the connection, but hey, if it tickles one’s fancy.

            On that note, some commenters here have literally surprised me lately with some of their comments, by the tone or content. Under the circumstances it can be hard to remain objective, rational, or stoic even, and maybe it shows an undercurrent of deep-felt emotion welling up and piling into TS. If so, it is not necessarily a bad thing, but it would mean that the nature of commentary and debate will change, which is something Moderators should be alert to. I digress …

            • SPC 16.1.1.1.1.1

              The worry is that insecurity and fear has a rightward tinge to it. 

              Then there are the calls for government to act

              This can lead to banning crowds at sports (people watch in crowded bars where spread is more likely) …

              • KJT

                Unfortunately the false confidence, simplistic solutions, oft parroted memes and narcissism of right wing "leaders" gives the illusion of "knowing what to do"  in times of fear. 

              • Sacha

                Why would banning crowds be a right-wing thing? Standard public health response.

                If left is collective and right is individual then the response we need to get through this is the former.

                • SPC

                  Do people get infected at outdoor events? 

                  UVB light kills the virus (flu in summertime much) , people are more at risk indoors. 

                  Evidence based works best.

                  The sick isolate and those at risk avoid public gatherings.

                • KJT

                  "The answer is, tax cuts, subsidies to banks and business, wage cuts, selling assets, cutting state spending".

                  "What was the question, again?"

  17. Anne 17

    2 weeks ago they were as casual as fuck about COVID-19

    If you're referring to the jokes about the toilet paper panic Swordfish that's unfair. A bit of light hearted fun over a specific circumstance does not equate to being dismissive of the virus.

  18. Sabine 18

    @MickeySavage

    In New Zealand we are fortunate so far.  There is no sign of community spread, current numbers of infections are stable, and we have a health system that works well usually. The Government has a series of measures that will be announced next week. It is likely they will include help for certain sectors as well as a stimulus package. Maybe they should think about a Universal Basic Income.

    half the police force of Rotorua is currently in 'self isolation' as an inmate tested positive. 

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12316211

    i would suggest that this – should the worst come to happen – may qualify for 'community spread'. 

    the first thing the government can and should do – and maybe should have done so a few days ago is sending a food voucher to our beneficiaries. 

    then they should look at a mortgage / rent holiday in case of a lock down, self isolation. And no  'talk to your bank' is the bs that comes from a man who literally has no idea about how Jo and Jane Sixpack live. 

    testing, there is a nice nifty drive trough test available in South Korea, German etc and i would like to know if we are going to have something like this available. I heard that Germany has offered its finding to other goverments, also that China made any findings about the virus publicly available. 

    heating allowance, for all low wage income earner, family with children, and beneficiaries. At least we can try to prevent the usual surge of respiratory illnesses that we have regularly in winter due to no money for heating, lack of insulation and mold. 

    The chinese government welded the doors shut on Apartment buildings in January, please tell me that our government saw that and like many realised that this might not be a simply flu. 

    I can't see how and why governments the world over are collapsing their economies for a simply flu. So yeah, i hope our government will finally kick into action and offer some precise assistance to take some of the stress away for those that are not in a high income group of people. 

    • bwaghorn 18.1

      The aussie government sent all it people on benefits $750 I believe. 

    • SPC 18.2

      If he had tested positive the numbers here would now be 6, still 5 … 

      • Sabine 18.2.1

        Well you tell that to the police force in Rotorua  – who is currently self isolating. 

        Seriously, don't give me that type of shit, cause i am not the one making shit up. 

        This is happening right now in Rotorua. 

        And yeah, we only have 5 cases in NZ and there is a fullah in Tauranga who has some Bridges in Northland on sale. IF you are really quick you gonna get one real cheap. 

        • SPC 18.2.1.1

          Your source – Herald story – only says that someone who had been to Hong Kong had symptoms and was thus tested – they wait a day for a result. And those in contact go into isolation while they wait for the test result. 

        • peterh 18.2.1.2

          cleared Scare mongering

          [lprent: I thought that the political application of simple minded scare mongering was copyrighted to Simon (no) Bridges. BTW: learn to be articulate enough explain what you mean around here. Otherwise we can help you to interpret your incoherent trolling blatherings. ]

          • peterh 18.2.1.2.1

            If you say someone in Rotorua is positive, and found to be not be true, on a very sensitive issue like this what do we call these types of statements

        • Sacha 18.2.1.3

          i am not the one making shit up

          Seems that way. What would help you feel less anxious about this topic?

    • peterh 18.3

      Where did you get positive from

  19. Sabine 19

     Manila has shut down. 

    India has effectively shut its borders to any non citizens. 

    Our world is going to look very very different in a few month. 

     

     

    • Adrian 19.1

      Bullshit. The major problem is panic merchants, and why hasn't it spread in Africa maybe because as said weeks ago by a virologist, in summer heat the virus dries up very quickly in open air. For the last few months both China and Lombardy are cold ,wet ,foggy and miserable perfect transmission areas for pathogens such as these. 

  20. Jackel 20

    This is as bad as it gets. I'm sure Ardern and her government know they have to front foot this. All we can do now is lessen the damage and impact of the fall to New Zealand. Fortunately our Government and our Reserve Bank have a bit of ammo to fight this and we have an ok health system. Which is more than can be said for a number of countries. 

    • SPC 20.1

      The health professionals are like fighter pilots in 1940 (kept safe  for the island security role). 

      1. separate testing regime – set up containers/caravans in car parks (no contaminated spaces) and home visit those without cars.  

      2. reserve safety equipment for medical professionals

      3. deliver from the chemist to those with symptoms (protect the pharmacists)

      4. maximise flu vaccine uptake (no one wants a double dose of flu and coronavirus)

       Poverty

      Extend the Power Income Supplement to those on WFF tax credits/CSC (already beneficiaries and those on super) – warmer homes better sleep stronger immune systems. 

      Have as many Work and Income appointments by phone as possible – poor people having to be there risks spread to vulnerable poor (and some sick) people and staff. 

  21. Adam Ash 21

    …and meanwhile in a small town near the bottom of the South Island, a friend happily tells us face to face (Thank you very much!!) that they have just had a nice long visit from a close friend of theirs who has just recently enjoyed the company of NZ's Case #1!  Fk!

  22. David Mac 22

    Tourism is being brought to it's knees the world over. Cafe's, rental cars, Airbnbs and demand for wine.

    It's such an important sector here, so many dependent. There are strategic advantages to keeping our infection levels low beyond our physical health. As the fear subsides, our island location and hopefully minimal infection levels could be just the medicine to kick-start a crippled industry.

    • weka 22.1

      possibly, but then tourism is a driver of the somewhat slower crisis of climate change. Better that we wean ourselves off mass tourism now while we can do it more easily. We can still have some, just don't make ourselves so resilient on it.

  23. Nic the NZer 23

    Two posts on how the government should design its response to the economic impacts of the virus.

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=44484

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=44488

    In considering how much concern the govt ought to have for economic impacts we should also consider how people are likely to respond to the threat to their income and employment. Supporting the economy may facilitate a better response to the virus by the country.

  24. David Mac 24

    Observant and diligent vigilance is called for. So far, I think Jacinda's mob are on a pass mark.

    I fear 13 months ago I could of been heard to say "There will be no nutbars letting loose with an auto weapon in a NZ mosque."

  25. David Mac 25

    The coal-face doctor utube type reports that worry me are those that indicate "The staff are starting to get sick."

    If it was a nastier virus… I think that is where our systems would first start to develop life changing cracks. When those trained to help the inflicted are too weak to help.

  26. David Mac 26

    Decades ago, the Aussie health and safety squad insisted I provide a positive filtered air suit for the guy that was spraying the poison laden 2-pack paint at my clients' cars.

    Why aren't we doing that? Disposable impervious suit, head gear with a pipe pumping air into it. Either plugged into an overhead tracking purified air system or bottles for 45 mins on their backs.

    If we get a nasty virus, being a nurse should not be a kamikaze role.

    If that happens…is there any better invitation for anarchy? I love Mad Max but I'm not keen on living it.

  27. pat 27

    Black swan…there is no plan for

  28. joe90 28

    We're 20 or so behind.  Close the gate.

    • David Mac 28.1

      I think there is much to be said for putting the 'CLOSED' sign in the window for 3-4 weeks.

      The bitter reality is that most of us can't afford to say that and vote for the 'OPEN' side of the sign.

      As trade slowly slides, from the dairy on the corner to the dairy into China our Govt will be obliged to run around with a box of 1000 Johnson and Johnson band-aids.

      I wonder if a government funded 'Closed' sign out front for a month could work in our favour in the long run?

       

    • McFlock 28.2

      lolwut?

      You're pulling an "if we follow a similar trend" based on the initial datapoint approximated from a chart?

      Show me the 60-orWhatevs countries with c-19, numbers as bars on the right axis and rates as lines from the left axis, all starting from initial cases, and maybe we could get an idea.

      Population stats fall down with small numbers. What we do seem to have in NZ are border controls implemented before it got a decent footing. Maybe in a month we'll all be on lockdown, but that's not something predictable from that sort of chart at this stage for us.

      If we look at infection patterns, Italy started with 46 cases. We're more like France, which had a couple of periods of just getting three or five cases weeks apart, before they obviously caught the last one too late (five cases found towards end of feb after zero for weeks, twenty three cases found a couple of days later). Germany is similar to France.

      Basically, we can't really say "we're at point X of a chart". Nope, all we can say is that as far as we're pretty sure (and we've been looking) that it hasn't gotten away on us yet, but the odds are that sooner or later it will.

      Might find a dozen new probable-then-confirmed cases tomorrow.

      Might not happen until October.

      Slim chance it might never happen (really slim, tiny, microscopic).

      • joe90 28.2.1

        WTBF, 5th form maths were a fucking nightmare so I've had to settle for arithmetic. 

        Anyhoo, how do we compare our infection rates – infections /M pop? – and does our low pop affect the exponential rate of infection?

        • McFlock 28.2.1.1

          Kind of is my field – I'm shit at math, but good at swearing computers into counting correctly.

          The problem isn't getting a rate – that's just numberofcases/population*ratemagnitude. So for NZ its:

          5/5million*100000 = 0.1 per 100k.

          The trouble is that we don't know how accurate that count is. There might be 5, there might be 50, there might be 5 misdiagnoses. So that's when the mathematicians and biostatisticians figure out which of the gazillion trend analysis or confidence interval formulae are most appropriate for our small number. Totally not my field.

          But then we're also trying to calculate how far we are behind Italy based on a chart, not their actual data. The size of the data symbols, whether it's been scaled fairly, that can all be misleading, and we might be off by a factor of two. So that's a doubling period we might be out by. And why did they pick those nations to compare? As opposed to a global index?

          But the main thing is that we also have to look at the mechanism and plausibility, not just the numbers. When we have a few days without cases, the question is "why"? Are there some hidden cases lurking in the general population, all ready to be detected when we find a community and focus attention on it? Or are we essentially clear, until the next unsuspected case walks off the plane at some unknown time?

          Nobody knows that last bit. That's why the folks who want to call the army out and shut the nation down right now might be Cassandras cursed to be ignored when they warn of tragedy, or they might actually be calling for needless harm.

          I wouldn't be surprised if we have a few more cases of vulnerable people found dead weeks or months after they pass, not directly because of covid-19 but because nobody from the local church or seniors' group missed them because those gatherings had all been cancelled.

  29. David Mac 29

    Stiff measures align well with our message for the adventurous wanderlust world.

    Make the front page of the world press by rolling down the shutters at Auckland International Airport for a month. Pay 'Duty Free Madness' the overhead/profit they claimed for the month last year.

    Swap out the '100% Pure' billboards for 'Still 100% Pure' billboards May 1st.

     

     

     

  30. Adam Ash 30

    An essential read for understanding the numbers.  In particular it shows how prompt firm action (like close everything but emergency services, essential industries and groceries, everybody else stays close at home) can reduce infections and deaths by factors of ten.

    We may be too late already…  Please read.

    Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

     

    • SPC 30.1

      The essential is to ensure the health system is able to cope – which means the "lockdown" approach when threat to it emerges. 

      The problem when doing this when the number cases is still low is that this number of low instances will recur and recur. – so how often does one lockdown? 

      In China they have replaced societal lockdown with more targeted hyper activity to stop spread (which we are doing at the moment). 

    • pat 30.2

      and how long would you like this lockdown to continue?….forever perhaps?

      ….for as the virus now exists we either develop herd immunity or quarantine indefinitely

  31. Grumpy 31

    Spoke to a friend in Denmark last night. They have 1000 serious cases and only 300 ventilators. Those who get ventilators will live, they are being rationed and not by age.

    He asked how many cases in New Zealand and I said 5. He replied “we only had 5 a week ago”.

    • Incognito 31.1

      That must have been evolving rapidly then.

      Over 800 cases nationwide now

      According to the latest figures from the State Serum Institute, 801 Danes have been confirmed to have the coronavirus.

      Of the 801, 23 have been admitted to hospital and four are in critical condition. So far, nobody has died, although an 80-year-old man with heart problems died on Thursday at Aalborg University Hospital of heart failure and subsequently tested positive.

      So far, 3,998 Danes have been tested for the coronavirus.

      This was updated on 13 March, 15.00 (local time, I presume).

      http://cphpost.dk/?p=111178

  32. Janet 32

    We are an Island nation , a remote island nation.  We have lived with the handicap of that since production and trading began in New Zealand. We could have again. We could have closed our border early to all travellers. We could have continued on with our lives in NZ fairly normally. The new business ‘s that developed on the tourists back could have sat tight and waited while their staff went off to do something actually constructive, like government funded pest control  for example. But no we try to stay global, and we risk all.

  33. Ad 33

    Excellent move by our prime Minister to require everyone  – other than from Pacific islands – to self-isolate for 14 days.

     

    • Stunned Mullet 33.1

      I think you mean excellent move by the MoH advisors and endorsed by the PM and cabinet.

      Would like to know what 'other than pacific islands' means in reality ? 

      Also how do we ensure people self isolate ? Devil in the detail and all that…

      • Ad 33.1.1

        The Prime Minister is provided with advice, and the Prime Minister leads it with the media. That's the way government runs. 

        The next step – if we are to sustain "Stamp Out" mode – is compulsory testing of all inbound visitors.

        Instead of naming 'dirty' countries, one would name 'clean' countries whose passengers don't require testing.

        It's also been good to see the Mayors of Auckland and Christchurch making big calls that assist in  mass crowd control.

        • Stunned Mullet 33.1.1.1

          Compulsory testing of all inbound visitors why if you believe they will self isolate for a fortnight and if you don't believe that how exactly do you propose it's achieved – phlebotomists stationed at all ports of entry ?

          • SPC 33.1.1.1.1

            The Asian method is to identify their cell phone and track its location.

          • Graeme 33.1.1.1.2

            The PM's language around that gave me the impression that government was requiring voluntary isolation, but there would be a lot of checking up.  Pretty easy, ring them up and locate the device.  Can do it now with 111 calls, and it's pretty accurate.

            • Stunned Mullet 33.1.1.1.2.1

              Maybe ?

              I still can't see how voluntary isolation is amongst the toughest border rules in the world when theoretically we could still see people coming to NZ from anywhere in the world apart from China and Iran (? South Korea).

              • Graeme

                Only take police in bio hazard suits to very publicly round up a random miscreant and the message would be all over social media.  How China and Korea did it.  

                • Stunned Mullet

                  Sure would – let's see what starts happening at the airports as of Monday  – I'm sure the media will be out and about.

                  • Incognito

                    The media won’t be doing those close-up in-your-face interviews with people who have just come off the plane and told they need to self-isolate for a fortnight. Although, the temptation must be strong with some …

                    Personally, I would not enjoy watching some poor sod at the airport being harassed interviewed by cringy reporters but then again, I don’t watch TV so I’ll be right.

              • SPC

                Problems with forced quarantine

                1. do we have the spare property? (homeless much)

                2. how do we ensure those who are infected do not infect others in such a facility?

              • Incognito

                So, your hang up is about “toughest” and “voluntary”?

                • Stunned Mullet

                  No just questioning how effective it'll be, apart from stopping cruise ships all the new measures are dependent on everyone coming into the country following instructions.

                  • Stunned Mullet

                    Reading online I note that Israel took similar measures at the beginning of the month, wonder what success they've had in getting people to self isolate ?

                  • Incognito

                    I couldn’t and still can’t quite work out your line of questioning. Is it about voluntary compliance or about enforcement? Is it about individual or government complacency?

                    It is almost guaranteed that not 100% of the target people will follow the instructions or will follow them correctly. With these measures, the ‘herd effect’ plays a role too.

                    I’d imagine that the people arriving from Sunday night onwards will be told of the consequences of non-compliance with a Government quarantine order but I don’t know if this may involve penalties or other legal repercussions. One would hope (!) that most people would apply common sense.

    • Graeme 33.2

      Good move, were getting some symptoms showing in tourists in last week.  Hopefully not too late to prevent it getting too far out into community.

      Tuesday's economic package will be interesting.  Needs to be provision that people don't have to go to work when they shouldn't, along with support to cover those who have had their businesses thrown under the bus by this event.  Tourism and hospitality will be pretty much buggered but the timing's within the range for end of season, early end but mid March is a normal quietish year.

      Looking around Queenstown I'm concerned about half a dozen hotel / apartment projects that are between just out of the ground coming up for settlement.  Interesting times.  Some of them are quite large and off-shore principal / financed.

      • Rosemary McDonald 33.2.1

        @Graeme. These apartments…they're part of the much needed plan to address the severe shortage of low cost housing in Queenstown, hot bedding capital of NZ???

        What's left of the tourism industry will be truly screwed if the much -valued hospo staff have to do another winter sleeping in their cars.

         

        • Graeme 33.2.1.1

          This'll send a chill wind through the property market here.  A lot of people will have to leave town because they can't pay the mortgage, happens every downturn.  You can see it's going to happen, but don't know when or how until the black swan flies across the sun.

          There will be some good opportunities for buyers but the rental market will go to bits from the demand side because there's no jobs, rather than new supply.

          We'll keep going on domestic visitors until there's community spread, then it will stop.

          • Ad 33.2.1.1.1

            Graeme, how long have you lived there?

            I'd like to hear more detail about what life was like in 2008-9. 

            What happens to retailers and restauranteurs – do lots of them go under?

            Would you see this as a good time to buy there in say 6 months once the impact us at its highest?

            In this kind of event, what social networks are the most resilient in the Queenstown area in your experience?

            I've sometimes had a little anxiety that some of the smaller towns could end up like Macetown or Lawrence after the gold rush had exhausted itself.

             

             

            • Graeme 33.2.1.1.1.1

              I've been here since mid 80's, my partner came here in early 70's.

              There's quite a turnover in tourism businesses each downturn, but there's a lot that handle it fine.  There's a lot of turnover without a downturn too.  Our gallery goes back to early 70's through two generations.

              The construction / property industry is another story.  Every time there's carnage, and painful carnage at a personal level.  In tourism most of the redundant are renting and can just gather up their stuff and move on, construction family will have contracts with liability clauses and a million dollar mortgage in Shotover Country.  Most of those affected in both industries would have been here less than a cycle.

              For social networks the town seems to stratify into cohorts around when you arrived, so these tend to shrink with time.  I probably live in a 'town / village' of 200 people, but that's pretty solid.  You don't really have much to do with recent arrivals, high likelihood they'll be gone tomorrow.

              Sometimes there's property bargains to be had in the pain, but you've got to be on the spot with the cash.  We picked up a section and house kitset for $45K in '88, in two deals over a month.  In 2008 there were enough people with the chequebook at 4pm on Friday to hold the market up enough, more that very little sold and prices plateaued for several years.

              I'm expecting Wanaka to get hit hard this time, there's too much tension over there even without a downturn.  If the airshow gets canned next month you might have fun in the fallout with a good chequebook. 

              Whakatipu will endure and make it's people stronger, but it can be a difficult master.

  34. aj 34

    I get weary hearing commentators talking about everyone 'working from home'. That's just not possible in all service industries and a few other beside. Only for a lucky few.

    • A 34.1

      I hear you as this was my concern too.  Saw something earlier today…a study showing only 25% of the population isolate the contagion shows a surprising slow down.  So maybe if we have a sizeable chunk of people staying home this will be enough to prevent the hospital breakdown in Italy + no doubt Spain.  

      Sorry I can’t find the page reference but it was titled something like “what you need to know”

      • Graeme 34.1.1

        Saw a number like that in one of Dr John Campbell's videos, today's or yesterday.  It's about spreading the peak wave and reducing the infected population so health services can cope, not necessary to totally eliminate it.  With our stretched and spread health service every bit will be essential.

  35. A 35

    A big tick from me with the new self isolation rules, cruise ships until end of June, etc etc.  #FlattenTheCurve. 

    To prioritize "the economy" now would merely delay the inevitable disaster of greater magnitude later.  My respect for our leadership is growing with each new step they take.  Well done. 

  36. observer 36

    As leader of the Stalinist Libertarians I want to complain that the government is doing far too little, and far too much, and far too late, and far too soon, and is putting the economy ahead of health, or our health ahead of the economy, whatever …

    We reserve the right to switch from "nanny state!" to "nanny, protect us!" and back again, as the mood takes us.

    We have a consistent approach, based on strong principles, namely:

    1. We hate Jacinda, regardless of anything the government does. Even if we have called for it. Especially if we have been calling for it.

    2. See no. 1

    Vote for us. You know it makes (non)sense.

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