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How Far Ought The State Go In A Pandemic?

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, August 29th, 2021 - 120 comments
Categories: covid-19, health, human rights, workers' rights - Tags:

Even in a time of crisis, people have human rights that must be upheld.

The government sets out its powers to control us in order to control the COVID19 outbreak in specific recent legislation, as well as in the 1956 Heath Act.

But crises can bring out the latent Fascist in all of us. The longer we stay in lockdown, the longer we are deprived (for rational reasons) of some human rights, and the grumpier people can get. It’s always a balance and the balance always changes. Here’s a summary of our human rights in New Zealand.

Here’s the Bill of Rights Act (BORA).

Here’s some a few of those stated BORA rights, with a menu of  of anti-pandemic measures against them.

Right to Refuse to Undergo Medical Treatment; and Right not to be subjected to scientific or medical experimentation

What about compulsory vaccination? That comes with a set of authoritarian steps, each entailing a gradated loss of human rights:

  • Compulsory vaccination for all medical staff, frontline staff including rest homes, retail staff, and port and airport workers
  • Compulsory vaccination for all state sector employees: MPs and parliamentary staff, teachers, Police, NZDF
    • Extra step: compulsory vaccination for all university and polytech staff
    • Extra step: compulsory vaccination for all entities in which government has a majority controlling stake
  • Compulsory vaccination for all local government staff
    • Extra step: compulsory vaccination for all state sector contractors:
  • Several tens of thousands of road and rail subcontractors, health trusts and subcontractors, builders, maintenance staff, all other entities receiving state wages and salaries

Freedom of Movement, also a right to Health Information Privacy

What about putting testing and vaccination information onto the biometric data of all New Zealand passports?

  • Extra step: same for all passport holders coming into the country

What about internal border controls, beyond the temporary Police blockades: internal passports with biometric data for all people travelling between regions in New Zealand. Start with passing between the North and South Islands, then just take it further with regional roadblocks.

  • Extra step: State removes all CBD quarantine facilities, and builds a large facility outside of city limits (something like a medium-security jail) on previously-used quarantine facilities such as Dunedin’s Quarantine Island, or Soames Island, or Auckland’s Motuihi Island

Denial of Access to public services, including government services, education, public places, employment, housing and accommodation

What about limiting social services to those who object to the vaccine?

  • Restrict public medical care
  • Restrict access to public education other than online
  • Restrict access to public housing

Children’s rights are spelled out here.

Extra step:

  • Restrict for those who refuse and are receiving NZ Superannuation
  • Restrict for those who refuse and are receiving JobSeeker or other welfare
  • Restrict for those receiving ACC payment

Freedom of Expression

What about a ban and criminalise any speech denying that vaccines are a good idea, including on social media platforms and news outlets?

Beyond BORA, we get extra rights for which the COVID19 legislation can have a further crack beyond the current enforcement measures:

Rights as a New Zealand Citizen, including right to travel overseas freely and to return

What about the state rationing travel, such as by issuing permits for all travel outside of the country unless for business, medical specialist, or compassionate grounds?

No legal obligation by a retailer to accept cash, hence no right to pay in cash

What about a requirement that all retail stores and businesses only use pay machines with a Paywave? No more eftpos touch pads. That would require a whole bunch of subsidy for marginal businesses like charity stores, and would pretty much eradicate roadside stalls, and would really hit markets

Ability of SuperGoldCard holders and students to travel on public transport

What about compulsory mask use on all transport and public areas, at all ages, at all times

  • Extra step: proof of vaccination to be able to travel on public transport

Rights and Obligations under Health and Safety At Work Act 2015

What about enforcing all my colleagues to be vaccinated? Alter the Workplace Health and Safety Act to make workplace risk obligations clearer with vaccination and testing a part of Business unit operator strict liability.

At some point a good Opposition is going to have to say: no more rights v common welfare trade offs. Maybe even government MPs will start saying it.

120 comments on “How Far Ought The State Go In A Pandemic? ”

  1. mikesh 1

    Is there not provision, somewhere in the statutes, for government to declare an emergency and the take any steps deemed necessary for the population's survival. Such steps would no doubt override some of our rights.

    • weka 1.1

      "any steps deemed necessary"

      Not as far as I'm aware. That's why the government had to introduce new legislation to manage the pandemic last year.

      The government can of course pass whatever legislation it likes if it has the numbers and I don't think anyone or thing can stop them. So a proto-fascist government could introduce 'any steps deemed necessary' legislation. It wouldn't survive the next election though (assuming we got to have one).

  2. Ross 2

    There is also the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994. Everyone must be fully informed before choosing a health care procedure. The Act states that “no health care procedure shall be carried out without informed consent”. I'm not convinced that those receiving the Covid-19 vaccine are fully informed.

    Meanwhile, Israel is taking a different approach to New Zealand:

    It would be very easy to declare a lockdown and give money to the closed businesses and the workers sitting at home.

    But the policy of lockdowns has a terrible price.

    One consideration that we have is the lowering of morbidity and the reduction of mortality. But, of course, there are other considerations including Israeli citizens' livelihoods, the education of Israeli children and safeguarding the economic future of Israel.

    For example, we thought about the people killed in traffic accidents. It would be possible to reduce to zero the number of fatalities from traffic accidents by banning travel on Israel's highways. But we all understand that we have to live and allow traffic in Israel.

    Thus it is with the Delta strain: Daily routine is part of life and we must find a responsible balance between all the needs.

    If we continue with the policy of lockdowns and economically destructive restrictions, we will simply collapse economically.

    The immense amount that we spent on lockdowns, the effectiveness of which was low in any case, is a sum that was taken from important goals for you and for your children.

    https://www.gov.il/en/departments/news/spoke_post140821

    • KJT 2.1

      Still people ignoring the evidence from all around the world.

      That countries with effective quarantine and lockdowns have done better both economically and healthwise.

      And the ones that have fucked it up, are carrying on with mealy mouthed justifications for their failures.

      Of course our under twelves getting Covid, or their parents dying and getting sick, is "so good for our children’s economic future".

    • Ross 2.2

      This from Paul Hunt, the Human Rights Commissioner in response to concerns about the vaccine by some doctors.

      The current context, including the vaccine rollout, concerns several key human rights issues including the right to informed consent. We have provided guidance on our website regarding the vaccine rollout and human rights see https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-andcomplaints/faqs/covid-19-vaccine-and-human-rights/. Transparency and access to information are essential components of human rights and go hand in hand with accountability. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights notes that the right to freedom of expression includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information from the State. People have the right to know what is happening in a public health crisis. Transparency is essential in the vaccination process. Information about the vaccine should be available in readily understandable formats and languages. Being open and transparent, and involving those affected in decision-making, is key to ensuring people participate in measures designed to protect their own health and that of the wider population. … COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary and vaccines may not be forcibly administered.

      https://nzdsos.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Reply-of-HRC-to-NZDSOS-20-August-2021-1.pdf

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.3

      I notice that if we had Israel's covid death rate, we would be on about 4,000 deaths so far – 10x our annual road toll.

      I expect we will come out of the cave with high vaccination rates, which is what Israel is doing. But best to come out on your own terms, than to flee the cave because you let the saber-tooth tigers in and set the place on fire, which is what NSW is doing.

      • Ross 2.3.1

        I notice that if we had Israel's covid death rate, we would be on about 4,000 deaths so far – 10x our annual road toll.

        If we had Iceland's death rate, we'd have about 450 deaths per year, which is less than the annual number of suicides in New Zealand. I'm not sure this sort of comparison is helpful. Furthermore, it ignores the substantial cost of lockdowns. Treasury has estimated the cost at between $900 million and $1.5 billion each week. That's an awful lot of hip operations.

        https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018809323/economic-impact-of-lockdown-on-our-biggest-city

        [You are ignoring again that you have a Moderation request waiting for you, which means that you attend to that before you make any other comments here on this site.

        You are now in Pre-Moderation until you come up with an adequate response to the Moderation notes for you or until I’ll run out of patience. Don’t wait too long – Incognito]

        • Incognito 2.3.1.1

          See my Moderation note @ 11:25 am.

          • Ross 2.3.1.1.1

            What moderation note are you referring to?

            • Incognito 2.3.1.1.1.1

              FFS, check the Replies function or use Search to find your own comments with Moderation. Hint: you won’t have go back far in time. Don’t waste my time!

        • KJT 2.3.1.2

          Like so many that are dog whistling against lockdowns, you give the cost of lockdowns, while ignoring the even more substantial costs if we didn’t have them.
          As NSW is finding, it is considerably more than 1.5 billion per week.
          84% of New Zealanders support level 4 at the moment, because we have seen that it works.
          Many of us have incurred considerable personal costs to keep NZ as covid free as possible.
          We don’t want it to be wasted, because Jo Blow “reckons” against all the evidence, that it doesn’t work.

          When we have 90% of our people vaccinated, if the countries overseas who stuffed their response haven’t bred vaccine resistant strains, it will be time to re assess our successful strategy.

          Despite the anti vaccer nonsence, the information about side effects of vaccines and the risks and benefits is readily available, including for the covid vaccine. In our GP in at least seven languages

        • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.3.1.3

          Iceland – only 10x more deaths than we have had. And both Iceland and Israel have very high vaccination rates compared to NZ – so not locking down would cost many more lives here than there.

          You only look at one side of the equation for lockdowns (cost of lockdown, ignore benefit of avoiding covid and other controls).

          A hard two-week lockdown in NSW would have cost around $3b, might have stopped Covid. The long soft lockdowns have cost $17b and they still have covid (and all those associated costs).

          https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-16/covid-policy-in-nsw-proving-costly-ian-verrender-analysis/100379032

      • mauī 2.3.2

        Hobbits are never really meant for caves, and as much as they like to think they will come out on their own terms, its dependent on the presence or not of a sabretooth at the entrance.

        Perhaps the hobbits have put too much faith in a magic potion that they think will make them beat the sabretooth too… because you can be sure that as soon as numbers of sabretooths rise to a certain level, the hobbits will run back to the cave quick smart.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 2.3.2.1

          Hobbits are resilient. On this occasion we have also been "quick", and "smart", thanks in large part to intelligent leaders following evidence-based advice.

          Imho attempts to undermine the team of 5 million will fail, because the team understands the risks. Kia kaha.

          Unite against COVID-19
          https://covid19.govt.nz/

        • The Al1en 2.3.2.2

          Hope them Hobbits do run back to that cave, as many times as it takes to keep the majority safe, and leave the lame FDA approved potion deniers to their mutating sabre tooth fate.

          You can keep on knocking, Smeagol, but you can’t come (ivermect)in.

  3. weka 3

    Good post and timely discussion.

    Your link to the Public Health Act 1956 goes to the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill, was that intentional?

  4. UncookedSelachimorpha 4

    The answer to the post title is surely "it depends". I expect people would accept (and even ask for!) much greater suppression of individual freedom if the case fatality rate of delta was 50%, for example.

    • weka 4.1

      True, although I think it's more an issue of principles and ethics rather than a simply willing to accept more restrictions. And we should be having this debate now, not once we are in a pandemic with a 50% death rate.

  5. weka 5

    What about compulsory vaccination? That comes with a set of authoritarian steps, each entailing a gradated loss of human rights

    The Public Health Act 1956 says "(5) In no case may a direction require an individual to submit to compulsory treatment."

    https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1956/0065/latest/whole.html#DLM307440

    It's worth reading the bits just before that to see what individuals can be directed to do.

    In this debate, what is meant by compulsory? (is there a legal definition?) That someone would be strapped down and injected? Fined or confined if they don't get vaccinated? We already have compelled vaccination for some parts of the community eg you get vaccinated or you lose your job.

    Obviously there's a balance there to be had, and I'm reasonably comfortable so far with what the current government is doing. I wouldn't trust National in this situation. It makes sense to have the people working on the borders vaccinated. If someone chooses not to be vaccinated, I think it's reasonable at this time to expect the government to make sure those people aren't unfairly penalised eg finding them other work that they are suited to. The government should definitely be suspending WINZ punitive obligations for such people (no idea if this has been done).

    My observation has been that people who have a high faith in mainstream medicine are more likely to support compelled or even compulsory vaccinated. Those that have experienced mainstream medicine as flawed or even outright damaging and don't have the same faith are more likely to want our rights upheld.

    Beneficiaries and disabled people already have a lot of experience in this area. There are compelled restrictions on beneficiaries, including those who are unwell or disabled. Disabled people have a long history of society forcing them to undergo treatments or restrictions that other citizens don't have, as well as the daily grind of ableism that creates all sorts of human rights iniquities.

    I don't believe that compulsory or compelled vaccination can be understood outside of that body of knowledge, because of the slippery slope effect. If we shift the overton window on bodily autonomy rights, it won't just be this one vaccine.

    • Ad 5.1

      Just wait until the health insurers get to work. Rights schmights.

      • Patricia Bremner 5.1.1

        Yes, follow the money. Money talks.. even in pandemics.

      • Chris 5.1.2

        "At some point a good Opposition is going to have to say: no more rights v common welfare trade offs. Maybe even government MPs will start saying it."

        Maybe, but it's too early to start shoving ammunition the opposition's way. Instead of adding to the already way too premature scomo-esque resistance to what the government's doing now, why don't you hold off until we deal with the current outbreak, get as vaccinated as we can and see what happens. Your let's-have-the-conversation-flavoured 'expose' is simply adding to an already developing groundswell that could affect the mood of the nation too soon and undo all the good work that's currently going on. Even if the scomo-esque commentators are ultimately correct, we're still right now in a position to minimise the damage. Start talking about "rights" at a time like this is dangerous and irresponsible, which is also, by the way, inconsistent with the fact you cannot discuss the scope of application of NZBORA in a hypothetical vacuum, which is what you're trying to do. It's the promotion of this kind of "demand the debate" discussion that at a time like this helps get people protesting in the streets Sydney-style.

        • Ad 5.1.2.1

          If the left don't start debating the hard stuff, we will be as unprepared as we have been for COVID Delta. When the left get complacent the right always win. So far we are 15 points down in 6 months, and falling, despite wartime media saturation by Labour.

          If I'd just put up the rights by themselves and complained, you'd have a point. Instead the post explicitly invited discussion about the tradeoffs against each one because of COVID.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 5.1.2.1.1

            So far we are 15 points down in 6 months, and falling, despite wartime media saturation by Labour.

            Our government, and most of ‘the team of 5 million‘ (genius), have more immediate concerns. 2023 will be a good year for political poll catastrophising.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_New_Zealand_general_election#Party_vote

          • Chris 5.1.2.1.2

            Okay, maybe you've convinced me, and that you're correctly pre-empting the inevitable ill-conceived right-wing reliance on "rights" as if they have some kind of inalienable standalone existence. It is only matter of time before all the fuck-knuckle bleating starts arriving – the worry is its timing and what it'll do, which I guess is your point. A non-political friend of mine told me that if hard lockdowns like what we've got can only come from a communist state then he's a communist. NZBORA is about the protection of freedoms, but not at any cost. The right wing don't understand that, unless it involves criminals or the poor, which is the worry because of its superficial attractiveness. It’s difficult but education is a big part of the answer.

    • KJT 5.2

      When I started work, in the 70's, vaccinations against yellow fever, typhoid and cholera were a job requirement.

      When the balance of risk is so lopsided, as with vaccination. Making vaccination a job requirement is entirely justified in my book.

      A nurse in an old peoples home, or a school teacher, is not justified in putting people in their care at risk of deadly diseases, because they want to refuse a minor and proven almost risk free "medical procedure".

      Similarly, people who want to put vulnerable people and our community health and welfare at risk by refusing vaccinations, will have to accept restrictions on their employment and travel. Just as we did in the past.

      People who cannot be vaccinated for valid medical reasons are, of course another story. Even more reason for those of us that can, to get vaccinated, to protect them.

      We already restrict peoples ,bodily autonomy with things like seatbelt laws, even though the risk is almost entirely personal. And there is about 1 in 400 chance that seatbelts will cause more risk in an accident than not wearing one. The corresponding risk with vaccination is in the order of 1 in a million.

      The Slippery slope argument is rarely a good one.

      It was the most used one against homosexual law reform and assisted dying for example

      Government overeach is a concern, of course. The insistance on knowing what is going on in beneficiaries bedrooms for example.

      However in this case, the consequences of not coping with covid are serious enough to justify restrictions for a period.

      • Rosemary McDonald 5.2.1

        The corresponding risk with vaccination is in the order of 1 in a million.

        You really ought to provide at least one peer reviewed, independent(not funded by a drug company or affiliate) study to back that up.

        Because, you know, Science.

      • weka 5.2.2

        Pretty big difference between vaccination being a requirement on a job application/career pathway, and removing someone's livelhood.

        There are ways to manage this that eg the government leading on job replacement. But it requires us to step out of the binary thinking that says vaccine good/non vaccine bad.

        "People who cannot be vaccinated for valid medical reasons are, of course another story."

        Are they? I thought you just said that unvaccinated people are a threat. How are some unvaccinated people not a threat? Are you saying they wouldn't be fired? They should be allowed to travel internationally?

        Being required to wear a seat belt and being compelled or forced to have a vaccination are distinctly different. One can be fined for not wearing a seat belt, but one can still just take the seatbelt off. It's not the kind of override of body autonomy that forced vaccination is.

        The Slippery slope argument is rarely a good one.

        It was the most used one against homosexual law reform and assisted dying for example

        Government overeach is a concern, of course. The insistance on knowing what is going on in beneficiaries bedrooms for example.

        However in this case, the consequences of not coping with covid are serious enough to justify restrictions for a period.

        I"m really disappointed to see you wanting to give away my human rights KJT. If you don't get the slippery slope argument, then pay attention to the tory-proofing one. Because National would absolutely love to have the power to control beneficiaries this way.

        • KJT 5.2.2.1

          Weka.

          We just had a whole series from you about some humans right to feel safe, intersecting with another bunch of humans rights to self expression. I didn't comment because I, obviously with no dog in that fight, could also see both sides had a point.

          Now. You don't agree with the whole communities right to avoid serious harms, with what is a really small imposition on a few people.

          I have to admit I think that is inconsistent, and disappointing.

          I have a lot of respect for Rosemary and yourself. You have had obstacles in your lives few have to face.

          However I disagree on this occasion.

          With rights come responsibilities. If someone insists on their right not to take a proven safe vaccine, without a very good reason. Then they have the responsibility to avoid jobs or situations, where they can bugger up a whole communities right to health and welfare.
          As you know I’ve been heavily engaged in ,”Tory proofing” rights such as adequate welfare for a long time. Tories are not big on collective rights BTW.
          Seat belts can be exempted for genuine health reasons also,

          • KJT 5.2.2.1.1

            I can also see it coming in my job, that my legal obligations to keep employees safe, which in my position is a "strict liability" conflicts with someone who is not vaccinated.

            It is doubtful that we could meet the OSH requirements of keeping them safe at work. In about two months that is going to be a real issue.

          • weka 5.2.2.1.2

            I think you've misunderstood my arguments here KJT. Please reread my comments. I haven't argued against public health, I think widespread vaccination is a necessary part of the covid response.

            In terms of jobs I said that it's reasonable for some jobs to require vaccination against covid, and where people employed in those jobs don't want to be vaccinated, they should be helped to find other work (depriving people of livelihood is a shit public health response). What is wrong with this?

            What restrictions do you think should be placed on beneficiaries?

            If you believe that laws mandating wearing a seat belt is analogous to enforced vaccination, then you've failed fundamentally to understand why some people refuse vaccines (body autonomy). Understanding why is a prerequisite for finding solutions, and it's that pathway that avoids authoritarian response that will backlash on us all.

    • RedLogix 5.3

      Totally superb comment weka. It's not so much that I agreed with it (which I do), but that you've constructed a fresh and concise argument that has added to my understanding. Thanks.

    • pat 5.4

      There are compulsory treatment orders already but I believe they are confined to mental health treatment and are granted by a court with the support of 2 medical professionals…essentially if 2 medical professionals think the treatment is 'beneficial' then it is applied.

      I doubt this legislation could be applied to covid vaccination except perhaps in a mental health setting….i.e. rest home/dementia unit.

    • joe90 5.5

      In no case may a direction require an individual to submit to compulsory treatment."

      Unless it's smallpox.

      20 Compulsory vaccination against smallpox

      The Medical Officer of Health may at any time—

      (a)

      require any person who in his opinion has been recently exposed to the infection of smallpox to be forthwith vaccinated or revaccinated, or, if the person is a child, may require the parents or guardians to have such child forthwith vaccinated or revaccinated; and

      (b)

      require any such person to be isolated by remaining within any specified house or other place until the vaccination or revaccination has been successful, or until a period of 16 clear days has elapsed since such person was, in the opinion of the Medical Officer of Health, last exposed to the infection of smallpox.

      https://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/1966/0087/latest/whole.html

      • alwyn 5.5.1

        Wouldn't you be able to refuse a vaccination provided you were isolated for a period of 16 days? As I read it the 16 days of isolation is an alternative to having a successful vaccination. That is the word "or" in "has been successful, or until a period of 16 clear".

        And no, I'm not advocating avoiding Covid vaccinations.

    • Paul Campbell 5.6

      It's worth remembering that that health act was written by a bunch of old men who remembered (as young men) bringing back the Spanish Flu from WW1 – they wrote a strong act putting the medical community in charge of future pandemics, not the politicians. It's why Ashley Bloomfield has statutory powers do do what he has done.

      It's the sort of law that some politician might decide we haven't ever used, and don't really need now, the people who wrote it are dead, and might remove it

  6. Ad 6

    Is anyone in a workplace where you have been asked permission for all your details (name, age, occupation, employer, address, tax number, contact numbers and email) to go to social welfare, so that they can apply for worker subsidy?

    …and they state clearly that if you do not give this permission they will not apply for any subsidy for you? i.e. that you are on your own.

    • Sabine 6.1

      if you do not give this permission they will not apply for any subsidy for you

      They can NOT apply for your wage subsidy without that information, but you do already supply all that info to IRD if you pay wages as a business.

      Not sure what you are trying to say?

      • weka 6.1.1

        There's an issue about consent to share information, and an issue of transparency.

        • KJT 6.1.1.1

          Noting that when a business is for sale, the buyers are given nearly all employee information without, asking for permission, in almost all cases.

          IRD doesn't give an option also.

          At least this time employers are required to ask for permission.

          • weka 6.1.1.1.1

            Makes sense that the buyers would have access though. Information has been given to the business.

            "IRD doesn't give an option also."

            What does that mean?

            The issues arises when sharing information for purposes that it wasn't gathered for.

            • KJT 6.1.1.1.1.1

              You cannot employ someone without the form for IRD giving personal information. Which the employer is required to keep on file also.

              Employers, businesses, internet sites and others using personal information for other purposes, is now so common, that most of us these days, consider privacy of information is long gone. As soon as it is on a network, it isn’t private.

              I’m less concerned about businesses myself.. They only want to make money out of us. Already seen what can happen if unprincipled MP’s get hold of private information, however..

        • Sabine 6.1.1.2

          That i understand. But the issue is not that your employer don't 'want' to apply for, but that it physically 'Can't' without providing this information to MSD.

          So the issue is not the employer, but the government that demands this information and i would venture a guess it demands this information so as to cross reference with IRD to see if the employees in which name the wage subsidiy is claimed do actually exists. Never mind the awesome data trove for MSD. Surely that was not intended 🙂 s/

    • The Al1en 6.2

      Yep, got an email asking for permission to share my data in order for them to apply for the wage subsidy.

      Immediately responded with a yes.

  7. barry 7

    In an emergency, Human Rights restrictions are allowed and sensible. An emergency must be limited in time and/or scope. NZ spent about 2 months at level 3 & 4 last year (more or less depending on where you live). Level 2 and below, probably do not qualify as emergency and restrictions must be reasonable (e.g. mask wearing for most people does not qualify as a human rights restriction, any more than clothes).

    So at level 3 & 4, restricting activities outside the home to vaccinated people makes sense. For such levels to control spread means reducing the opportunities for contact between susceptible people. Ports, airports, airlines, MIQ, some hospitals, and other places where contact with potentially infected people could occur would remain at level 3 or 4 even when the virus is eliminated.

    So what happens if we can't (or choose not to) eliminate the virus and treat it like measles? Do levels no longer apply? Can we restrict enrolment at schools (this debate has been going on long before covid)? What about aged care and hospitals where we really don't want vulnerable people exposed? How do we manage infectious people when we can't force them to isolate? There are a lot of questions to answer before we can open our borders. Of course we can just muddle through like the UK and accept a level of death and loss of hospital services that most of us are not prepared for.

    It could be a generation before health outcomes for covid are comparable to those of measles (and measles is already bad enough).

    • Ad 7.1

      If we can't eliminate the virus, we will start to look more like Victoria: neighbourhood lockdowns until things stabilise.

      • Macro 7.1.1

        Are you serious??

        Victoria Covid update: Daniel Andrews extends lockdown after 92 new cases

        Sunday’s announcement brings the total number of active community cases to 773. There are currently 44 Victorians in hospital, 13 of whom are in the ICU and nine that require a ventilator.

        Victoria’s Covid-19 commander, Jeroen Weimar, said a majority of the new cases were associated with Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs.

        “Over two-thirds [of cases] are associated within the northern and western suburbs and that is by far the largest concentration of cases we have outside the Shepparton area.”

        Authorities are watching a growing cluster in the regional town of Shepparton, which now has 94 Covid cases in total, across 37 households. Members of the community have continued to come out in droves for Covid testing: over 1,300 tests administered in the area on Saturday, bringing the total to 23,000 in this outbreak.

        Remember – this outbreak started with a couple of infectious movers from NSW bringing the virus into the state. Andrews tried to do a smart thing and limit the lockdown to "ring fence" the virus within various sectors of Melbourne. A tactic that has patently failed.

        Shepparton BTW is a good couple of hours by train North of Melbourne and famous for the SPC brand of tinned fruit.

  8. Patricia Bremner 8

    This Government was elected in a landslide mostly to fight this pandemic. A successful first term told people their wellbeing was paramount.

    This is the second item I have read which infers our PM is being influenced by too much power over our lives.

    I see you listing lots of freedoms and how they may incrementally be removed. Does the fact they are removed for fixed named periods to meet a current situation take any danger away? Or regardless of danger freedoms are to be sacrosanct?

    Or are you saying "to survive and thrive we may have to adapt to new ways of living, as people did in World war two." Rationing restrictions and blackouts for example. Are you fearing modern folk are less hardy and less able to change quickly enough and to sustain the effort?

    Where is the list of responsibilities we have to each other and our country in a pandemic? Where is the list of mitigating levers and controls to stop fascism?

    Our legally elected Government and their cabinet imo.

    What is new is the unusual majority in an MMP system. That has scared some into accusations of too many and unusual controls by this Government in unusual times.

    • Gypsy 8.1

      I would only add that it's not such a bad thing to be having a discussion around the limits of state power and how it is applied. It is when that conversation is curtailed we should really worry.

    • Ad 8.2

      You'd need to show where those collective responsibilities are in law, because it's the rights that are in law, and that's what the post illustrates.

      Simply being elected is not a reason for people to accept having their human rights removed.

      If you think that Labour can fall 15 points in six months and not hit bottom, and don't attribute that to their rights being infringed, you are blind. Labour are heading for a poll of mid-thirties next time.

      • Patricia Bremner 8.2.1

        Then the people will have made a choice Ad, and will have to live with the outcome.

        Personally I think the middle are wavering and waving their voting stick. When it comes to choices 84% said Lock down. People will decide which is after all democracy.

        Parliament can make new laws of course.

        • KJT 8.2.1.1

          84% approval for the lockdown and heading for 80% vaccination rate. I don't think it is the Covid response that is losing Labour votes.

          • Ad 8.2.1.1.1

            What do you think is causing the poll freefall?

            • Patricia Bremner 8.2.1.1.1.1

              Is it a freefall? Or more a return to normal levels of support? When the election comes round, people will look at what has been achieved and look at the behaviour of many in the opposition parties. Perhaps Swordfish can show us what the traditional position looks like at this time of the cycle.. These are not normal times so…

              • Ad

                Election day: Labour 50%

                Now: Labour 39%

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_New_Zealand_general_election

                No panic yet with the Greens over 10%.

                But with total daily media coverage, and a still-popular Prime Minister, they had better start figuring something to reverse it soon.

                • McFlock

                  There's probably a level of overexposure at play, but the Greens seem to have picked up half that decline. This is not a terrible thing for Labour.

                  I can't help wondering what will happen when people actually find out what the act caucus are like. So far they've said and done fuckall as far as I can see, except Seymour.

                • Forget now

                  This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile – with a New Zealand-wide cross-section of 940 electors during August. Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?” Of all electors surveyed a larger than usual 7%, up 2.5% points, didn’t name a party.

                  http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8789-nz-national-voting-intention-august-2021-202108270635

                  I usually go with the RM poll because it has a reliable (monthly) sampling frequency, despite other flaws (eg consistently overstating Green Party support). Overall trends tend to be more reliable than individual results – though that's a low bar.

                  The uncommitted respondents have increased from 3% immediately post election to 7% this month. So a party with a solid rump of tribal supporters (eg National) might seem to be steady, while one with more fair weather friends might seem to decline. Yet the core support for both may not have changed. Although with Labour, RM had them at 44% immediately postelection – so the drop there is only about 5% at that.

                  There isn't enough salt in the Pacific ocean for mid cycle polling.

            • Sacha 8.2.1.1.1.2

              Freefall? Check the next poll or two before you jump to convenient conclusions.

            • KJT 8.2.1.1.1.3

              That is if you consider a return to more normal levels of party support after an exceptional election in exceptional circumstances, a ,,"freefall"?

              Scary levels of support for Seymour's Fantasyland however.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 8.2.1.2

          I'm with you Patricia – our government and the team of 5 million is a successful partnership. If/when that partnership dissolves, then there will be recriminations aplenty, but now is not the time to hammer in wedges, imho.

          In anticipation…

      • swordfish 8.2.2

        .

        Simply being elected is not a reason for people to accept having their human rights removed

        LOL … I look at the total fucking Nightmare my 90 / 91 yo parents have had to endure for 4 years (and on-going) at the hands of a violent / sadistically anti-social neighbour in social housing … to all intents & purposes enabled by this Govt with its tacit No Eviction policy & its apparent enthusiasm for dumping violent offenders out on parole on the other side of the wall from very elderly people … all effectively cheered on by a Woke Establishment cosily divorced from social reality (incl several Upper-Middle Professionals here with their mindless narcissistic virtue-signalling & paternalistic romanticisation of each & every member of the Underclass … oblivious or unconcerned about the enormous violence done to innocents) … and I think: Sorry, but what fucking Human Rights are these ???

  9. AB 9

    As I said the other day when pointing at the BORA – any broad and generic statement of rights will contain internal contradictions that under certain circumstances will get exposed. Such as the right to life (being protected from a virus) versus the right to freedom of movement (not being compulsorily locked-down). How governments and citizens balance these contradictions always depends on three things:

    • the nature of the crisis
    • any shared cultural values that pre-dispose everyone to act in certain ways
    • who has the economic and media power to bring influence, dominate other less 'platformed' voices, and have their preferred point of balance adopted by the state

    We are seeing all these things play out at the moment – particularly the third point. Which is why it is heading for such a political sh*t fight that the left has to win.

    • Ad 9.1

      The Labour-Green government has been given a dominance of the media that we haven't seen since World War 2. Including their total dominance of social media platforms within New Zealand.

      Hundreds of millions in state funding into public comms, for 18 months straight and likely to go for years.

      The left united with the state are the platform.

      • AB 9.1.1

        That's fair enough if a bit exaggerated – it's also the reason why we have had (in aggregate if not for every individual) such good outcomes to date. The reaction against it is now getting fierce and has to be beaten back if we want to continue getting such good outcomes.

      • KJT 9.1.2

        Don't watch TV, or read many newspapers eh?

        The bagging of our Government and our Covid response has been constant.

        And the constant ignorant critical "reckons" from every right wing pundit they can excavate

        • Ad 9.1.2.1

          Public sector comms staff now outnumber reporters over 5 to 1.

          The level of public criticism is perfectly reasonable. And when the Auckland lockdown continues it's only going to get worse.

          Public obedience and cohesion is huge, so any negative criticism is hardly upsetting social stability.

          Even Ardern finally admitted to the high degree of community stress today.

      • Sacha 9.1.3

        The Greens do not seem to be getting much media out of Covid, especially compared with Act’s wailing about it.

        • KJT 9.1.3.1

          It is not from lack of material. Or lack of output from the Greens.

          It seems the media have decided to highlight Seymour, Brown etc, and totally ignore anything from the Greens.

          The media are only interested in National and ACT. Funny that!

          Maybe the Greens need to do some ignorant grand standing opposition.

          • Ad 9.1.3.1.1

            The Green Party have done a total of 3 media releases in August. Plus quotes from two Conference speeches.

            Act are averaging 2 media releases per day.

            Act are making ground in the polls through hard work.

            Greens are making less ground simply by keeping their heads down.

            • KJT 9.1.3.1.1.1

              Media, only report on politicians doings when they get media releases?

              Makes you wonder why we need "Journalists"?

              If they simply reprint, media releases?

            • Forget now 9.1.3.1.1.2

              From what I have seen, the GP have more of a targeted online presence, rather than releasing many conventional press releases. I don't follow Twitter (& other such) myself – all headlines, no content IMO.Though Ghahramen has visibly criticized slow and limited government inaction on Afghanistan refugee sanctuary. It's a different situation there now. Going hard and early didn't seem so urgent in another country I guess.

              https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2021/aug/20/afghans-need-our-help-there-must-be-no-empty-seats-on-new-zealands-rescue-mission

              Anyway, one consequence of lessened international travel is that more NZ citizens will have been outside the country longer than 3 years, so will become ineligible to vote. I myself have whanau in NSW who had tickets booked for December, now going to be uncitizened in January.

              So we might soon be seeing the GP targeting more of a domestic voting audience again.

              • Ad

                Best of luck to the Greens with that.

                • In Vino

                  The Greens may well have realised long ago that whatever attempts they make at publicity, our largely privatised and Right-Wing-biased media will give them only bad publicity, if any at all. Why bovver?

                  I get lots of online messages from them. They are, I think, communicating with their support base via social media independently of biased media.

                  • Anne

                    I think you're on to something there In Vino. I get a lot of stuff from Greanpeace and I suspect it is for the same reason. They know the tabloid nasties will try to tear them to pieces so they have adopted the direct approach to members and supporters.

            • Sacha 9.1.3.1.1.3

              Act are spending lots of money on social media. Guess it helps pushing a message that wealthy donors like.

  10. Sacha 10

    The right not to be killed or injured by someone else acting out their right to 'freedom' is fundamental.

    There is no right to pass around deadly infections.

    • KJT 10.1

      You would think so.

      Apparently the right to pass on potentially deadly infections trumps everyone's ,"right to life", for many.

    • RedLogix 10.2

      There is no right to pass around deadly infections.

      Deadly infections will be with us forever – the only way to ensure they're not 'passed around' is to eliminate life itself. Clearly this cannot be an absolute right that trumps all other considerations.

      Endemic seasonal flu kills somewhere up to a million people each year – yet no-one proposes lockdowns and mandatory vaccines in response. Proportionality is relevant.

      Then there is the question of intent – the vast majority of transmissions are entirely unaware and unintentional. It's hard to claim any kind of 'right' to something you're not even aware of of doing.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 10.2.1

        https://ig.ft.com/coronavirus-lockdowns/

        If the team of 5 million (and I accept that a few NZers don’t see themselves as such) wants to stamp out this Delta outbreak, then try following this not-so-old advice.

        Ardern urges New Zealanders to 'act like you have Covid-19' as lockdown looms [25 March 2020]

        Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged everyone in New Zealand to “act like you have Covid-19”, hours before a stringent lockdown lasting at least four weeks is imposed across the country.

        New Zealand has a relatively low number of infections – with 205 confirmed or probable cases – and no deaths. But Ardern emphasised when she spoke to parliament and reporters on Wednesday that the strict new measures were necessary to save lives.

    • weka 10.3

      "There is no right to pass around deadly infections."

      We don't enforce influenza vaccination, nor close schools and workplaces where influenza was routinely transmitted. So yeah, we do allow people to pass around infectious diseases that kill people

      • McFlock 10.3.1

        But should we?

        Not so much flu vaccination, if only because it's such a moveable feast every year. But people coming to work or school sick should be (and should have been) treated as an OSH issue, in my opinion. That's one change I hope sticks when all this is done, one way or t'other.

        • Incognito 10.3.1.1

          Government recently increased (doubled?) minimum Sick Leave entitlement of all workers.

          • McFlock 10.3.1.1.1

            Nah, I'm talking about "if you're sick from an unknown bug and it's probably contagious, stay home" being an enforced part of every workplace's health and safety policies. Just like wearing ear protection or being trained to use dangerous tools safely.

            If employees do it, they get disciplined by management. If they don't get disciplined, management gets disciplined by Labour Dept.

      • Sacha 10.3.2

        It's not a right though.

        • weka 10.3.2.1

          Neither is there a right to not 'be killed or injured by someone else' with the flu.

          • weka 10.3.2.1.1

            Having covid and spitting in someone's face puts them at massive risk. Refusing vaccination is a different order of things and shouldn't be compared like this because it obscures the wider range of solutions we need.

  11. Incognito 11

    Ok, this Post is about trade-offs, apparently.

    Rather than zooming in every single trade-off and thus fall in the reductionist’s trap, I rather state my general stand, to start with.

    You’re spot on when you mention that there’s a latent Fascist lurking inside all of us. The rise of false binaries and absolutisms is a necessary step in the direction of totalitarian rule; it paves the way and opens the door ever so slightly, so that when the opportunity presents itself a foot gets in the door. Human history is littered with examples and so is the commentary on the site.

    The rise in/of Fascism and the erosion and limitation of personal and individual rights and freedoms would threaten my overall wellbeing and existence as much as ill-health would. As such, there is no trade-off, only consideration, consensus & compromise, informed consent, conscious decisions, choices and consequences. Horse-trading is for markets.

    As always, the most effective approach against Fascism is education and vigilance.

    If (not: when) I want to be tied up and whipped into submission I’ll ask for it, thank you, because it would be my choice, you see. In case any omnipresent moralist vigilantes insist on misconstruing my words, they are figurative and metaphorical.

    • RedLogix 11.1

      You’re spot on when you mention that there’s a latent Fascist lurking inside all of us.

      Too bloody right. It's not necessary or even desirable that we should all agree on everything all the time, and those who insist that this should be so – even with good intentions – have consistently paved a six-lane highway to hell.

      In fact differing perspectives are entirely necessary. In isolation we're all a bit mad, but when we expose our ideas to others who disagree with us, at least some of the crazy gets smoothed away.

    • Poission 11.2

      Utopian dreams become dystopian nightmares. eg Popper.

      “The Utopian attempt to realize an ideal state, using a blueprint of society as a whole, is one which demands a strong centralized rule of a few, and which is therefore likely to lead to a dictatorship.”

  12. Stuart Munro 12

    There are a number of questions here, and I think many have been deliberately avoided by government, on the principle of not buying trouble, which is fine in the short term, but undesirable in the long.

    Right to anti-vaxxer ranting.
    Supposing that the criteria is truth, which still exists in informed dissent, which should not be criminalised (to be determined by qualified physicians), and not injuring the public good by compromising health efforts like the vaccination program and/or inciting violence or civil disobedience, I have no objection to a ban on ranter behaviour, as long as it is limited to a reasonable duration – say 18 months. One is entitled to make mistakes, but not to abuse the privilege.

    Quarantine zones.
    Surely there is some wretched fen or slough of despond, where the miasma of human misery rises on a daily basis, and no heathy person would willingly stay – some place like Auckland in fact – where as yet uninfected polities could send their plague-bearers and those who choose not to take precautions. Emiseration could be amplified by Mike Hosking reading from The Masque of Red Death.

    • Patricia Bremner 12.1

      In more normal times, perhaps 'A speakers corner?" complete with barracking?

      • Stuart Munro 12.1.1

        Sure – in ordinary circumstances we should tolerate free speech fairly widely. But in times of war, some kinds of speech were restricted. Covid is an event of similar proportions, and some kinds of untrue utterances may reasonably be discouraged – not so much among friends, but in published or circulatable form they should be taken down, and events inciting antivaxer enthusiasms discouraged.

        There are some readily duped folk out there, and they deserve protection from those who mean to exploit and mislead them, just as we have rules about credit contracts for folk below certain ages.

  13. Maurice 13

    The moment the phrase: "For the greater good" is bandied about the concept of individual good is conveniently abandoned.

    • In Vino 13.1

      What do you expect when the greedy propagate the individual good?. And which is ultimately the more important?

  14. coreyjhumm 14

    Brilliant post. Whenever I sit back and think about the massive infringements on our civil rights and human rights albeit necessary I get mad that there's no opposition to actually ask questions about when and if certain rights are ever to return.

    Im pro vax pro science but

    One thing that genuinely scares me is the idea that we'll end up having to have some form of ID the kinds some people are talking about that will allow private companies to scan us on before we enter a shop, supermarket and have our med and personal info in a private companies data base just to enter. That scares me .fair enough for traveling but for a supermarket? I dunno things like this that get floated about are very scary

    It is necessary that some of freedoms be taken away temporarily for the greater good but what is scary is there is no time frame on when and if they ever will come back, that there's no opposition or media keeping the govt honest and accountable on these issues so we have to rely on the govt to act benevolently.

    Some of these freedoms people fought for in blood for us to have and when I talk to people about the extent to which theyd be willing to allow the govt to take away their freedoms to protect them it scares me.

    And I'm not saying that I think the govt is malevolent but the fact the opposition is too concerned about itself rather than on human rights troubles me

  15. Ad 15

    Hope everyone in the Auckland region is getting ready for Level 4.5, and a further set of ordinary rights removed – some of which I indicated in the post.

    • Patricia Bremner 15.1

      What is the choice until we beat this thing? Your post is great. Watch the powerful and be alert.

    • Anne 15.2

      Forget the semantics Ad. This is the reality:

      Listen to this interview with Dr. Rob Bevan. It's an important overview from one of our most senior medical experts. His plea to the team of 5 million in the latter moment of the item must take precedence over all other considerations. Anyone who disagrees is living in a fool's paradise!

      https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/icu-bed-patient-ratio-not-enough-if-delta-cases-increase-expert-says

    • Andre 15.3

      I'm kinda curious what further restrictions could be imposed that would better slow the spread compared to what we have now, and what the evidence base and reasoning behind those might be.

      Shaun Hendy has mentioned closing some supermarkets. I'm curious how that might help, and how we would all get food. Delivery services are already overstretched, so requiring everyone to get their groceries delivered doesn't appear an option. To me, queuing outside for 45 minutes with other people, even 2m distanced, then queuing inside to check out, are pretty significant risks that would be worsened by closing some supermarkets. To me, introducing a booking system to get a time slot for grocery shopping to eliminate those queues would be the better risk reduction option.

      We're never going to see the actual hard information where transmissions are actually occurring now, for mostly legitimate privacy reasons. But we can infer quite a lot from new published locations of interest information. There's very very few locations of interest after Tuesday 17th, mostly associated with food shopping and essential workers therein. But unless there's a plan to get around the fact we all gotta eat…

      There also appear to be some issues around some apartment buildings, mostly student, but that's an issue that affects quite a lot lees of the population.

      Apart from those, it seems the remaining transmission is within bubbles. Or possibly going outside bubbles when people break the current rules. Which would mean more enforcement of the current rules, not more draconian restrictions on people that are actually abiding by the existing rules.

  16. DS 16

    You have the right to criticise Jacinda (or anyone else). You don't have the right to spread a deadly disease within the community. The community is quite correct in taking necessary measures in protecting itself from deadly disease.

    This isn't rocket science.

  17. Andre 17

    The libertarian in me says I have the right to do whatever I want with my body (and my property).

    The communitarian in me says those rights become subject to negotiation and regulation as soon as they could conceivably start to affect anyone else in any way.

    So if I want to offer my body to become a mutation experiment petri dish for billions of nano-scale alien cellbursters without taking the highly effective, very safe, and free precaution against them, I should have the right to do so. But if I am that anti-social and disrespectful to my community, I would expect my community to shun and ostracise me. I certainly wouldn't expect anyone in the rest of community to lift a finger to help me when my decision to refuse protection went bad on me.

    When it comes to codified rights, yes there is a right to refuse medical treatment. But it's limited to that and that only. There's no codified right to foist risks and harms resulting from that refusal onto the rest of community.

    I'm not aware of anything that prohibits discriminating against someone that has refused vaccination against a very dangerous and highly transmissible disease. Vaccination status is not listed as a prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act 1993.

    In fact, the threat of spreading infectious disease is taken so seriously it is one of the very few things where there is explicit legislation over-riding our rights while that threat exists. Taking extraordinary measures to combat disease, that over-ride other rights, has a very long history all over the world.

  18. KJT 18

    Are police stretching their legal Covid-combatting powers? | The Spinoff

    There are unjustified overreach of State power happening frequently. Such as the one in this link. Unfortunately examples of police thinking they are above the law, were way to common long before covid.
    Police, WINZ and other State powers appear to have been kept under tighter central Government scrutiny of late, if they exceed their remit.

    Another at the moment is National and ACT abusing their power insisting on a physical meeting of Parliament. Causing far more risk to Parliamentary staff and everyone else than Clarks bike ride.

    • Graeme 18.1

      Regarding National and ACT insisting on a physical sitting of Parliament, I wonder if they have done any risk benefit analysis of the possible health, economic and political consequences if this went wrong.

      Health wise it could be another sizeable outbreak, the economy

      is hammered by an extra month or two of lockdown, and politically it’s the end of both parties. Rather high stakes play there.

      • KJT 18.1.1

        It seems National and ACT"s level of desperation, to get their funding back, has overcome the remaining level of intelligence in the party.

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