Here in Aotearoa we are heading towards the pointy political fulcrum of decision making regarding Covid-19. And it looks like there will be a pronounced public debate about what we should do.
Matthew Hooton gave it away. For a while he has been adulatory about Jacinda Ardern’s performance. Yesterday he reverted to type.
Within the space of a very short time he suggested that Ardern was too late to impose a level four lockdown and that things were too stringent and would damage the economy too much, and that she should loosen things up.
Yeah, not harsh enough and too harsh. That takes a lot of chutzpa to suggest this but Matthew has never lacked this quality.
Simon Bridges repeated the approach this morning criticising the testing and contact tracing system yet at the same time saying the Government should go to level 3 although he was rather vague about what
And the rest of the media artillery are being brought to bear. Yesterday was full of reckons about the economy demands that we loosen things up and tolerate more deaths. This is a new variant of the we had to destroy the environment to preserve the economy line.
A group of academics achieved some media cut through criticising the Government’s approach essentially on the basis that victims were going to die anyway. Interestingly they have this shiny new website. Incognito has looked at some of the details in this post.
Others are urging more caution. The last thing we want to be is on a roller coaster where continuous lock downs are required as infection rates spike,
And the comparison being made is that Australia is just like New Zealand in terms of its response but easier, and at least you can get a flat white.
How do the stats compare? Australia does have about 5 times New Zealand’s population and about 5 times the infection rate.
Until yesterday the respective death rates were way out of sync. Regrettably now not so much so.
But Australia’s hospitalisation rate is way higher. And per capita comparisons are not relevant. What is relevant is how the disease spreads once it is introduced. And Australia’s performance is much worse.
From Mark Daalder at Newsroom:
Epidemiologist Sir David Skegg told the Epidemic Response Select Committee on Tuesday he finds Australia “a bit of an enigma, actually, because it’s certainly true that their number of cases notified, on a population basis, is very similar to ours. But actually that measure is probably the least reliable because it depends so much on testing.”
“If you look at the harder endpoints in terms of the occurrence of the disease, they have a lot more deaths than we do. It’s difficult to make comparisons there because fortunately, we have a small number, and you get into a small number problem. But if you look at hospitalisations – I just looked yesterday – Australia has got 378 people in hospital with Covid-19. And we have 15.”
Even taking into account the population difference, Australia has five times as many hospitalised Covid-19 cases per capita as New Zealand does.
Skegg also said while Australia has imposed less stringent measures, it is planning to be there for six months. New Zealand, meanwhile, is attempting to eliminate the virus in New Zealand over the course of a matter of weeks through stricter but shorter-lived measures.
The one big difference is that New Zealand is talking about eradication, Australia not so much.
And as pointed out by the legendary Siousxie Wiles there are other examples. For instance comparing New Zealand’s performance to that of Sweden’s suggest that a more relaxed approach may not be optimal.
And New Zealand’s population density being much higher tends to destroy the comparison. From Daalder’s article in response to academic Simon Thornley’s positive analysis of Australia’s performance:
“Thornley’s argument, that Australia is a suitable match due to similar population densities, doesn’t quite add up. New Zealand’s population density is six times that of Australia and is much closer to that of Sweden, Norway or Finland.”
Daily new infection numbers are lower than the numbers of those who have recovered. I am hopeful that with a bit more time and a tweak on the curve eradication is possible.
And we are getting to the three week point. Infections to date reflect the less intense social distancing measures under levels 2 and 3. The full effect of the level 4 lockdown will not be known for another few days.
There will be a vigorous public debate about what decision Cabinet should make next Monday about the status of the lock down. For me if we have a reasonable chance of eradication I think we should go for it.