You would think in the midst of a world pandemic that is threatening established countries everywhere that National would do the responsible thing and work constructively to resolve all of government issues.
If you do think this you are wrong.
It appears that National has decided to oppose every thing the Government is doing. And publicly trash efforts by claiming that the effort is a national disgrace while pretty well every country is looking at New Zealand and wishing they had achieved something similar. And I can’t help but wonder if some within National are secretly cheering for a second community outbreak to occur.
Harsh I know. But how else do you explain Michael Woodhouse’s decision to score political points rather than alert the government about what could have been a significant risk? That period of a day or so where clearly senior levels of the Ministry of Health did not know about the road trip could have been disastrous.
Or Nikki Kaye wading into the Stamford Plaza dispute which has resulted in the Hotel not being able to take returning kiwis going into quarantine and having to make a number of its workers redundant? Or Todd McClay’s bizarre claim that the Government was disrespecting Rotorua by not consulting with the city before sending returning kiwis to empty hotels there.
Things became really weird when Michael Woodhouse reported that a homeless man had managed to persuade the authorities that he was meant to be in lockdown and enjoyed two weeks in luxury isolation in the Auckland Crown Plaza hotel. A few of us hoped the story was true because this is heading towards peak Kiwiness.
But the story has been rubbished by Megan Woods and the Health Ministry. She has written to Woodhouse asking, politely, for him to back the story up. In as passive aggressive a passage you can ever imagine she said this in the letter:
I note that a considerable amount of resource has been dedicated to investigating this issue, which entailed working through the records of all 1,706 people who have been through the facility to date.
Given this, I write to request further information from you or your source which could shed further light on this alleged breach, and may assist response team inquiries into the issue.
In other words, put up or shut up.
The Herald has not been helping. Yesterday morning it has this bizarre story about how someone in detention had their breakfast delivered late. Meanwhile in Australia those in quarantine get no more than 15 minutes exercise out of their hotel room once a week. Missing out on breakfast does not seem to be the crime of the century.
The rest of the media also have chosen to accentuate the negative and have been sourcing individual stories from people suggesting that the border control system is not working perfectly. This is inevitable for a system where currently there are 4,148 people in quarantine. In a crowd there are people who will complain about anything.
This Facebook contribution from someone in quarantine should be compulsory reading for the naysayers. She starts by saying this:
If you’re complaining in any way about the New Zealand Government’s managed isolation plan, I assume you are incorrectly wearing your Covid-19 mask over your eyes.
No plan is perfect. Because no group of people is perfect. And for anyone who has never seen a movie or the news, it’s worth noting that it’s ACTUALLY QUITE DIFFICULT to contain a DEADLY, CONTAGIOUS VIRUS.
It is definitely annoying that those who behaved so well have to stay behind after class because of the naughty kids. 100%. There was a breach. Now it’s being learned from and dealt with, by the same group of people who led New Zealand to a complete eradication of Covid-19 for 24 days. It is both beautiful and maddening that people are demanding perfection here
She praises the treatment that she is receiving and the courtesy that she is being shown. She concludes with this statement:
For now, I’ll pour a another glass of backup wine and yell at the ungrateful people on TV who seem to have forgotten that a New Zealand passport is a fucking winning lottery ticket and that they should spend less time complaining about a quarantine situation they chose to enter and more time wondering what tomorrow’s sweet slice of the day is going to be.
And Siouxsie Wiles provides something that is important to this discussion, informed commentary. She says this:
After weeks of no new cases of Covid-19, in the last week we’ve recorded nine. That’s sounds pretty scary, but here’s why there’s no reason to panic.
For weeks now, almost every day there have been over 100,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 around the world. On two days last week that number topped 170,000. Sadly, it looks like the pandemic is accelerating. The director general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that the world is in a “new and dangerous phase”.
Yet here in Aotearoa we are at alert level one. We even had several weeks with no new cases. It was a great sign that all our hard work had paid off and our elimination strategy had succeeded.
Then came the news that two New Zealanders returning from overseas had tested positive. This wasn’t a surprise to me. With the pandemic not only raging but accelerating, we should expect to pick up cases at the border. This is why we have a 14-day managed isolation process in place. The more interesting question is: why didn’t we see any cases at the border in the few weeks before?
She points out that when we went to level one the trickle of returns to New Zealand increased dramatically.
In relation to there being no testing she says this:
People also haven’t been routinely tested before they left isolation after their 14-day stay. Judging by the posts I’ve seen on social media that’s freaked some people out a bit. It’s worth remembering that it’s the 14-day isolation that’s the important thing here. Once those days are up and people haven’t displayed any symptoms the evidence so far would suggest they aren’t a risk to anyone.
This point needs to be made again and again. Isolation is the best protection. If you have spent 14 days in isolation and develop no symptoms then the risk of you spreading the disease appears to be exceedingly small. The testing is helpful but is not the be all and end all of the policy.
The compassionate exemptions have clearly presented a problem. Other nations, such as Australia, have chosen to be much more brutal in their enforcement of the rules. I am not surprised that the Government has put this policy on hold.
We still have no current examples of community spread. Every single reported case in the country is from people in quarantine or isolation picked up through testing. In a world where daily infections are surging and advanced western countries are experiencing a second wave this is remarkable.
Maybe we will have a second wave of infections locally. To be frank I would be surprised if we do not.
National has two options. Contribute responsibly to the formulation of policy and the fixing up of real or perceived problems with the quarantine system. Or raise hysteria and trash the remarkable achievement that the country has managed in the past few months.
They remind me of the ex leper scene from the Monty Python film Life of Brian.