The comments session of this site has seen a vigorous debate about issues concerning Covid. Some, including some authors, question the severity of the threat posed by Covid and believe that corporate interests are being advanced at the cost of what is good for society. I certainly agree that corporate interests are being advanced. I am however a firm believer in the scientific consensus that the vaccines are safe and are working. Aotearoa’s recent experience, where we have pretty well beaten back a Delta incursion on the back of one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, is testimony to this. Yesterday there were six people with Covid in hospital and no one in ICU.
Meanwhile business interests and some in the media are pushing the line that the Government has commandeered their supplies of Rapid Antigen Tests. Ashley Blomfield has denied this is the case. What the Government has done is prioritised its order so the suppliers will have to wait longer. Ruling in the National interest is what Governments should do.
Blomfield’s response is set out in this Spinoff article:
“We’re not commandeering all the stocks that private businesses have,” said Bloomfield, in response to a report in which businesses claimed the government was doing precisely that.
Speaking at parliament this afternoon, Bloomfield added: “We have discussed with our three main suppliers that forward orders of tests that haven’t yet arrived be consolidated into the government’s stock, so that is there for the whole country, including private businesses. We already have processes in place to supply businesses with tests. This is an interim measure while there’s extremely high demand.”
It must hurt the plans of some businesses. In Australia there has been a massive shit storm over the failure of supply of rapid antigen tests and the price gouging that has occurred. Things were so bad there that the Government has made price gouging punishable by either a $66,000 fine or five years jail. Tests were meant to cost up to AUS$11.95 wholesale but there were reports of tests being advertised for AUS$250 each. Jacinda Ardern has clearly indicated that this will not happen here.
Should the Government have secured more tests earlier? Probably although the current system, requiring the more accurate PCR tests and central collection of test results, has served us well. Allowing widespread use of RAT tests would increase the number of wrong test results and there is no certainty that someone who tests positive may either ignore the result or keep testing until they have obtained a potentially negative result.
There clearly has been Health Ministry indifference to the rapid antigen tests and Omicron is a recent occurrence. But there is now a race against time in getting sufficient numbers of tests into the country in time. I bet Health Ministries fingers are crossed.
The other aspect of current importance is the correct wearing of masks. As I walk around the streets of West Auckland I am pleased to note that pretty well everyone is wearing a mask. But so many people are not doing it correctly.
As I indicated earlier I am a firm believer of the science but I acknowledge that others have formed clearly held views that the vaccine roll out is not as important as has been publicly indicated and that the current form of the vaccine mandate is an unacceptable breach of human rights. There is however one aspect of the response to Covid which for me marks someone out to be clearly a fruit cake. And that is anyone refusing to wear a mask. The actual health threats of wearing a mask are miniscule, especially compared to the effects of Covid. By claiming some right to refuse to wear a mask all you are doing is highlighting that you are a selfish idiot. The down side of mask wearing is small but the collective benefit is significant.
But masks need to be worn properly. Whenever I see someone with their nose poking over their mask or holding out their mask to talk it drives me spare. This negates the benefit of mask wearing.
And mask wearing is one of the most important things we can do right now. The response of Taiwan and Japan to Covid is directly related to a culture of mask wearing.
And scientists have detected a new Omicron variant, one that is potentially either easier to spread or harder to detect. The need for a world approach to vaccine equity has never been stronger.
Hang on tight everyone. The next couple of months are going to get rough. But by sticking together and taking care of each other and by not being idiots we can get through this.