Looking at the rises in covid-19 infections worldwide is just damn depressing. So instead National and some of our media choose to focus on the little inconveniences of local life. For anyone who isn’t a selfish myopic like your median National voter, concerned only with their own wallet and convenience, this just makes a lot of the local news written for them simply not worth reading.
Instead I look at the 14 day rolling average of confirmed covid-19 cases in the basket-case US, up 32% from almost flat 2 weeks ago, and try to imagine what this will do to our exports to that country – our 3rd biggest destination. The problem is that I really don’t know where our exports go there. Probably not the South and the Western states that are the focus of the new outbreak.
Including our other top 3 export destinations of China, Australia, and Japan who are all more or less containing their outbreaks, that is more than 60% of our exports. I don’t think that our exports are going to be significantly affected by covid-19. Which means that we are likely to continue to pay our way in the world.
But I can completely understand why the EU is not planning on opening up travel from the US.
The European Union plans to ban travel from the US when it reopens its borders on July 1st because of the Trump administration’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from The New York Times. Under current plans, the US would join Brazil and Russia on the list of forbidden countries, as all three countries have had comparably poor responses to the virus since the worldwide outbreak at the beginning of the year. Travel from China, as well as some developing countries, will be allowed, the report states.
Who wants to import cases from a state that can’t control their own spread.
In NZ, I can’t see us wanting to open up our borders to anyone apart from returning kiwis (even if a few do tend to whine like crazy for the NZ Herald readership), and the people that are useful at keeping our economy ticking over. Avatar creatives maybe – keeps our actors and crew working. Specialist engineers who maintain our hydroelectric generators – definitely (picking an instance where I know we lack internal expertise).
Aussie is having hotspot outbreak problems in Victoria. So while I currently don’t have a problem with travel to Queensland (fewer cases than here), the legal cases about section 92 of the aussie constitution may mean that we can’t restrict to the clean states (essentially everywhere in aussie apart from NSW and Vic). Not to mention that the Federal government controls the airspace over aussie – and they have made it pretty clear that all of their fracticeous states open or none do. October looks like the absolute earliest realistic date – and I’m pessimistic about that as well.
As for opening a pacific bubble? No way. I don’t want us to be the cause of another epidemic – like Samoa in 1918, as I’m pretty sure would be likely to happen. Most pacific nations simply don’t have the required medical infrastructure to handle widespread outbreaks. I’m pretty sure that no-one else in NZ would be so heartless as to want to cause that also.
I’m afraid that the sectors of our economy dependent on international travel are just going to have to suck it up. Tourism, international students, and those basing their prosperity on immigration or even international seasonal labour are just going to have to suck it up. These were always a risky business models that suffered desperately in each of the preceding economic shocks in 1997 and 2008. These simply aren’t the kinds of industries that we need in NZ. They are risky for us in downturns or even when aircraft kerosene prices rise.
What we could do with is the kind of investment in productivity that allows wages in some of the overseas labour reliant industries to rise. This isn’t exactly a short-term problem. I spent a year on farms as a farm hand back in 1977 at about a fifth of the cash in hand that I’d been earning on a factory floor. Even when you factor in the accommodation I was doing far more work for less than half of the return. I gather that it isn’t that much different today. Jehan Casinader at BusinessDesk has a paywalled article “Why are our key sectors struggling to attract talent?” that looks at this issue.
But this is common across whole swathes of our economy. In my tech sector (I’m a computer programmer and defacto engineer), we’re a low wage economy compared to most other parts of the developed world – especially when you factor in the exorbitant cost of our housing. It is a good thing that family and a weird sense of patriotism keeps me here.
But it is also because the internet arrived about the time I started to get really itchy feet. So instead of being immured in the stifling economic and intellectual myopia of National’s New Zealand, I could accept the lower pay packet, surf the world net, and work on interesting projects elsewhere. These days from a safe social distancing.
Sure we’re going to have border issues. That is the nature of doing something that, to my knowledge, has never been done in NZ – actually run a border quarantine. We now have the capacity and reporting mechanisms to contain small leaks. In other words the fallback systems. What I get concerned about is if we don’t identify and correct any mistakes. Recently I haven’t seen that inability to learn and deal with issues happen here – at least not outside of the National party.
Kiwis seem to be feeling confident in what has been happening. It is bloody hard to find parking at my local takeaway on Ponsonby Road even on a Tuesday night. Because the place seems to be swarming with revellers. I was there because ran out of time to cook because the Aussie webinar I have been on for work for the last few days runs on Queensland time. And I’d swear that there is way more traffic than there was pre-lockdowns. I was hoping on my trip to Rotorua that the missing tourists would mean a better drive – but that was not to be.
I agree with Jack Vowles excellent NewsHub article “Some in the media need to calm down“.
Compared with the failure to manage Covid-19 in many other countries, New Zealand’s performance remains impressive. Our short sharp lockdown has enabled a return to near normality. Only a few other countries are in our position.
What happens in the future is still uncertain. More needs to be learned about the virus and from the experiences of other countries. Is there any such thing as ‘immunity’? Will there be a vaccine? Will Covid-19 evolve into a less dangerous form? Will more effective treatments for those worst affected be found? Calls for ‘a plan’ and a timetable are premature; scenario scoping is what is required.
This is no time to lose faith in the Government’s response. Political criticism from journalists and the Opposition is all well and good. It does not serve the country well if it undermines the trust, confidence, compliance and cooperation and ‘kindness’ necessary for New Zealanders to work together against Covid-19.
Let’s all calm down, and carry on.
And above all – thank the people who gave us the internet – because otherwise this whole exercise would have been desperate.