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Why in the middle of a pandemic an immediate change to Orange is magical thinking

Written By: - Date published: 9:27 am, April 5th, 2022 - 77 comments
Categories: covid-19, health, jacinda ardern, labour, Media - Tags:

National’s friends are in unison complaining that the Government should be announcing now when we will be back into Orange.  It seems that every day different media interview restaurant owners and business owners complaining about the lack of certainty.  Opposing voices are few and far between.

This morning two particularly strident voices were heard and amplified.

Barry Soper in the Herald said this:

Jacinda Ardern seemed to me to give every indication during her round of media interviews yesterday – which didn’t include Newstalk ZB unfortunately – that we could expect some movement to the country’s red light setting that’s been frozen for the past several months now.

The PM waxed about how the peak had been reached in Auckland and Wellington and that the hospital system, that they’ve had years to fix, wasn’t overwhelmed.

It was with a sense of guarded relief that restaurateurs thought people could begin moving around inside, rather than being stuck to their seats, and that event planners could start planning on crowd sizes increasing from the impossible to manage indoor restrictions.

You can imagine how disappointed they then were as they tuned in to hear from a Pulpit of Truth that seemed to have reverted back to the Delta days, with Ashley Bloomfield standing at Ardern’s side as she put a dampener on things.

Only in Soperworld is a review a guarantee that things will change.

And Business New Zealand head Kirk Hope also had a go.  On Morning Report he claimed that there was justification to move Auckland to orange.  He also complained that it was difficult to understand what the conditions for moving to Orange are.  And that there was no greater clarity about when the Government might choose to move parts of New Zealand to orange.

He complained that with the infection trajectory declining things should be loosened up.  His priority was for businesses  to have “clarity and certainty”.

He said there should be a “test to work” regime and that the seven day stand down period should not apply.  I hate to break it to him but people often continue to shed the virus for up to two weeks after recovering.  If it was a test to work regime most periods away from work would increase.

These claims that there is no clarity should not be taken seriously.  The Government did announce a roadmap when it announced the traffic light system.

Red would be required where action is needed to protect health system and the system is facing an unsustainable number of hospitalisations or when action is needed to protect at-risk populations.

The conditions for Orange is that there is Community transmission with pressure on the health system and the whole of the health system primary care, public health, and hospitals, is focusing resources but can manage.

Things are improving.  Clearly in Auckland the peak of new infections has passed.  And hospitalisations appear to have peaked although numbers have not dropped recently.

But there is still significant pressure on the health system.  And in the middle of a pandemic why would you confidently announce the loosening up of requirements even though the pandemic is still having a significant effect?

This is magical thinking by business, that changing to orange will somehow make everything better.

And it should be noted that the Government has loosened up the settings and the red level now is much easier on businesses than previously.

As previously said on RNZ’s mediawatch:

Businesses calling for restrictions to end were misidentifying the problem, [Newsroom’s Marc Daalder] said.

“It goes back to magical thinking about what the alternative was to elimination or tightly controlling the virus. It was never going to be ‘sure the hospitals are full, and sure, 1 in 20 people in the city has Covid right now that we know of, but I’m still going to go out and pretend there’s nothing different from 2019’. It was always going to be ‘well hang on, there’s a pandemic, I’m going to do things a bit differently’. Congratulations, we opened up. This is living with Covid.”

Those insisting on certainty are also those insisting that things return to normal.  I understand their desires for normality to be returned.  But right now is not the time to think that ignoring Covid will somehow make it go away.

The biggest threat is a new variant.  As said by Jacinda Ardern two weeks ago:

We do have an ask for everyone though. If a variant arises in the world, that evades vaccines or is more deadly, contact tracing will once again provide a critical role. Please stand ready as a business to stand up QR codes again, or as a citizen to pull out your tracer app at a moment’s notice. Don’t remove the app from your phone just yet.

With the emergence of a new XE variant that is potentially 10% more transmissible than Omicron we are not out of this yet.

And to everyone complaining about the Government’s refusal to loosen up things please pay attention to the most important statistic of them all.

77 comments on “Why in the middle of a pandemic an immediate change to Orange is magical thinking ”

    • SPC 1.1

      It's not really a threat, it has been around in the UK since January and its not that prevalent there yet. No evidence of worse health outcomes, nor that it will infect those who had Omicron.

    • Nic the NZer 1.2

      Where did you get that quote from? Seems either you made it up, or the Herald edited it out due to it being fiction?

  1. Ad 2

    Kirk Hope can pop over to my place, maskless. I contracted it on Sunday.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Bugger. Need anything?

    • mary_a 2.2

      Take care Adsmiley

    • Patricia Bremner 2.3

      Ad, unless it is very mild, whatever else, REST. 10 min activity 2 hours rest. This has to be the pattern for two weeks, and gradual return to activities over the next week or so. Keep up fluids. If you get in a sweat you are doing too much. Bed rest is best.

      Pain Killers/anti inflams/antihistamines. Avoiding relapsing and long covid is key. It is similar to glandular fever, over do it and you pay.

      All the very best. Our son Grant took four weeks but is fine now.

  2. roblogic 3

    The extreme, overreaching, oppressive L4 lockdown in Auckland last year made the housing crisis worse, and directly caused the nationwide shortage of Gib board.

    Every decision like this has a cost.

    • Tricledrown 3.1

      Roblogic imports have been cut as well due to shipping disruption caused by covid,no doubt raw materials for manufacturing here as well.

      If we didn't have level 4 we would have had far worse outcomes across the board excuse the pun.

      But more services would have suffered especially as Delta was far more deadly.

      Hospitals would have not been able to operate.

      Highly trained staff would have been dying and many more leaving for safety reasons.

      Look at the UK or US in the graphs above and explain the difference to NZ.
      With your let it RIP logic a massive death toll would have freed up more housing.

    • mickysavage 3.2

      Que? There is world wide disruption because of supply chain ructions and yet you blame Auckland's lockdown.

      • roblogic 3.2.1

        Facts. Govt decisions had a major impact, blaming global conditions is a lame. excuse.


        “The lockdown created a backlog of orders for Winstone Wallboards to pick and deliver and resulted in longer lead times,” it said, in a statement to customers. …

        “Winstone Wallboards is running its two manufacturing plants 24/7 producing plasterboard products at record levels in order supply the industry…

        • mickysavage

          Damn this Government. They may have saved tens of thousands of lives but they disrupted the supply of Gib Board.

          • joe90

            they disrupted the supply of Gib Board.

            The long, gib-disrupting arm of Labour reaches the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US, too.

          • roblogic

            Just one example. We paid a heavy price. Makes no sense to pretend that everything is rosy.

            Economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand – Wikipedia

            • McFlock

              Who the fuck is pretending everything is rosy?

              But we're still – even now – paying a much lower cost than most of the rest of the world. We delayed the inevitable for two years, and doing so saved lives and had a better economy than many.

              And yeah, it's still not over for any country. Mostly because some nations thought they could "business as usual" their way out of it, and all they did was create breeding grounds for new variants.

              By following expert advice, out government saved thousands of lives and had less of an economic hit in the first global wave of the pandemic. There were many problems and screw ups, sure. But we got the best start in the new global normal that was possible.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              I've been impressed with how our govt mitigated the health impacts of the first two years of the pandemic, and how our over-burdened public health professionals coped. In the last month, however, ~300 Kiwi deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 infection, and the 7-day moving average is approaching 20 deaths per day – that’s too many.


              Imho the public health restrictions on individual freedoms should have been maintained a few weeks longer in an attempt to further flatten the curve of Omicron infections.

              Are the loosened Covid-19 rules enough? Experts have their say [23 March 2022]
              "The data from overseas is really clear – those countries that have dropped restrictions as their Omicron wave was subsiding are now experiencing another wave."

              "Rather than saying 'oh, let's lift all the restrictions', try and keep ahead of what we think the virus will do and I think cautiously remove controls and try and avoid having a second peak."

              Otoh, maybe it was (past) time to ‘rip the plaster off’ – maybe.

              • Christopher Randal

                20 deaths per day?

                If the Nats and ACT had had their way you could probably multiply that by 100

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Agree NZ's COVID-19 death toll would likely be higher (possibly much higher) under a NAct govt – fortunately we'll never know.

    • Kiwijoker 3.3

      And erectile disfunction stats are on the rise as well!

  3. Tricledrown 4

    Puckish so our health systems aren't being over run.

    I would have thought our prison system is under threat to if staff have to cover shortages,plus any outbreaks.

    Have a little empathy or has working with people who don't have a lot of empathy hardened your heart.

    • Puckish Rogue 4.1

      Go hard, go early!

      Flatten the curve!

      But wait theres yet another variant on the horizon, who could have seen this coming…

      • roblogic 4.1.1

        Remember the ad campaigns?

        “2 shots for Summer!!”

        “The greater our immunity, the greater our possibilities!”

        So everyone got vaccinated. But Jacinda can’t let go of her anxious control freakery. Broke the implied promise of freedom after mega lockdowns and world beating vaccination levels. And lost all her govt’s good will

        • Nic the NZer

          Just what activities of yours has the traffic light system prevented?

          • roblogic

            Cut me off from community support network and fucked up my mental health, if you must know

            • Nic the NZer

              Well you should certainly define your own best mental health advice, but I have not observed people obsessed with govt did it to me narratives to be well balanced. I've tended to understand any limitations were basically down to the pandemic which required some health measures to deal with. I do understand that is an unusual attitude and there are many who think every decision being made and every nuance of its presentation has a bottom line in opinion polls and at the ballot box.

              • roblogic

                Rationalising won't take away the pain of people unable to attend funerals/tangi or comfort elders on their deathbeds.

                • Descendant Of Smith

                  Nor will it take away the fact that there are loads and loads of people who would have been dealing with lots more funerals and tangi and comforting people on their deathbeds had COVID been allowed to run rampant.

                  In effect a choice between having substantially more funerals to attend, including possibly your own, versus a hiatus and an acceptance that for a period of time this would not be possible.

                  In a normal pre-COVID environment lots of people don't make to funerals / tangis anyway. Distance to travel/being overseas/cost – there have always been reasons people cannot make it.

                  Many Maori communities stopped tangi during the Spanish flu to reduce spread and many did so this time – regardless of government mandate. In fact the government mandate was pretty irrelevant as they implemented their own tikanga specifically due to the circumstances.

                  There is in my view an over-hyping of the impact of non-attendance and an over hyping of the blame on the government / health processes. I'm sure the over hyping of the impact is cumulatively more detrimental to peoples mental health than anything.

                  You see the same thing with I can't come home to visit my parents from people who haven't been home to do so in twelve years. Was talking to someone yesterday who winged about the restrictions and how now he can finally go and see his parents in the UK. When did he last see them I asked – 30 years ago – but somehow it is the current governments fault.

                  I do get people couldn't go and that it is a sacrifice but it is one people should take pride in because it prevented further death – and in fact contributed to some of our elderly living six months longer. I wasn't able to attend several myself and found it easy to accept the need for that. Coming from a small community where we well knew some hapu lost 40% or more of their family members in the Spanish flu it was a no brainer.

                  I guess it reinforces that to a large extent we are all products of the environment and institutions we grew up in. For me it is sensical and causes no anguish for others it is the opposite.

                  Both experiences are valid and normal but ultimately you can only implement one strategy.


      • roblogic 4.1.2

        Kiwis have done their part. Now this austerity and power addicted government needs to do its part and

        1. start paying health workers properly – and give bonuses for all who worked thru the pandemic
        2. make it easier for health workers to immigrate – accommodation packages and incentives and cut red tape
        3. Start prosecuting careless wankers who go around spreading Covid and don’t get tested when they are clearly symptomatic

        • Puckish Rogue

          Now be fair its not like its they've had a few years to sort this out or anything like that

      • Psycho Milt 4.1.3

        Well, yes. Highly infectious diseases are like that. The fantasy of "back to normal" is exactly that, a fantasy. Learn to cope, because dealing with Covid is trivial compared to what dealing with climate change is going to look like. If we're smart, we won't elect a govt that intends to just pretend none of this shit is happening.

  4. dv 5

    "His priority was for businesses to have “clarity and certainty”

    YEP no problem yer closed for a year.

    Is that clear enough and certain enough?

    Ok 2 years then

    • JO 5.1

      Nice taut retort.
      This might fit in here, given the relentless demands for certainty from 'business' as if that's ever possible in this life. In the pandemic we have had to live with Volatility, Uncertainty, Conflict and Ambiguity. If a friend's architecture firm can confront those four dark riders, the captains of industry can surely do it too.

      After reading this I'm ashamed it's taken me so long to learn more about Antonio Gramski. A 1964 third year BA history paper on the 1917 Russian Revolution had no space for a man who the academics will have concluded was a very dead failure. The section in bold struck a powerful chord for me about NZ since 1984.

      'If Gramsci has aged better than many of his peers, it is in part because he became a thinker for a defeated, rather than a triumphalist, left. With his own cause in ruins, Gramsci became ever more interested in the ways of the enemy. One of his abiding inquiries was how capitalist elites and their publicists laundered their perversions of the social order into “common sense,” how they spun morality tales around their economic interests, and how they were able to preserve their leadership of society after each crisis delivered by the capitalist system. The ground of this inquiry may have shifted in the decades since his death, but the main battle lines remain the same, and this still makes Gram­sci a thinker worth turning to in our moment.


  5. AB 6

    Magical thinking: advocating for higher levels of serious illness among your customers, and then imagining that more of them will turn up at your business.

  6. Incognito 7

    The next review by Cabinet of the traffic light settings will be on Thursday 14 April, which just so happens to be the day before Easter Break. I bet one orange chocolate egg that settings will change at 11:59 pm that day.

    • Jimmy 7.1

      Yep and that is too late for planning for Easter trade for a lot of businesses.

      • KJT 7.1.1

        Only if you entertain the "Magical thinking" that people are suddenly going to sacrifice themselves to Omicron en-mass,to prop up businesses who don't keep them safe.

      • Incognito 7.1.2

        There never are ironclad guarantees in business, so my bet is as good as any.

        Today is the 5th of April.

        In any case, a change of settings doesn’t guarantee an immediate change of customer behaviour; people are watching the stats in the daily updates and will draw their own conclusions. My guess is that a good weather forecast for Easter will make a big difference 🙂

  7. SPC 8

    There is/was a case for orange in Auckland, but for the opening up of borders (not just incoming colds and flu etc but also contact with aging relatives on the return) and Pacifica church going at Easter (vulnerable populations).

  8. Stephen D 9

    I'd love to see some modelling of the case and death rates had we gone with National's and Act's sudggestions at the beginning of the pandemic.

    Perhaps they'd shut up then.

    • mickysavage 9.1

      That Our World in Data gives you an idea. I would anticipate it would be somewhere between Australia's and the UK's death rates.

      • Tricledrown 9.1.1

        Probably closer to Russia than the UK. If we had followed simple Simon's open the border at the end of the first lockdown in 2020 when vaccines weren't available.

    • Jimmy 9.2

      Shaun Hendy's 80,000 would die model.

      • Incognito 9.2.1

        Oh dear, a false equivalence as clear as day & night.

      • Psycho Milt 9.2.2

        You're thinking National would have delivered a worst-case scenario? That's harsh. I mean, I'm not exactly a fan of theirs, but even if they had been fucking up with public health measures as badly as you'd expect from them, individuals would still have taken their own measures to protect themselves.

  9. Kiwijoker 10

    Hope, Wilson, Barnett, Soper, the ZB cohort, the whining continues. As moaning seems to be the only productive thing this lot do may be we should incorporate it into our GDP figures. We’d be the highest in the OECD

    • Nic the NZer 10.1

      Probably better to have the productivity commission review their contribution and see if they can be diverted into more productive activities.

  10. Tricledrown 11

    Nic it's very difficult and expensive to deal with toxic waste.

    These minions get well paid for spreading it.

    While the left get very little money or airtime for holding them to account.

    Amazon in the US have had to allow a union to form in one of its giant distribution centres.

    They managed to fight millions of dollars and intimidation spent by Billionaire oligarch Bezos to win the right to form a Union.

    The poor in NZ need to do the same thing.

    Poverty is endemic has been for 40yrs. Big Business has controlled the conversation .

    Unions need to unify and reach out to the poor to bring about longterm change.

    Tinkering at the edges is making the problem worse.

    It's like the Greeks they are facing longterm austerity for the corrupt govt and massive banks who got bailed out for $100's of billions for ponzi loans to the likes of Greece while the peasants get to be homeless and hungry.

    Same here the $50 to $60 billion print ended up in the wealthiest top 10 to 20% of new Zealanders while rents and housing costs have gone through the roof literally.

    Exasperating poverty for another generation or 2.

    Yet no opposing view in mainstream media corporate claptrap instead.

    • roblogic 11.1

      In other words, Labour used the pandemic as a distraction from their failures to deliver on multiple policy fronts, the worst of which is the deepening crisis of poverty and inequality in Aotearoa.

  11. mary_a 12

    National and ACTS's discontents' attitude, is all about me, myself, more of me and of course profit! Greedy selfish uncaring gits.

    If NatACT had been government, the doors would have been thrown open for all and sundry to mix and mingle … few precautions if any, burnt out health workers, more stress on our public health system and even more deaths. But hey who cares, profit is the name of the game here … gimme moneyangry

    • Tricledrown 12.1

      Mary a even the economic arguments don't stack up the countries that had a lit it rip policy did far worse than the countries with hard lockdowns and tough public health measures.

      So Nactional have no argument other than opposing for opposing sake.

    • Anne 12.2

      And what's more they would have got away with it because most first world countries did throw the doors open too widely and too soon and they would have said… "but we had no more deaths per head of population than anyone else so we are not to blame" and the silly good people of Aotearoa would have believed them.

      see roblogic @ 13 😉

  12. roblogic 13

    A substantial number of Kiwis do not want to hear about any more restrictions. Personally I am over Jacinda. I think she is a good person and a great leader. Big fan. But I am sick of her endless blah blah media scrums that amount to "we make your life worse for some indefinable goal in the future".

    I mean, I understand, but I don't like it. But plenty of people do not understand, or don't want to.

    • Nordy 13.1

      It's clear there are some (a very vocal minority) that don't want to listen to reason, logic and science. They aren't interested in anyone else. Their selfishness seemingly knows no bounds.

      I am glad we have a government that does use logic, reason and science to make decisions in the best interests of all NZers.

  13. coge 14

    Let's be clear here. The good people of NZ simply aren't prepared to tolerate further prescriptive segregation. That train has left the station.

  14. felix 15

    The govt can protect the health system any time they like by funding it properly.

    Perhaps if they hadn't spent the first year of the pandemic trying to screw the nurses out of a very modest pay raise I might be inclined to take their concerns about the health system a bit more seriously.

    • pat 15.1

      Increased funding will make no immediate difference

      • felix 15.1.1

        You have it backwards. Without funding nothing will make any difference.

        • pat

          Without resources

          • felix

            Um, perhaps you have been asleep for the last couple of years, but if the govt takes a problem seriously they have the resources available to literally shut down the whole country and pay everyone to stay home.

            This bullshit about constrained resources doesn't fly any more. All resources are available IF the problem is taken sufficiently seriously by govt.

            Which tells us, doesn't it, which problems are taken seriously. eg housing clearly isn't. Neither is child poverty. Nor climate change.

            That's the gift covid has given us. Now, when the govt says they're doing everything they can about an issue, you know for a fact it's bullshit, because now you know what it looks like when they REALLY do everything they can, and it's impressive.

      • felix 15.1.2

        People who say you can’t solve problems by throwing money at them have never seen really large amounts of money being thrown with great precision.

        • pat

          KEY DATES

          Apr 2028 Expected Construction Completion

          May 2022 Expected Construction Commencement

          2017 Project Announcement


          • felix

            11 years. Pathetic. The one in the video has 1500 beds for covid patients and was built in just over a week.

            • McFlock

              The standard trade-off is you can have it done well, done affordably, or done quickly – pick two out of three.

              But I do wonder whether in ten years their new hospital will be leaking worse than the current Dunedin hospital.

              • felix

                I like that formulation and I often use it when quoting jobs. But it doesn't so much apply when you have a virtually unlimited supply of labour and cash. Just one of the many joys of totalitarianism. Their hospital will be fine.

    • roblogic 15.2

      No, no it's more important to prop up housing speculators and landlords.

      Bernard Hickey: The $1 trillion housing wealth crime of the century | The Spinoff

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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Enhanced Task Force Green Approved following Cyclone Hale
    Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Social Development and Employment, has activated Enhanced Taskforce Green (ETFG) in response to flooding and damaged caused by Cyclone Hale in the Tairāwhiti region. Up to $500,000 will be made available to employ job seekers to support the clean-up. We are still investigating whether other parts ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • General Election to be held on 14 October 2023
    The 2023 General Election will be held on Saturday 14 October 2023, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. “Announcing the election date early in the year provides New Zealanders with certainty and has become the practice of this Government and the previous one, and I believe is best practice,” Jacinda ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces resignation
    Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party. Her resignation will take effect on the appointment of a new Prime Minister. A caucus vote to elect a new Party Leader will occur in 3 days’ time on Sunday the 22nd of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago