So the bad news that we were all hoping not to hear has occurred. There is a new case of community transmission discovered in Auckland. A test conducted on Monday was positive.
The Government has acted quickly and imposed a level 3 lockdown on Auckland and a level 2 lockdown on the rest of the country.
It does not need to be repeated that this virus is a bastard. Throughout the world Covid has brought countries to their knees. Other countries and areas such as Singapore, Vietnam, Australia and Hong Kong are now struggling with far worse outbreaks after initially appearing to be on top of the virus. This graph shows what is happening to similar nations most of who were apparently handling the virus well. New Zealand’s line will unfortunately trend upwards.
This is the sort of event where the political parties should display a sense of solidarity and concentrate on communicating to the country what we need to do as a nation to get through this. Because the cost of failure is clear, you just have to look at the rest of the world to see how this works out.
So how has National responded? I am afraid that for them it is business as usual. From Jason Walls at the Herald:
National Party leader Judith Collins is putting the blame for the new cases of community transmission in Auckland squarely in the lap of the Government and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Speaking to the Herald tonight, Collins said she was “extremely disappointed” in the Government, given that Covid-19 has come back to New Zealand.
Asked if she was disappointed in the Government, she said yes.
“I am, like I’m sure the rest of the country is, extremely disappointed that this [Covid-19] has been allowed in through our borders.”
Collins was not impressed, given the fact she said New Zealanders have been told that the country was free of community transmission.
Sunday had marked 100 days since the last case of community transmission.
“We believed it had happened; this has clearly come through a border and must not be something that was homegrown in New Zealand.
“I have seen the Prime Minister tonight, who is leader of the Labour Party, in the middle of an election campaign, speaking about all this failure.”
I have had some feedback about this recent post where I said that Gerry Brownlee was engaging in conspiracy theories. People claim that Brownlee was right to question the Government getting prepared for a potential new outbreak but they should reread what he said. He was saying that it was strange that we are getting ready. He also questioned the recommended advice to wear masks.
In that post I said:
Getting ready for a potential second wave is not puzzling. The world is awash with the disease and we will be doing extraordinarily well if we continue to keep it out. And you just have to see what has happened in Australia and South Korea and Singapore to see that the virus will come back and hurt if it is not eradicated.
We have elected to keep our borders open to returning kiwis and selected others. The only other option would be to seal the borders shut to everyone. This is not a policy decision this Government is willing to make, and not one that any Government in the world has taken.
Some of these returnees are infected. We have had a couple of scares but so far so good. But it should be remembered that there is a low chance that each infected returning Kiwi may spread the virus. This is through contamination of quarantine staff, or early or late onset of the disease, or plain bad luck. Te Punaha Matatini, a team of mathematicians and scientists, have estimated that New Zealand could expect one person over the next 18 months to be released into the community while still infectious. That may be enough to set off a second wave.
So of course the Government should be preparing for the possibility of a second wave. Brownlee reaching out to the tinfoil wearing sector of the population in an attempt to score political points is just weird.
If you want to have a further example of National’s frankly dishonest messaging around the issue there was the homeless person in the Crown Plaza rumour started by Michael Woodhouse. After a thorough investigation, the All of Government Response Group concluded yesterday that, wait for this, an unnamed man had actually returned to Auckland on a flight from Melbourne and accessed the hotel legitimately.
You may recall that Woodhouse went to town on the issue. From now on “went to town” in the context of a National MP should be equated with “told fibs”. I mean let us analyse what he said. As reported by Newstalk ZB:
A homeless man sneaked into a five-star hotel used as a quarantine facility and stayed there for two weeks, claims opposition health spokesman Michael Woodhouse.
National MP Michael Woodhouse claims a “reliable source” told the National Party the homeless man pretended he was a new arrival completing his 14-day isolation.
Woodhouse told the AM show that although the story is currently “unverified”, he said his source is an Auckland-based health professional.
“One of the five-star hotels housed a homeless person for a couple of weeks under the pretense that it was someone who came back from overseas. When the person was ready for discharge, he was asked for a forwarding address, only to tell the official that he didn’t have one – because he was homeless,” Woodhouse told the AM Show.
“He hadn’t come back from overseas, he just joined the back of the queue two weeks ago, and spent a fortnight getting three square meals and a bath every day on the Government.
“It just shows what a shambles this thing is. The ministry should be managing this – it’s not actually rocket science.”
Shambles is the right word. But only if it is applied to the opposition.
Of course the conspiracy theorists will have a field day and will say that this is one big cover up and they have known for a while. But the time line refutes this. It appears that the second positive test was returned yesterday afternoon. Bloomfield has confirmed that he received the news shortly before 3 pm yesterday, Ardern was told at about 4, cabinet then met and the decision was released to the public at 9:15 pm. The turn around was pretty quick and closing Auckland down in less than 24 hours is phenomenal.
There was a flurry of twitter activity just before the announcement and it has been suggested that Judith was the source of the information.[tweet https://twitter.com/han_dall/status/1293325483543674881]
National’s point scoring during a pandemic is very disappointing. Every time they persuade someone in quarantine that it is all a bit of a joke and they do not have to take it seriously, or that testing is not that important, or that masks are a bit of a joke, or they leak information they weaken the collective response and increase the chances of the virus taking hold and spreading. Right now, of all times, is not the time for political business as usual.