Friday, August 28, 2020

Barry Soper - What has New Zealand Government learnt from virus?

Five months ago we were all beginning to hunker down, to stay at home, to only venture out for the vital necessities of life like food.

For all of us it's been a long, hard slog - particularly for Auckland, which by Sunday night will have been in lockdown for a total of nine weeks.

Well we've learnt to be obedient, to stay at home, to wash our hands, to be kind and from next week to accept that we'll be wearing masks when we climb on public transport.

But what have they learnt, those who call the shots that we are all ordered to follow. Well, the answer is surely bugger all.

There are so many things that should have been learnt by now.

Like contact tracing, regardless of whether it's the Covid Card that's been sitting on ministers' desks since April, waiting for a test. Or the Covid tracer mobile app that some of us have had for several months now but haven't been able to use because no one until this week has had to display the QR code to make it work.

That's why we now potentially have a second cluster, because contact tracing is up the wazoo.

Think about what happens in managed isolation and quarantine with the mix and mingling of inhabitants. Pouring petrol on the fire, Health Minister Chris Hipkins has admitted in his sermon from the Beehive pulpit that not everyone has two tests before leaving to rejoin the alert level world. In Parliament he clarified it, suggesting it was just children who weren't required to take the third-day test.

Grilled by Heather du Plessis-Allan on Newstalk ZB Drive later, he initially stuck to the kids line before admitting some grown ups also weren't tested. How many? Well Hipkins didn't know, saying those tests weren't compiled and then dismissing them as not being nearly as important as the day-12 tests before they leave anyway.

The scenario was put to him that a person not taking the early test would have had contact with others about to leave and could have contaminated them. The best Hipkins could do was to say there's a lot of misinformation being deliberately spread out there. But there are plenty of photos out there showing those in the facilities seem to be socialising at will.

There are so many aspects of what we have been expected to swallow over the past five months that fall into the same category.

Take compulsory mask wearing from next week. Covid cupid Ashley Bloomfield always told us masks weren't all that important, contrary to what expert adviser Michael Baker had been saying. Air New Zealand now has to increase the prices of its fares because of social distancing on board. Baker reckons the planes could fly full if masks were worn, and Bloomfield is now insisting on both.

Confused? Well so are most travellers as they swipe their credit cards.

But have faith, the Government has appointed a Covid Testing Oversight Group, headed by Helen Clark's former chief of staff Heather Simpson and go-to fix-it knight Brian Roche. Surely their appointment is tantamount to an admission that the system has failed.

The loquacious ministers in charge of our lives over the past months - Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Megan Woods - can talk until the cows come home, and they do.

Unfortunately they clearly haven't learnt how to milk them even if they have milked us.

Barry Soper, the political editor of Newstalk ZB, is one of the country’s most experienced political broadcast journalists and the longest-serving member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.


TOny Noble said...

Thanks Barry for articulating the feelings of everybody I talk to in Auckland. It will be very interesting to see how that is reflected in the ballot boxes. No doubt Labour support will take a hit, but with Winston's dismal poll results the spectre of Labour and Greens winning sufficient seats to govern is looming. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Media party starting to wake up and smell the roses? Better late than never.

Rob McMillan said...

Hear hear, Barry. Why is our wonderful watchdog the press not drawing attention to this stuff. I wonder.