Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Kate Hawkesby: Government must look at other ways to contain small clusters


I note another day of zero new cases yesterday - could that mean Auckland comes out of lockdown early?

I wouldn't bet the house on it but the cost of being in lockdown is extremely high.

Estimates say it'll cost about $250 million. I think that might be on the high side, I’m still seeing a lot of activity out there. Construction, many greengrocers and butchers and cafes who can do contactless takeaways are open.

But even if that estimate of 250 million is high, it’s still a bucket load of cash we shouldn’t be burning unnecessarily.

And I’m just wondering how necessary this Auckland wide lockdown is now, with another day of no new cases.

Business leaders wrote that open letter to the government yesterday, calling for more clarity on the plan and strategy for Covid recovery going forward. That would require the government to have a plan and strategy for going forward of course.. which is dubious.

Business leaders want some information sharing. Some transparency. They want some buy in and to be able to contribute.

Grant Robertson said yesterday that they’ll listen, that the government will take a look at what they’re saying, well that’s great but they need to do more than that, they need to actually act on it.

The fallback position of government is often ‘we’ll look at it’, but crunch time is here and we need more than just looking.

Business also needs to think long and hard about how it communicates to be fair. It needs to be stronger. They’re the ones drastically affected by these lockdowns, their niceties and kindly suggestions to government need to be a bit stronger in order to get some cut through. They need to be less timid and more ballsy. You could ask what the point of an open letter is if it’s not going to be strong.

Best case scenario we keep tracking at zero new cases and we get released from lockdown early.

Always better to under promise and over deliver – the government could redeem itself by responding to the realities in front of them rather than their usual abundance of caution routine. Although there will be those worried that we came out too early last time and it's worse to yo-yo in and out of lockdowns.

And that’s where the government does need to engage the business community, it must have a better option than just lockdowns, going forward. Our tolerance for them and our obedience of them is waning.

In the case of some people, it’s non existent. We‘ve developed a climate of Covid complacency and I don't think all the PM's huffing and puffing over this latest cluster has changed that. So in order to get buy in, to protect the economy, to keep people onside and to do the right thing by business, the government must look at other ways to contain small clusters, rather than shut the whole place down.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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