Eighteen months later, where are we at?
Several ethnic communities have erupted with accusations of “racism” regarding the Covid19 response. Some were asked to provide passports before qualifying for vaccinations; others complained that vaccinations were deliberately being withheld from their peoples; some were identified as being primarily responsible for (unintentionally) spreading the Covid19 virus through church services. To counter these and other racist claims, the Ardern government has now decided that different ethnicities should receive differing approaches to encourage their peoples to step up and be vaccinated. There are however major problems with an ethnically-focused approach. There are some 15,000 overstayers from Pacific countries who live in New Zealand illegally. Being asked to produce their passports to receive a vaccination may alert authorities to their illegal status-so they demur. Some ethnic groups reside in remote areas - but so do other people. If vaccination facilities are not provided to these remote areas, accusation of racism inevitably result. Some ethnic minorities are for cultural reasons, reluctant to access the available facilities for vaccinations. For some, accessing “western” medical professionals is culturally repugnant. “They (the medical professionals giving the vaccinations) don’t look like us” is one reason given recently on TV by Maori and Pacific interviewees as to why they are not vaccinated. Another cultural reason is embedded in Maori culture surrounding Mana, Tapu and especially Makutu. Maori healing, rather than “western” medicine, is one reason given for this reluctance. Yet another reason, amongst younger Maori, for reluctance to be vaccinated is ignorance - as stated by Ministers Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson on 16th September. For once, believe it or not, they are not claiming racism!
Covid 19 continues to provide Ardern an unprecedented daily TV exposure which she is blatantly exploiting for purely political gain. The 1pm pantomime, now referred to by some as “The Mork and Cindy Show”, continues to confuse with meaningless or totally spurious information - “Gosh, 3456 swabs were taken yesterday” or “Gosh, 6789 vaccinations were administered in one whole day!”.
What Ardern and Bloomfield will not publicly disclose is the percentage of New Zealanders now totally vaccinated - 31% as at 16 September 2021. The relative % in the UK is in excess of 86% and in Denmark, over 80%. It is obvious that after 18 months of Covid19, our percentage of total vaccinated people is appallingly, unbelievably low. Why?
There appear to be many reasons, almost all of them to do with a startling lack of strategic thinking; unbelievably poor overall planning; highly confusing information on who was eligible for vaccination, when and where (the publication of age and vulnerability criteria was utterly confusing and contradictory - still is, actually); the inexplicable removal of GPs and Health Centres as vaccination venues in favour of contracted-out, shop-front and car park venues, often staffed by politically-appointed ethnic groups with opportunistic, inadequate training and instruction; obvious vaccine supply issues, even now resulting in “doing deals” with Spain, Denmark and others; no Risk Management Plans other than a total lockdown in situations where few cases (or in the case of the entire South Island, no cases) are evident; and until now, not even a hint that there could be solutions to access problems - such as buses and mobile clinics.
But the “Mork and Cindy Show” goes on every day, at 1pm. We are being subjected to infantile TV advertising and authoritarian, politically-favoured pressures in allocating MIQ rooms. Hypocritically, there seems to be no accommodation problems for returning sports teams and Olympic participants. Our borders are able to accommodate film crews, visiting sports teams; wealthy migrants and even a Delta-infected patient from Fiji at the behest of former PM Helen Clark and the conniving (but denied) involvement of Foreign Minister Mahuta. Green Party co-leader James Shaw is now off to a climate conference in Scotland. Jacinda has announced Mr Shaw will not be required to go into MIQ when he returns. Uh???
Then of course there is the total confusion as to who fronts the media – Jacinda (when the news is “good”); Grant Robertson, who actually provided New Zealand with a weather forecast as part of the 1pm pantomime (why him, he has no Health responsibilities?); Chris “Chippy” Hipkins as Covid Response Minister (why do we need a Covid Response Minister? Is not Covid within the Health Ministerial portfolio?); the Director General of Health Dr Bloomfield; plus the Director-General of Public Health; and at least two Associate Health Ministers, Dr Verral and Minister Henare. So, just who is actually responsible for the overall direction and management of our health system? I know, it must be the Minister of Health, Andrew Little. But no, Mr Little is nowhere to be seen in this scenario. Why? Is this not reflective of previous Health Minister David Clark doing a runner during lockdown 18 months ago?
Then there is the question of our borders and their overall management and policing. Remember the utter excitement and absolute enthusiasm of the Prime Minister in opening up the “travel bubble” with Australia? In doing so, Ardern exposed us to the inevitable introduction of the Delta variant from NSW. Bloomfield actually advised the PM not to require a pre-departure test for visitors from NSW. But, no, of course, the PM is dismissing his poor advice as non-contributing. We cannot have “Mork” being slated by “Cindy” can we? As a result, we now we have almost 1000 cases, mainly in Auckland, from that one infected visitor.
Then, there was the fiasco of putting upwards of 100 unvaccinated Port of Tauranga workers onto a ship in Tauranga carrying a Delta-infected crew. The enquiry into that incident is still on-going, with Minister Hipkins denying any culpability. One of the excuses used regularly by government Ministers is to lay the blame for these shortcomings on those officials responsible for carrying out government policies - the Police, Customs, Immigration, MIQ, etc. These shortcomings are NEVER acknowledged by our Neo-Marxist politicians - how could it possibly be their (personal) fault if things go wrong? No! It is the fault of the bureaucrats, surely? So, where is “responsibility” in all of this mess? Not with Ardern and Co.
Covid19 is the ultimate political vehicle. Any criticism of government policies or management failures is immediately met with howls of protest. How dare you besmudge the pristine Mana of our beloved PM?
And bye the bye, Covid provides government with the ultimate distraction. Keep the public’s attention focused on Covid 19 and its fearful consequences if they do not absolutely conform. In the meantime, however, Ardern and Co are busily promoting and pursuing a range of socialist/Marxist reforms which are going unnoticed and certainly are not being pursued by their media sycophants.
Our Health system is in the process of being both centralised and separated - the aggregation of the DHBs and the establishment of a separate Maori Health Authority will change our system from a largely locally-governed system into a monolithic, centralised juggernaut where local professionals will have no say at all.
Our Polytechnics are also to be “centralised” with a Wellington-based super-bureaucracy making all of the significant decisions, under the rubric, one size fits all.
But the real “elephant in the room” is the nationalisation of all water resources in New Zealand, with local and regional assets being assumed (actually grabbed) by four Regional Water Authorities co-governed by six politically-appointed people and six Maori board members. This annexation involves many billions of dollars of community-owned assets which are not only managed locally but are used to borrow against for multiple other community projects. Minister Mahuta displayed an appalling deception and evasiveness when questioned on the Three Waters Reform on TV1’s Q and A, Sunday 12 September. Despite repeated questions from a very weak interviewer, Mahuta would not disclose any intentions on this matter. Mayors have been requested by government NOT to discuss these reforms with their communities, until 3oth September, whilst intensive discussions are taking place with iwi in the same period. Indications are that Mahuta will legislate these reforms regardless of community viewpoints.
Few commentators seem to be interested in the medium to longer-term economic impact of continuous total or partial lockdowns. Already, total industries have been very adversely affected. International tourism is dead in the water. Domestic tourism might survive under lower levels of lockdown but that is arguable. Hospitality is seriously affected. International education is likewise dead in the water. The building industry is badly damaged through shortages of building materials now in short supply. Imported materials and goods are being disrupted by shipping failures and other priorities.
Some primary producers and the horticultural sector are facing unprecedented unsold gluts of their goods with limited export and local markets. No one seems at all concerned about the economic impact of continuous government lockdowns on small businesses. In the medium term, this impact will be substantial, resulting in significant tax reductions and job losses. Yet Robinson and Ardern keep parroting that all is well and we have billions of dollars in the anti-Covid basket. Well, we will see.
What else, one might well ask, is going on, off the radar, which we know nothing about whilst Covid19 continues to dominate every aspect of New Zealand life?
So much for the problems, but what about solutions?
It is becoming abundantly clear that a strategy of Covid19 elimination is unrealistic. We just cannot afford to keep totally closing New Zealand down. A number of overseas countries have already concluded that they need to develop strategies to “live with” Covid19, just as the world has had to learn to live with other viruses and pandemics in the past. In this author’s lifetime, a number of pandemics have been accommodated -TB, Typhoid-TAB, Polio, Asian flu, SARS, Aids; plus the common Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps, annual flu and so on. It is now confirmed that we have more deaths per annum in New Zealand from the common flu, road deaths and other common causes, than Covid19 would incur. If that is true, why are we not strategically planning to live with Covid19 as opposed to trying to eliminate it?
Bloomfield is on record (16 September2021) as saying we need to have at least a 90% vaccination rate in New Zealand if we are to beat Covid19.He calls it “mission-critical”. But “Cindy” refuses to put a figure on the vaccination target. Why? Because to keep this percentage fluid or unspecified gives Ardern a continued reason to posture on the 1pm pantomime each day.
Here are some strategic solutions:
1.Get the national vaccination percentage to 90% or more as soon as possible. This is dependant upon firstly having sufficient vaccines on hand; secondly, ensuring vaccination facilities are made available to everyone-mobile clinics, GP health centres; yes, even ethnically-focused facilities, given that our excellent national facilities are not seen by different ethnic groups as “culturally-friendly”.
2.Improve our border controls. Anyone coming to New Zealand, citizens or visitors, must firstly have a negative Covid19 test prior to departure for NZ; produce a valid vaccination certificate to the airline on check-in; on arrival, undergo a swab/test, then self-isolate at a monitored, specified dwelling or enter MIQ for 14 days. New Zealanders going overseas must carry a Covid19 “passport” similar to the International Health Certificates used in the 1970s, showing they have been vaccinated. Saliva testing needs to be implemented without delay - much safer and more comfortable than some half-trained lay person sticking a swab up one’s nose?
3.Masks to be mandatory on all public transport, at public events, church services, funerals, sports events, supermarkets, etc until Alert level 1 is declared nationwide.
4. Increased investment in our Health system especially ICU units, ventilators etc.
5. Significant penalties for anyone purposely contravening the Cocid19 regulations. These regulations and penalties must be widely promulgated and understood.
6. Immediately review all air ventilation systems in hotels, venues and transport to ensure safety of breathable air.
7. Open up ALL New Zealand businesses and keep them open, as soon as we reach the 90% threshold.
Inevitably, when matters reach crisis point in New Zealand, Ardern and Co will simply walk away saying ‘well, we did what our professional advisers at the time said we ought to do, so don’t blame us”.
The real result however is that the Ardern government is totally bereft of strategic management, planning and organisational skills and experience, relying on personality politics rather than policies.
So be it. The people spoke in November 2020 and we deserve everything we get as a result.
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.