As Aucklanders endured their last weekend of an alert level lockdown, waiting to move into our red traffic light this weekend, Covid reminded us that it’s in the driving seat, not us.
Relative freedoms just a handful of days away, inching towards some kind of normality, and then boom, news erupts over the weekend of this new variant Omicron.
With hope having been dashed to shreds over this past year, it’s hard to stay positive, especially when countries start restricting travel again, re-introducing self-isolation, and not ruling out a return to lockdowns. The familiar creep of dread washes over us.
We don’t know yet whether the vaccine’s effective against this variant, UK health officials say there’s a "reasonable chance" that vaccines could be less effective against it. Reports yesterday said, “early data suggests it could be several times more infectious than the original virus, and appears to be outcompeting Delta.”
Michael Baker says it’s a variant causing alarm because “it has a very large number of mutations," some of which affect the structure of the spike protein, which is what makes the vaccine effective. He says it has the potential to be “more infectious, more lethal and evade vaccine protection”.
It'll be a few weeks until we know the facts on that, so in the interim people rightly feel nervous about future lockdowns, border closures, and as Baker said, going down the elimination path again. Old mate elimination! Oh no!
The thought of more micro managing and restrictions from government on our movement and freedoms is enough to take the edge off any premature excitement for a freer festive season.
The nightmare of lockdowns potentially returning is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for Aucklanders sitting here on Day 104 of lockdown.
Grant Robertson said at the weekend that despite the new traffic light framework we’re moving to, they’re not ruling out lockdowns returning, the Government still has the legislation in place to impose them if need be.
Meanwhile, in a rant that resembled New Zealand’s own version of Greta Thunberg, Siouxsie Wiles blasted world leaders for not dealing with the pandemic properly. She told media the new variant “was inevitable, and that after two years of the pandemic, the world’s still not learning or responding appropriately.”
She clearly missed the PM's assurances that our Government’s prepared for this.
Ardern said New Zealand's “well prepared for the discovery of new Covid variants.” That'll come as a shock to pretty much everyone, given all the official reports talk about these days is how woefully underprepared New Zealand's been in every aspect of its pandemic response, particularly when you consider our natural advantage of time and distance.
So as Omicron spooks world markets, scares governments and threatens further impositions on our freedoms, it’ll be interesting to see just how prepared for this new mutation New Zealand really is.
Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.
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