N.Z. in lock down: DAY 18

Yesterday was DAY 18 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Rather than write a blog item I thought I would show you a couple of charts based on data taken from the New Zealand Ministry of Health daily updates so that you can see how New Zealand has performed. I want to point out first that because of the small number of cases New Zealand has compared to the large numbers in countries like Italy, the United States, China and Spain, logarithmic charts which have been used for other countries is a bit harder to apply here. The best logarithmic scale goes up by 10-fold – 1,000 becomes 10,000 which becomes 100,000 and so on. Whilst the new cases would just breach the 1,000 line, nothing else in a New Zealand context would even come close.

Chart 1 shows how the total case number is not increasing logarithmically; how the number of recovered patients is accelerating.

Data sourced from Ministry of Health daily updates; chart compiled by R. Glennie

Chart 2 shows how the number of new cases per day and the number of probable cases had a slow start, followed by brief steady growth before beginning to fall, punctuated by brief spikes.

Data taken from Ministry of Health daily updates; Chart compiled by R. Glennie

I had thought about including a chart showing New Zealand deaths compared to other countries. However I thought that it was a) a bit of unnecessary and perhaps inappropriate gloating and b) even if I had put New Zealand on the chart, we would be so completely dwarfed by the other nations that no one would actually be able to see our line.

Perhaps the best example of exponential growth can be seen in the United States figures. Whereas Spain, Italy and France are starting to see signs of COVID19 cases beginning to taper off, a combination of an inept President and a health system set up completely inappropriate for beating a pandemic, has seen America blast past all of them at a speed that is truly shocking to watch. If we use the train analogy, it is going to take America probably several tens of thousands of deaths – maybe over 100,000 – before the brakes begin to be applied, and even then thousands more will suffer unnecessarily in the time it takes for them to have their full effect.


N.Z. in lock down: DAY 17

Yesterday was DAY 17 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

In the coming few days, once the Government resumes working following the Easter staycation, the plan for how to manage New Zealand coming off LEVEL 4 will be released.

I expect that there will be some holes in the plan. No one should be surprised as this is the first time New Zealand has been locked down and then made to start from cold. Logistically it will be a major feat in itself. Many nations overseas will be watching to see how we go.

To me it will be like turning on a power station after it has been turned off for a long time. It is not simple case of simply flicking a couple of switches so that the fuel or water that is used to generate electricity simply starts flowing into the turbine and setting the generator in motion. After four weeks the system will need to be primed. The technicians will not be able to bring it up to full capacity immediately and other triggers.

In the same sense, businesses will not be able to immediately open because they will need to figure out how many staff to recall and when; get stock in if they need to; establish which functions of their operation are going to be operating and which ones will have to wait longer, and so on. Further up the supply chain, the suppliers will need to figure out how to get their systems and functions going again. And then there are the staff, who will have to get their lock down lives in order – arrange who will look after dependents, such as elderly relatives, children or anyone else they were looking after.

There will be some to-ing and fro-ing between Government and businesses as the latter seek clarity about what they can and cannot do. After a successful lock down period no one will be rushing to do anything that might risk undoing all of what was achieved by spending four weeks to shut down COVID19.

And with the reopening of businesses I expect as I wrote on Saturday, that the rules around hygiene will have changed. Even if bars, restaurants, cafes, and such cannot open their face-to-face functions immediately, any forward looking owner/manager would have given thought about how they can reduce the risk to staff and patrons alike.

The operating environment that businesses find themselves will have changed dramatically in four weeks. Whilst their functions will be essentially the same in many ways, the realisation that a biological menace like COVID19 can cripple the country will be the long over impetus to undertake programmes of building resilience – something that should have happened after events like the Christchurch/Canterbury earthquakes, which whilst being geological rather than biological provided a severe local test.

Businesses open with a business as usual approach I suspect will be the most vulnerable. They will probably be the first to go to the wall should we have some kind of relapse.

This will take time. It will take patience and some hiccups are inevitable. We survived the Christchurch and Canterbury earthquakes with the many problems that arose out of them, some of which still exist today. To think that COVID19’s mark on New Zealand will disappear overnight is straight out fantasy. I suspect even if the rest of the 2020’s is relatively painless, the economic recovery and the socio-economic rebuilding of our society will probably still be casting a shadow of some kind in December 2029.

But if you think we can do better and know how, show me. Show New Zealand. Show the world.