Yesterday was DAY 20 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.
There seems to be a small number of people around New Zealand who believe that because the number of new cases is slowing down considerably, we can afford to ease back on the lock down. They seem to think that we have already gone too far and that unnecessarily catastrophic economic damage has already been done. I think for the most part they can be divided into three groups:
- Some of them are completely unsurprising sources, such as free market purists and libertarians who by default do not have time for the state.
- Some are business owners, who understandably are wondering how much longer their business can take the punishment.
- And then there are a few who simply cannot – or will not – understand that they are not exempt
The brutal fact of the matter is New Zealand has two very stark choices:
- New Zealand completely defeats COVID19 – that means every single case is eradicated; every single cluster is dealt with and that there is no prospect of it reviving
- We have what would be our worst ever peace time disaster, far dwarfing in terms of death toll, all the other disasters we have had – all the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, ship wrecks, aircraft crashes and other death-causing events pale into relative insignificance
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was not willing to contemplate thousands of New Zealanders dying. People said that 0.5% of a country’s population is nothing. Tell that to the 25,000 people who would have to die to make that number – all of our World War 1 death toll and most of our World War 2 death toll. Tell that to a town a the size of Blenheim that they are all somehow expendable just because someone said 0.5% is nothing.
Is the State somehow the answer to everything? Am I trying to suggest that there is no place for a private sector or civil liberties? No. As a human rights activist I am watching very closely what is going on. My blog article for DAY 11 mentioned the loss of liberties and the fact that now more than ever we need a healthy Opposition in Parliament. Other articles from my diary of New Zealand in lock down have looked at the things that can be done when lock down is eased to get the economy moving again; the actual impact on the economy, among other aspects.
The business owners have a greater reason to be alarmed. It’s their livelihoods – in many cases potentially their entire life’s work going down the gurgler. Understandably those with staff are upset that in the near future they might have to have some horrible conversations with staff, and those are going to hurt. I feel for them as any half decent person would – it’s gonna hurt.
But Singapore, a country that I had been looking at with a degree of admiration and respect for how it had handled the COVID19 outbreak is now having a major surge in cases. Suddenly Singapore, despite having a great health system and prior experience dealing with S.A.R.S. and other viruses, is not looking so flash. Suddenly it might be starting to wonder if maybe it should have gone for a complete shut down like us. And I am pretty sure businesses here only want to have the one shut down if they can get away with it.
I know I certainly do.
And then, finally, there are the self entitled idiots who think that the shut down does not apply to them or that they are somehow immune to it. These are the people who decided going to a mates place for a several hours long party in South Auckland was a good idea. These are the 30 odd people who played rugby for two hours in a park, and who – if any of them was infected – potentially, just just infected 30 the lot of them. 30 people now infected go on to infect 10 people each – that’s 300 people infected just like that.
The only thing to do these instances is round up the lot, test them, give a fine payable in a week that is heavy enough to make them notice the financial dent, and tell them custody awaits if they do it again.
Thus far this Government has played its cards very well. A couple of mistakes, yes, but when you look at how other nations are going, New Zealand is sitting quite pretty at the moment. The lock down is going to continue for its full four weeks because to do anything less will potentially put us in the same situation as Singapore now finds itself.