Yesterday was DAY 31 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.
As New Zealand moves towards the end of the LEVEL 4 phase of lock down and into a slightly less restrictive LEVEL 3 – basically LEVEL 3.5 for most New Zealanders – it is time to start thinking about some of the lessons learnt thus far during this pandemic. In a country that is being touted as one of the more successful countries in the west in dealing with this pandemic, it is important to note the social, economic, medical and political lessons that have been taught by COVID19. They are lessons that will go some way towards improving an already very good response, the next time there is a pandemic.
So what are those lessons? And how well has New Zealand learned them?
The first lesson is that our D.H.B.’s are not fit for purpose and need to be replaced. Whilst it is true that they help to fulfill the upkeep of democracy by giving the public a say, the amount of resources tied up in administration is unnecessary, inefficient and is contributing to a seemingly permanently rising health expenditure bill. This is happening whilst not totally assuring that New Zealanders get the best possible return on the dollars spent. This is something that we have known about for years and not acted on. Thus I grade the Government with a C on this count.
The second lesson is the absolute criticality of hygiene. If New Zealand had permanent requirements such as everyone entering a restaurant/bar/cafe be required to sanitize their hands; a tighter compliance and enforcement regime, among other measures, many of the food related bugs that affect New Zealand would be significantly reduced. This would also make it harder for viral infections to take hold. Our hygiene could have been better before this. Thus a B- is awarded.
The third lesson is one that of having a rainy day Government fund. This is a lesson that New Zealand learnt some time ago, but it is worth repeating because at some point there will probably be another pandemic. How we are able to fund the economic recovery measures that are needed will depend on having such a fund ready to go. A lesson well learnt means an A+.
The fourth lesson is review past emergency responses to see what can be learned from them. Although this is as much a Civil Defence lesson as it is an economic one, it is very important to minimise the economic impact as many New Zealanders live from pay cheque to pay cheque. Also, this being the first serious pandemic emergency in a 21st Century society, there was no blue print for how to manage such an emergency and as such, there are plenty of things to learn from this. As there is still a State of Emergency, this lesson will not be graded yet.
The fifth lesson is that great leadership inspires. New Zealand has had consistently transparent leadership throughout the whole crisis. From choosing to go hard and go early, to the Prime Minister trying to get see things from the perspective of children, what we have seen has been brilliant. Here the Government must get an A.
The sixth lesson is to make sure the language is clear, simple and the message understood by everyone. This Government on the whole would get an A for its messaging, but there have been a few let downs, such as the first Police Commissioner seemed to consistently have a different idea of what constituted staying local. So to – at the probable expense of his Ministerial warrants – did Health Minister David Clark when he drove to a reserve to exercise in contravention of instructions from his own Government. Instead it gets a B.
The seventh lesson is about the restoration civil liberties. This is one that is still in progress, so will not be graded yet, but it stems from how well New Zealand restores them to its population over the coming days and weeks. But not only that, it is one that will potentially influence the election in September – at this stage I am assuming the election will be in September, and an announcement confirming denying this will impact the grade I award.