COVID19 worsens around the World; New Zealand heading for Level 1 – again


Some days when I look at the COVID19 of New Zealand and then look at the response of other countries, it seems like we are a different planet all on our own doing our own thing. Having successfully fought off what I think was the second wave of the pandemic, New Zealand is once again heading towards COVID19 Level 1, where the country is effectively functioning normally, but with precautions in place. And as we do, I cannot help but look in the revision mirror at the madness engulfing other countries that did not so proactively respond to it.

What I find really off putting is how poorly the western world has done in fighting COVID19. With the exception of Germany, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand, most western countries have had and continue to have a torrid time – it is not to say that it was a walk in the park in New Zealand, far far from it, but thanks to a proactive response New Zealand has managed to avoid the case explosion that has happened in the United States, Brazil, India and elsewhere. With support across the House of Representatives, New Zealand has been able to tackle this as a nation and not as individuals. With effective communication, New Zealand has avoided the chaotic responses seen in European countries. And with the comparative lack of socio-political division, we have avoided becoming like the United States, the wealthiest country in the world tearing itself to bits as violently as it can without a second Civil War starting.

Yes, there are countries that we could be more like. I am particularly impressed with Taiwan’s effort. Taiwan has had in the 8 months that COVID19 has been around, 509 cases and 7 deaths. It is recording one or two new cases a day and its death toll has not increased in months. But unfortunately Taiwan is more of an exception, rather than the norm.

The few countries that have lesser cases than Taiwan and are considered to be first world are non-existent. The few countries at all that have less cases than Taiwan are Pacific island nations such as the Cook Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, and so forth. These countries by their isolated nature, small size and lack of connection with the outside world pre-emptively shut down without waiting for recommendations to do so. However their very weak health systems mean even just a few cases of COVID19 could be disastrous.

Brazil, after peaking on 29 July at 69,000 new cases a day, has tapered off somewhat, but is still recording 33,000 new cases or the equivalent of the entire population of Blenheim each day. It has had 138,000 deaths from 4.59 million cases. Its President Jair Bolsonaro, denies the existence of COVID19 despite testing positive for it himself. Like India, like other countries whose cities have large slum areas, Brazilian urban areas have been swamped by COVID and my guess is that whilst 4.59 million cases have been recorded, there are probably hundreds of thousands more that are unknown.

India is finally facing up to something I had long dreaded would happen. Because of the relatively large size of India and poor transportation, I thought COVID19 would take a bit longer to spread around the country and it appears to have done so. But at the back of my mind I worried that when COVID19 did eventually arrive it would be potentially catastrophic. The acceleration of cases in India is truly shocking to watch – in one day last week, the equivalent of the entire population of Palmerston North (95,000) was infected; 5.6 million cases to date. Mortality rates though are not as high as I thought, with 1,053 dying on 22 September 2020.  With poor hygiene and sanitation practices, I expect that India’s case rate will worsen for a while longer yet.

And then there is Australia, a country that for the most part has COVID19 in check. Yet at the same time, Victoria, its second most populous state is locked down and has been for six weeks. Its politicians are arguing over whether to individually open up their states whilst Victoria finishes mandatory lock down. The cost to Australia, like New Zealand will be substantial, but if the former can successfully shrug off COVID19, it might be able to join New Zealand and other nations that have seen off the second wave in a COVID19-free bubble.

And so here we are. How did so many other nations with much greater resources, man power and expertise manage to mess up so badly, not once, but twice?

Comparing conservative government and social government responses to COVID19


This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s. Although Australia’s rate of new cases is falling, only a comprehensive response will ensure it continues to fall.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.


This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 500; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.

But what if Pakistan and India clash is NOT posturing?


Three days ago, I looked at the flaring Kashmir tensions between India and Pakistan. I examined the history of flare ups between the two nations and who other participants in any conflict might be. And at the end I concluded that the current flare up is posturing – albeit dangerous posturing – between the two nuclear armed rivals.

But let us for a few harrowing minutes stop and look at what this would be if it were not posturing, but the prelude to a full blown conflict that escalates into a nuclear exchange?

I will start by making a couple of assumptions. The first is that there will be a short albeit brutal period of conventional war using the naval, air and ground forces of the two sides. In this particular scenario I will also assume China, which has a passing interest in Kashmir as well because it backs onto the Chinese border stays out of it – albeit no doubt on its highest non-war level of alert.

So, we will assume that the conflict is not going well for Pakistan, which is out numbered in just about every category of conventional weapon – tanks, artillery, aircraft, warships, troops. In the first instance Pakistan, rather than firing a nuclear warhead straight at India, might conduct a nuclear test just to test the water and remind everyone of how serious this conflict could become. It might rock India a bit, but the biggest alarm will be everywhere else around the world and in particular their immediate neighbours.

As a precaution after that I imagine the diplomatic missions from various nations to both countries might start being withdrawn, with only a skeletal crew left behind for urgent diplomatic purposes. India might test missiles or conduct a nuclear test in response as a form of sabre rattling. Chaos would probably ensue as nationals from all nations scramble to get out of the country, overwhelming border crossings, airports and ports alike.

I do not believe that there will be a limited exchange between India and Pakistan if one happens. Once a nuclear warhead is irretrievably on its way to a target, the target nation will have only a matter of minutes to determine whether it is an accident or an actual act of war. Because any launch is not going to be an accident, it will be most probably construed as act of war. At that point massive, unrestrained retaliation is the only probable reaction. It is called Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D. – and a wholly appropriate acronym at that!).

But what is truly scary about India and Pakistan potentially having a nuclear exchange, is that neither country has the checks and balances that any of the United Nations Security Council P5 or Israel have. It is for example a 100% deliberate act to launch a U.S. missile. In some respects even North Korea is safer because any order would ever come from President Kim Jong Un, and only if it is obvious his regime is going to be toppled by force.

There would be no winners in a nuclear exchange, irrespective of whether 10 warheads or their entire arsenals were used.

The estimate done in 2002 that 7-12 million would die immediately would possibly not even cover the actual exchange, and certainly not the hundreds of millions that die in the weeks and months following from Acute Radiation Sickness. The size of the nuclear arsenals India and Pakistan possess now are both about 5-6 times larger at about 140-150 warheads each. It would not cover the fact that millions of tons of radioactive debris will be sucked up by explosions – especially those at ground level – and dispersed by wind patterns, that will eventually spread it around the world. There will be crop failure on a massive scale internationally and  So let us hope that this settles down quickly and some sense is seen between the two sides.

Thousands of kilometres away on the other side of the Equator, do not assume New Zealand would be spared. If it is not the immediate effects of radiation and nuclear explosions, it will be the massive economic, political, social, environmental fallout.

Probably no nation around the world would be entirely spared the consequences of such an exchange.

Stop and think about that.

 

India and Pakistan clash more about posturing


Every several years, India and Pakistan seem to face off over Kashmir, a disputed territory which both countries plus China claim some or all of. The disputes which are as old as the two nations in their modern state, are a time for nervousness among their neighbours. But is it really justified?

Countries with large populations of Indians and Pakistani’s such as Britain, which until 1947 was the colonial power in control of India and Pakistan, might have a few nerves over the escalation of tension between the two rivals. India and Pakistan have had three major wars, as well as significant periods of increased tension, such as this one. If one or the other inflicts large casualties British authorities would have to consider the possibility of violence between Indian and Pakistani nationals.

India’s ruling BJP Party consists of hardline Hindu’s including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Modi has done little during his time to ease tensions with his country’s largely Muslim neighbour, and claims Pakistan is an exporter of terrorism. For Pakistan’s part, a combination of foreign interference, Islamic militants, local corruption and an abiding distrust of its neighbours means Pakistan’s best efforts to change the international mindset are often found wanting.

A common flash point between India and Pakistan is Kashmir. It has been disputed since the partition of 1947. Many of the significant periods of tension referred to earlier have sprung up over Kashmir, which is heavily militarized and has a fortified border fence that India constructed. In 2002 a spat similar to the current one flared up over Kashmir, with 500,000 troops amassing in anticipation of a conflict in the region. After that, the C.I.A. did an analysis on the cost of a potential nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan – it would devastate the entire region, have world wide environmental, social and economic consequences and eventually lead to the loss of several hundred million people through the consequences of the nuclear fall out.

New Zealand has a large number of Indians living here, and a significantly smaller number of Pakistani’s. Aside from sporting ties vis a vis cricket and hockey, both are also members of the British Commonwealth. In taxi’s where the driver is from India or Pakistan, I have regularly heard them indicate their displeasure with the other country. Facebook articles regarding relations between the two nationalities have often shown a degree of anger directed at one another.

Despite the tensions and the mistrust, I do not believe that this is anything more serious than posturing. Neither India or Pakistan can afford the cost of a conventional conflict between the two with the large casualty lists and huge economic damage that this would generate. Neither will want this to escalate because although India numerically out numbers Pakistan in just about all categories of military equipment, Pakistan has been receiving significant support from China which is viewed by India as a potential rival for dominance in South Asia.

It will be interesting to see how this dispute plays out. India and Pakistan might be rivals off the cricket pitch – they are also rivals on it, and any match between the two is watched with significant interest around the world. With the Cricket World Cup happening in England in May, many will see this as a chance for one side or the other to try to assert a non military dominance.

Far better it be on a cricket pitch or hockey turf than in Kashmir. Far better it be cricket balls and bats than bullets and missiles.