April 21: Day 27 of living in lock-down…
The second-best possible news; testing has revealed only five new cases. If this keeps up, we might – might ! – be down to zero by the time we move to Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.
Except… the good news was marred by the death of another person; a 70 year old woman from a rest home in Te Atatu.
Also marred by an asinine response from our benighted Leader of the Opposition, yesterday, which has raised a storm of anger from thousands of New Zealanders.
And marred by a revelation that has raised my anger and left me wondering if I should have bothered with all the precautions and sacrifice that I (and hundreds of thousands of other New Zealanders) have made over the last few weeks…
My usual trip into town yielded my usual observations of commercial vehicles as well as ordinary cars. Traffic seemed sparse; no heavier or lighter than usual. Which is a good sign that people are not taking the planned move to Level 3 as an invitation to leave their lock-down en masse.
In fact, the number of cars at the nearby Park N Ride had dropped from the usual three to two. The wide variety of commercial vehicles, though, ranged from what were clearly essential to more questionable status. Such as the “Directionz” van parked outside a closed McDonalds outlet: “Directionz” deals in commercial signage, traffic signs, and graffiti removal.
The ship spotted in the harbour yesterday was still in position, station-keeping in the same spot;
It may be there for quite a while: they have twelve more days of quarantine.
In town, there was road-works in Vivian Street;
Essential emergency work?
And yet more roadworks in Wellington. This time at The Cutting in Miramar;
Note the photo immediately above. Look to the left of the white truck. Here’s a close-up;
If that’s two metre social distancing in a workplace setting, then obviously I’ve been taught the metric system incorrectly.
This is why I reject calls from the National Party, ACT, and various sundry business lobby groups to allow all retailers to open, and let them practice “safe social distancing” while trading. I call ‘bollocks’ on that. I also share similar reservations that safe social distancing can be managed during a Level 3 lock-down where non-contact business activity and trading will be permitted.
So far I see precious little “safe social distancing” even in the limited activities that are publicly visible. (See also busy aisles at Kilbirnie Pak N Save here: Life in Lock Down: Day 23)
Then there was this from Opposition Leader Simon Bridges on his Facebook page;
Take these two sentences;
“The public has done a great job of self-isolating and social distancing. The entire country has made huge sacrifices to ensure the four week lockdown was effective.
Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric.”
When Transport Agency data shows road traffic down between 73 and 82% from a year ago, that’s a fairly strong indication that the over-whelming majority of New Zealanders are doing the right thing. It suggests they trust this government and the leadership to be implementing policies that will, in the long run, save lives.
The fact that new cases have been trending downward for the last two weeks, until we now stand at only five is a clear sign we are going in the right direction.
PM Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have been in our living rooms for the last four weeks, almost night after night, and most New Zealanders have grown to trust them as a steady pair of hands.
So when Simon Bridges attacks the government and the leadership of the immensely popular Prime Minister and highly respected Dr Bloomfield, then he is basically “giving the finger” to the entire country.
Which is why around 82% of the stats to his post are in some way negative;
The responses were ferocious in condemnation.
The country has been in lock-down for nearly four weeks. Our lives have been disrupted. Thirteen people have died (with one in Peru). Thousand have lost their jobs. Four weeks lock-down was an impromptu “holiday” – like being stuck in your hotel room while a tropical storm lashes your area for the entire time of your stay. Not much fun.
People are cranky. They are pissed off at those who flout the rules so they can have a good time while the rest of us tow-the-line. We want normalcy. We want to walk into a supermarket and not have to keep two sodding metres away from everyone – just in case.
So for Mr Bridges to lob his on-line “grenade” at the government was not just an attack on said government and Ministry officials – but also a snide dig at all of us. Despite stating “New Zealanders can be proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time“, he was effectively dismissing those sacrifices as utterly meaningless.
Simon Bridges not only failed to “read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building!
The more comments he makes along the lines of his Facebook post yesterday (21 April), the more entrenched will be the public view of him as someone not fit to lead us in time of crisis.
And then, this evening on RNZ Checkpoint, came revelations that Air New Zealand air crew were returning from overseas flights – and not quarantining on arrival – despite several staff having been infected by covid19;
Air New Zealand is keeping secret the number of its staff infected with Covid-19 amid allegations it is not doing enough to keep its workers safe.
The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.
On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver.
Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.
Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule.
For more than a week, Checkpoint has repeatedly asked Air New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield for the number of Air NZ staff who have tested positive for Covid-19.
New Zealand’s biggest Covid-19 coronavirus cluster is the Bluff wedding, where the virus has spread to nearly 100 people and killed two, including the groom’s father.
The cluster has been officially linked to overseas travel. An Air NZ flight attendant who had just returned from the United States and had already been exposed to Covid-19 was at the wedding reception.
“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’,” an Air NZ employee told Checkpoint.
Four days before that, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced compulsory 14-day self-isolation for anyone arriving in New Zealand from anywhere in the world, excluding the Pacific.
Despite the clampdown, Air NZ crew remained exempt at the time and have largely maintained that exemption throughout the pandemic.
On Monday 20 April, Air NZ’s Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson told Checkpoint it was his understanding the exemption had continued.
That is despite employees repeatedly raising concerns that the lack of isolation for returning crews was endangering them and other people, Checkpoint has learned.
A letter sent to Air NZ management earlier in April starkly laid out the issue:
“An Air New Zealand flight arrived at Auckland from which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19. One in each class throughout the aircraft. Four crew later tested positive.
“Another crew member from that same flight, before testing positive, attended meetings, then embarked on a four-night tour of duty.
“One of those meetings was attended by yourself. If the 14-day separation rule was in place, that crew member would have remained in self-isolation at home and would not have placed other members of the community or colleagues at risk of Covid-19.”
Ministry of Health guidelines exempt aircrew from 14-day stand downs between different flights as long as they appear healthy, but the same letter noted these protocols are minimum guidelines.
Note the part where it says “as long as they appear healthy“.
From the Ministry of Health’s own website;
“Symptoms take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”
I was dumbfounded when I heard the story. (Audio version here.) Dumbfounded and furious.
For the last four weeks my partner and I have studiously observed the lock-down rules. We have kept separate “bubbles” (we do not live in the same houses). We keep grocery shopping to a minimum , observing the 2 metre distancing rule. We don’t go to the beach. We stay home. And when I go to work, I go directly to the facilities I work at; do my job; then come home.
But according to Air New Zealand, they permit their staff to work overseas and then return to this country and wander around freely. Dozens of their air crew staff are walking around our major cities. If any carry the contagion, they will be oblivious to it.
Some have already been stricken by the virus.
But Air New Zealand won’t tell us.
We could get the daily rate of new cases down to zero by Friday – only to have new infection clusters blow up at any time because an Air New Zealand crew member brought it back into our country.
Remember: “A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”
Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson must act on this.
- We need to know how many Air New Zealand staff have had the virus.
- We need to have this practice of non-quarantining cease immediately.
- And the CEO of Air New Zealand might as well take the next flight out of this country and not come back.
Once again, Air New Zealand has screwed us over. As if the Erebus disaster and subsequent cover-up hadn’t been enough of a stain on their reputation.
God help us, was Simon Bridges right?
“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric”
Minister Robertson cannot ignore this shambles. It is putting us all at risk.
We’ve already had one death from a transmission by an Air New Zealand staffer.
Current covid19 cases: 1,445
Cases in ICU: 3 (0 critical)
Number of deaths: 13
Facebook: Simon Bridges – 20.4.20
Ministry of Health: Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) – health advice for the general public
The Independent: Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?
Elemental: Hold the Line
The Standard: When Bridges’ social media goes wrong
Previous related blogposts
Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard
This blogpost will be re-published on “Frankly Speaking“. Reader’s comments may be left here (The Daily Blog) or there (Frankly Speaking).
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