Under the ‘go hard and go fast’ policy that the government has previously adopted in order to pursue its Covid elimination strategy, opportunities for transmission within the community would be quashed by enforcing a lockdown until no further cases existed. It was an extraordinarily successful policy leading to zero cases within the community for more than 100 days. Well done us!
It has now been abandoned in favour of a policy that will now tolerate certain levels of community transmission in order to save economic activity and so people can lead normalised lives. Instead, the first line of defence will be the behaviour of people and the widespread wearing of masks, underpinned by inexorable contact tracing when cases do emerge.
We therefore now have a Covid policy that will not work as well as the previous policy and is unlikely to lead to a situation of zero cases from now on. We can expect numbers to start to rise, hopefully quite slowly. But Aucklanders are now free to roam around the country, and we to roam in Auckland, so it is only a matter of time until there are cases in different parts of the country.
That wonderful freedom of not having a deadly virus in our midst will likely soon be gone, even in the South Island. While I hope we will not face the size of outbreak suffered by our neighbour Australia, whereby the second ‘wave’ was so much bigger than the first, this may happen.
While Jacinda has talked of ‘drawing a circle’ around the Auckland cluster, this has not, in fact, been achieved. It is extremely likely that there are people who have not been identified as having Covid circulating in the community, unknowingly spreading the virus.
So that’s my understanding. It is a grave turn of events which will almost certainly lead to more Covid deaths in Aotearoa. I do understand that the Covid is likely to be around for years (I am not hanging out for a vaccine), so I suppose at some point the policy needed to evolve beyond lockdown.
It’s just it has seemed to happen very quickly. There is a level of giving in to inevitability of the virus as something that we will need to live among and with, that is a long way from the celebration of our Covid freedom from a few weeks ago.
We have moved from the policy of elimination to one of containment. We now have to wait and see what this will mean for our country for the rest of the year.
Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.