The gift of being able to live in a Covid-free community cannot be underestimated. It is an exceptional blessing. As someone in that age group who could be at risk of a bad outcome if I caught the Covid, it is an inestimable delight to be able to venture out into the community pretty well knowing that I will not catch that virus.
That gift is a rare one today, as the unmistakable signs emerge of a large second wave of the virus in Europe, Russia and the Americas. And the huge tsunami that just rolls on and on in India. Etc.
Yesterday, there were nearly 444,000 new cases reported worldwide, a one-day record. More than five million people are currently known to have the virus, and the number may be double that.
As we have been reminded this week, some of those infected people are fortunate enough to make their way to these shores for one reason or another. Some of them arrive infected and infect other people along the way. The odds of a repeat of the Russian crew infection is increasing every day. The odds of the virus getting out into the community also increases by the same or a lesser amount. Siouxsie Wiles’ “Emmental cheese” model is a convincing explanation of how layers of protection can prevent community transmission. It also makes it clear that it is our own behaviour that matters.
Before the election, a view was doing the rounds that we were being unbearably nannied through the frequent reminders to wash your hands/keep social distance / wear a mask / sign in and so on. Some think it is unacceptable to make these demands on a Covid free environment.
We have done so well in all but eliminating (for the time being) the Covid in our community that we are in danger of forgetting that there is a risk at all. But this is definitely a false security. The risk is building day by day, case by case, and it is only our border precautions that prevents us being positively bombarded by little coronavirus nodules.
We are in the middle of a full-blown pandemic of a sneaky little virus that can also be deadly and affect long term health, whether it feels like it or not.
In short, the price of our current liberty is eternal vigilance. The continual reminders for us to take every care are not annoying nannying, but prudent advice amidst the certainty that the tricky virus will arrive back into our community again. As indeed it has this week. How far it spreads will be up to us.
New Zealand is being looked upon with envy by other countries where a twin breakdown of political will and ability to control the virus is the new normal. We should celebrate, in a careful, socially distanced way, our current status, but not flout it or forget that we are not safe.
Become like the Emmental cheese, adding slices of your own protection to plug the holes. We have proved twice now that we can be Covid free in the community. But the fight is not over with these two victories. It is barely starting.
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.