GUEST BLOG: Ian Powell – Delta response “gutted” by Government backdown

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At 4pm on Monday 4 October Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave a post-cabinet media conference to report on the latest decisions in the Covid-19 pandemic response, specifically the Delta variant outbreak.

It was to be primarily about the future of the lockdown alert level (currently 3) in Auckland along with the Level 2 status for the rest of the country (a few days earlier Level 3 had been introduced into parts of Waikato, primarily around Raglan and Hamilton following community transmission originating from Auckland).

Elimination strategy

Since March 2020 on the advice of experts, including epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists and modellers, New Zealand has pursued a successful policy of elimination towards community transmission. Based on zero tolerance it included strict border controls, masks, physical distancing, contact tracing and, as a last resort, hard and fast lockdowns.

Its success was reflected in one of the lowest mortality rates in the world (five per million people). Had we followed the alternative mitigation (including suppression) strategy we would have had thousands of deaths instead of 28 (26 before Delta).

It also meant that the country’s economy performed much better than it would have otherwise done; best performing in the OECD. New Zealand was also one of the freest countries in the world with fewer and shorter lockdowns.

The Government’s response to the first variant infection (from Delta rampant New South Wales) on 17 August was elimination. It was hard and fast beginning with Level 4 (full lockdown).

After quickly increasing infection cases, overwhelmingly in Auckland, the peak daily number was 82 on the 11th day (compared with a peak of 89 on the 8th and 11th day of the previous national lockdown in March-April 2020). At the time the full vaccination rate was less than 20% of those eligible (32% had a single dose).

Then, despite fluctuations, new daily cases declined steadily to an average of 18 cases. The exponential growth that devastated New South Wales and Victoria was avoided. Further, after a small number of cases in Wellington, the outbreak was confined to Auckland comprising around a third of the country’s population.

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The situation was looking encouraging. The rest of the country quickly transitioned first to Level 3 and then to Level 2. The Government continued to emphasis its commitment to zero tolerance (elimination) with increasing confidence. Then, to the surprise of many, on 22 September it lowered Auckland’s alert level to 3.

What went wrong

Level 3 has been amusingly described as Level 4 with takeaways. But this is simplistic. Non-essential businesses and organisations can resume work provided that they ensure physical distancing for staff who can’t work from home. This is a significant constraint (hospitality is confined to takeaways) but there is still a reasonable degree of activity, most visibly with tradespeople.

One of the objectives of Level 4 is to reduce the movement of people as much as possible; Level 3 increases this movement.

After around a week of Level 3, there was a discernible increase in daily infections leaving the average 18 daily rate feeling like a distant memory. It is now bouncing around the 30s and 50s reaching 60 on 10 October. Modellers are advising that it might soon reach 100 which would significantly increase hospitalisations.

A compounding factor was the vaccine rollout. Overall it has progressed according to schedule which was dictated by vaccine supply factors outside the Government’s control.

The rollout was staged based on four groups: border workers and their families; those who are most at risk of catching the virus (eg, frontline health workers); those most likely to suffer severe outcomes were they to be infected (eg, over 65s and people with health conditions); and finally the rest of the population.

The failure was in the third group, especially those living with deprivation including disproportionately Māori and Pasifika. Many are considered to be ‘marginalised’ from the rest of society. The level of community engagement by health authorities and resources was not sufficient to ensure better vaccination rates. Consequently we are now playing catch-up which assists virus transmission.

Weakening of elimination

With the benefit of hindsight the decision to move Auckland to Level 3 was an indicator of a weakening of the zero tolerance elimination strategy. Confirmed by the Prime Minister’s uncharacteristic coherence-deficient 4 October media conference, she implied but didn’t explicitly state that her government was discontinuing the elimination strategy and transitioning to something else without elaborating on what this was.

There have been several journalists who have being writing informed quality articles on the pandemic response since its commencement. Their analysis was that the Government had backed down by moving away from elimination to suppression (tolerating a level of virus transmission).

Significantly there was no government attempt to disabuse the public of this change. But it wasn’t until a week later that Ardern, when interviewed live on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report (11 October), confirmed that suppression would now be used in Auckland but elimination would continue elsewhere. This added to the public confusion. If elimination was so successful outside Auckland, why not tighten up rather than loosen its application within Auckland.

Fortunately, while not repairing the damage, her media conference later the same day was, thank goodness, an improvement on this botch-up (see below).

Trying to understand the reasoning

It is difficult to understand the reason for the Government’s backdown. Most likely it was spooked by the stubbornness of the Delta tail (which Ardern now calls a ‘tentacle’) and its upwards trend, following its earlier downwards movement, for which the surprise decision to move down to Level 3 is the most likely cause.

There had been some public pressure to abandon elimination including from some business quarters and an opportunist public intervention by former Prime Minister John Key, along with the National and ACT parties. The means was disingenuity by conflating elimination with lockdowns and obscuring the more important zero tolerance of community transmission.

By itself this pressure would not have been sufficient. But this is a social liberal technocratic and, consequentially, elitist government. This limits the scope of its analytical lens making it capable of being spooked by an unexpected worsening turn of events (especially when in part of its own making). In this context the pressure to abandon elimination may have been a tipping point.

Gutted

The immediate public response of high profile infectious diseases specialist Dr Siouxsie Wiles to this shift was to say she was “grieving” and “gutted”. This was a personal response but “gutted” is an apt description of the sentiment of the wider health system. This wasn’t just public health and infectious diseases specialists. Across the board specialists, modellers and other health professionals were gutted.

The health system simply won’t cope if Delta takes off. This is most pronounced in public hospitals. They are too rundown due to successive governments failing to address severe health professional shortages, including specialists and nurses. It will not take much to overwhelm our hospitals.

Early in the Delta outbreak it only took less than 50 Covid hospitalisations for the three district health boards in Auckland (with three of the largest hospitals in the country) to request other DHBs to prepare to loan health professionals to the metropolitan city. Delta creates ‘long Covid’ hospitalisations. That is, compared with earlier Covid variants, patients need to remain in hospital longer.

High risks

There are two high risks in this decision to abandon elimination. First, New Zealand could follow the disastrous experiences of New South Wales and Victoria. If the daily infection rate continues upward the increases will soon become exponential (surges). This would overpower hospitals and put primary care under severe pressure.

A further consequence is that access to hospital and primary care for other diagnosis, care and treatment would be significantly reduced; denied for many.

It doesn’t automatically follow that there will be exponential infection growth in New Zealand. But, to the extent that it happens, the public is likely to hold government responsible for the bad consequences.

Second, what has characterised the Government’s elimination strategy is that it has been made on expert advice including epidemiologists and modellers. Jacinda Ardern won the trust and confidence of the public with her compassionate evidence-based media conferences in the first national lockdown and after. She grasped and articulated the science well.

This level of trust and confidence was essential for ensuring the level of public support necessary to successfully limit the impact of the pandemic. Without it there would have been no ‘team of five million’.

But Ardern could not have achieved this high trust and confidence if she had not accepted and conveyed this expert advice. That advice came from experts who the public trusted. But the ‘trusted’ have now been disregarded by government (marginalised in fact). The confidence of the ‘trusted’ in government is waning and this is becoming increasingly visible.

This amounted to a rejection of the advice of an expert advisory group chaired by leading epidemiologist Professor David Skegg on what was required to reopen New Zealand’s borders. On the assumption of high vaccination rates, part of it was continuation of elimination (zero tolerance towards new cases) without lockdowns; not a goal of no new cases.

The problem for government is that the effect of marginalising the experts who have served it well since the start of the pandemic is not just to undermine their confidence in it. The public’s confidence in government would also be undermined as a consequence, thereby reducing ‘kindness’ to political disingenuity and the ‘team of five million’ to irrelevancy.

Restrictions removal

Compounding the difficulty was the Prime Minister’s 4 October announcement of the removal of some restrictions in Auckland while under Group 3. One was sensible. Small physical distanced group outdoor picnics were approved, including in parks. This was based on public health advice within the Health Ministry recognising the very low risk of outdoor virus spread, although it does increase people movement.

But the Prime Minister then went on to announce that other removals of restrictions were under consideration. These included opening early child education centres and schools and, ambiguously, ‘retail’. An initial problem was confusion due to the failure to consult with these sectors.

What this also highlighted was the confusion caused by the complexity of adding additional steps (restriction removals) within an alert level. Had these and her other announced additional steps been implemented, it would have been difficult to distinguish the difference between Level 3 in Auckland and Level 2 elsewhere. Alert level differentiations requirements should be as uncomplicated as possible.

Transparency needed

There is an obligation for greater transparency of cabinet decision-making over both the decisions to drop Auckland to Level 3 and to abandon the elimination strategy in Auckland at least.

The Prime Minister states that cabinet takes the advice of the Director-General of Health. But advice can be given and considered in different ways. It could be that Dr Bloomfield recommended these decisions or he did not.

There is another option. He could have been informed in advance of what cabinet wanted to happen and ask to advise on how best this might be done. Whatever the case might be the ‘team of five million’, including the trusted experts, deserve to know.

Where to next

At the media conference yesterday (11 October) the Prime Minister gave a better performance avoiding much of the implicitness of the previous week. Subject to no negative occurrences, both Northland and Waikato, will return to Level 2 on 14 October. To date, elimination has worked in these areas.

Further, no further restrictions are scheduled to be removed in Auckland under Group 3. If the past week hadn’t happened one would not have known that elimination was on its way out. The whole approach was elimination without actually using the word, although ambiguity still remained. There was also a positive start to mandatory vaccination requirements beginning with the health and education sectors.

The extent of the ammunition the Government’s elimination backdown has given to its opponents and the confusion it has given its supporters can’t be under-estimated. It becomes politically confusing as well. Labour has effectively moved to National’s suppression approach of being more tolerant to community transmission. This leaves the differences to bragging and point-scoring.

When looking at Australia in order to learn about Delta, it should not just look at New South Wales and Victoria as examples of what not to do. The other four states are successful examples of what to do by following zero tolerance towards community transmission. This is where we should take our lead.

The Government should never had lowered Auckland to Level 3. Level 4 is tough but it was working. Aside from putting hospitals and the public at increased risk, it is likely to increase the combined length of lockdown (Levels 4 and 3). The longer in Level 4, the more likely zero tolerance is effective, and the more likely less time would be spent in Level 3.

Ideally Government should have returned Auckland to Level 4 this week. But the political courage to do this wasn’t there even though it may have reduced the overall time in lockdown.

It is stating the obvious that high vaccination rates are critical, even with an elimination strategy. The Prime Minister’s visit to Tairawhiti last week was excellent. We need more of it. But we also need to increase resourcing, including more vaccination buses and improving access of non-government organisations to vulnerable unvaccinated people.

The decisions on mandatory vaccinations yesterday are encouraging as is the willingness to develop vaccine certificates for certain situations. Further work on anti-viral treatments helps. Pharmac is making good progress here.

Border security around Auckland needs to be strengthened. Only fully vaccinated essential workers and special exemptions should be allowed to cross the border. Containers and concrete blocks should be used to block supplementary roads that can’t be policed.

All this would be reinforced by a zero tolerance approach to community transmission as has been used successfully in most Australian states. At a certain point, subject to high vaccination coverage, it may be that zero tolerance morphs into something else, but not yet and not without engagement with the expertise that resides outside government.

It is right to be gutted with the Government’s performance last week. Last week there was anger. There is a risk that this anger evolves in disillusionment. Anger is the better emotion because it often means not giving up on influencing governments. Disillusionment often leads to giving up; we can’t risk this.

The Government should learn from orthopaedic surgeons. They have no concept of ambiguity. This orthopaedic characteristic is worthy of political adoption in order to reach a clear unambiguous elimination position.

Ian Powell was Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the professional union representing senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand, for over 30 years, until December 2019. He is now a health systems, labour market, and political commentator living in the small river estuary community of Otaihanga (the place by the tide). First published at Otaihanga Second Opinion

72 COMMENTS

  1. Jacinda sold us all out for business people, just like she sold the poor out to landlords last year. Money drives neoliberal elites, not the welfare of their people. Its going to get much worse.

    • Sadly her actions have made me come to that same conclusion slowly over the last three years of excuses.
      But who else can we realistically vote for who is left and GENUINELY cares for the 90%?

      • Not them! They have made, they have made ‘left type’ promises and never delivered on them. I will be looking at the Maori party next time round.

  2. Don’t blame the Government, blame our Society…
    1. The continuous arrogance of the “business first” community.
    2 The self entitled spoilt me-me-me crowd who think they are above the law and have no social conscience.
    3 The fact that we have deliberately allowed inequality to create a huge underclass where overcrowding and ignorance dominate.
    No wonder we can’t get our shit together.
    Thirty five years of the people voting for Neoliberalism has produced this Society.

    • No sorry, but the government are meant to be in charge and they have proved to weak to stand up to business. Blame the government.

    • Yes agree 100% .
      It has taken me 9 years to get across just how stuffed our health and medicines funding is and this covid epidemic has blown it and exposed it wide open .
      Many on this blog didn’t believe me.
      Now when we need our health system most it is close to dysfunctional.
      Thanks Ian for your many posts that have helped me change peoples minds in the last 18 months.

    • garibaldi: “Don’t blame the Government, blame our Society…”

      Nope. Blaming the rest of us for the government’s failures is a cop-out. It’s the equivalent of that old saying: “the devil made me do it”.

      If the government were sure of its strategy, it would have stuck to it, regardless of pressure from sectors of the community.

  3. I think Labour got this right. They read the mood of the people and the mood was one of no longer tolerating level 4 lockdowns. Level 4 effected those without an experts steady salary, who worked for wages on toil street instead of sitting in the ivory towers of acadamia, who were unable to go to the beach, church or socialise, far far more than the “experts” can even contemplate.

    It is easy to sit in a pleasant beach house, receive a steady retirement income, free to enjoy the fresh air. Try imagining South Auckland on 80% wages (if lucky), no family contact, no social contact, no ability to look after elderly relatives, and much more in way of restrictions that all the “experts” and state servant can never comprehend.

    Irrespective of how many lockdowns to level 4 a region has, the fact is that sooner or later you have to open up. That time is now.

    Now the question has Labour prepared to open up to the best possible preparedness standard? Probably not, but the people can at least start to feel free again. Come what may.

    • Nailed it. The only people I hear that talk about stricter levels haven’t suffered one iota. Government paid shrills fat on government salaries, telling the poor “it’s for you’re own good that you’re suffering financially, mentally and emotionally” while they sit in their ivory towers.

      • Gerrit, Spur, BG
        Absolutely right.
        Its not covid that is killing this government: it is the growling alarming economic damage.
        They who reject this economic element of a running a country, ignore the rules of survival.

    • It was the only option – Auckland would be going batshit by now if still in Level 4. People have stopped listening and many don’t care if they catch it or not. Keep hammering the vaccination messages and instigate a managed spread.. Covid has to go through the community at some stage. This summer is time for it to do just that.

    • Absolutely agree, life has to go on despite this Covid Plague! We are being held Hostage by a small but vocal Medical Academia advising the Govt who don’t live & work in the real World like normal people who have to work to house & feed themselves & their Families! They get their full salaries, not a wage subsidy & these Covid Modeller experts have made $6 million dollars in Consulting fees alone, charged to the Govt & NZ Taxpayers, despite none of their dire predictions coming to pass? How do I get that job, it’s money for jam? The Lockdowns initially served there purpose but now do not work with Delta & are counterproductive due to Covid Fatigue & people are not buying into this extreme form of Govt imposed, mental torture, anymore? The Suicide rate is way higher than the number of Covid deaths! Just vaxx everyone & open things up, we have to learn to live with this Covid & treat it like any other disease just like everyone has done in previous Pandemics!

    • Gerrit: “It is easy to sit in a pleasant beach house, receive a steady retirement income…”

      I agree with your comment. The above clip, however, doesn’t apply to all so-called “retired” people. Many are obliged to carry on working, because the OAP by itself simply isn’t enough to live on, especially if the exigencies of Life have forced a person into rental accommodation.

      Moreover, lockdowns have been very hard on families: retired people can’t always get to see loved ones, or get the pastoral care they used to get from grown children.

      We’re in the retired age bracket: we have (in my case, older) siblings overseas whom we can’t visit, and who can’t visit us. We face the possibility that we may never see them again. This isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.

      The people making decisions about lockdowns, along with the related rules, are pollies, academics and public servants, whose salaries continue regardless. They simply have no idea how the rest of us must live.

  4. Those I who are screaming at the government for dropping Auckland’s level are a minority in the top half of the North Island. I don’t like JA but Feel she didn’t have too many options simply because the Covid tail would have taken weeks more to knock out if ever. It’s easy for journalists, the retired, medical experts who can work from home if necessary and other essential workers who can go to work, to give the million people in Auckland the message to stay locked down after four weeks. We have already seen those who have had enough trying to bolt. We’ve talked to the mothers under stress and the children not getting a proper education. I don’t blame jacinda for that decision. I do blame her for piss poor MIQ, the snail pace that front lines workers have been vaccinated, the slow roll out and that list of broken promises.

  5. Worth a read in regards transitioning from top down control to bottom up endeavour.

    “Government must now rethink its pandemic management and communication that has largely been informed and shaped by expert knowledge from a narrow group of specialists, and a focus on educating the public to bring about their buy-in to lockdowns and the vaccine rollout.”

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/ideasroom/auck-oped-on-suppression-strategy

    “As we transition from elimination to a disease suppression approach, we need a broader range of voices to be involved in shaping the path forward. This requires bottom-up processes built on enabling partnerships, not a centralised plan created in isolation and on the hoof, and then distributed to groups to implement. The first step in developing meaningful trusting partnerships is to listen.”

    • Yes, worth the read. Marie McEntee certainly has the background to argue NZ needs to rethink its pandemic management and communication. According to her UofA bio she qualified as a registered nurse, worked in the pharmaceutical industry and developed an interest in the wider dissemination of scientific information. Subsequently using her expertise in analysing biosecurity issues here she provides a sound critique of NZ’s Covid response. While medical expertise has to date served the current govt very well she’s correct to point out that to date the govt response has “largely been informed and shaped by expert knowledge from a narrow group of specialists, and a focus on educating the public to bring about their buy-in to lockdowns and the vaccine rollout”. From a discourse perspective, control the message for the intended purpose. A deficit approach it may be but arguably a noble cause, the protection of public health.

      What I like about McEntee’s critique is that it goes a bit beyond the view that any challenge to the dominant discourse is necessarily the work of ‘death cult capitalists’ and those who simply want to return to business as usual. This view may well have a ring of truth about it but is it time now time to broaden the conversation?

      • Absolutely now is the time. For if not now, When is a good time? When the mental health of Aucklanders is in dire straights? That is the problem, there is no “good time”, even the government cannot tell you what the critieria is, that will broaden the conversation.

        Lockdowns are no longer spititually, physically financially viable, and judging by recent events re mob tangi’s and border breaches, totally unenforceable.

        Start talking folks.

  6. “……..social liberal technocratic and, consequentially, elitist government”. Bloody good description. And the argument for greater transparency.
    Although far preferable to the gNACT alternative, I’m now finding it quite arrogant in the sense that senior public servants prefer to piss in each others pockets rather than being upfront with the people they profess to represent.
    This morning, for example, we learn there has been many more MIQ breaches than the 3 or so we were told about and it appears Hipkins only just learned the extent of it. MBIE then runs away and hides under the ‘no comment’ pr and spin.
    Ministers will of course continue to have “complete faith” in their officials. They’ve dedicated themselves to each other FIRST, then to that Team of 5 Million second.
    There’s always been that Sir Humphyism in the PS, but never before to the extent there’s now dishonesty, a primary concern for self-preservation, and the utter disdain for transparency. PR slogans and spin rulz.

  7. The problem with ‘salaried medical specialists’ is that they can only see the problem in one dimension: Theirs.

    Facts omitted:
    > The government took SIX MONTHS to place an order for the vaccine. (In the Herald today)
    > In nearly two years the government hasn’t added a single temporary ICU bed.
    > The government has blocked the entry of specialist doctors and nurses to fill the many vacancies.
    > The government has failed to build dedicated MIQ facilities.

    Also, I would like to know what the authors end game for the elimination strategy is. Is he intending that we remain in isolation from the rest of the world forever?

    • Read the article properly. Medical specialists have been advocating more ICU capacity for a long time. The ‘end game’ is discussed at the end of the article and is in the context of re-opening borders.

      I’m not medically qualified but worked for medical specialists for over 30 years. Their dimensions are very broad.

    • Actually the govt bought 220 new icu beds and converted normal wards to expand into.
      There are around 550 icu bed now upn from 330 18 months ago.

  8. Yes, they caved in alright, the school holidays were coming & the squeaky wheel of Barnett/hospo/Queenstown/Taupo & the fellow travellers (Key/Tamaki et al) spooked them.
    I could not quite believe it, we have come this far why would we throw it all down the drain to appease those arseholes who are only interested in making a buck.
    Key & Tamaki lighting fires did not help but I thought they had more balls than that & that the science had our back.
    A lot of what if’s, but a spectacular about turn, wiser heads should have prevailed but I suppose the neoliberals won the battle but we have lost the war!

  9. Fully agree. Rightwing arseholes who pretend to be matey with the poor are transparently pushing the back to business FJK line. These are the shills of international finance capital that treats the herd as the collateral damage of ‘business as usual’.
    Auckland needs to return to L4 and its borders sealed to those without full vax and proper authority.
    Victoria has yo-yo-ed a number of times to catch up on the virus.
    If the ‘tradies’ protest, let them. Sell the bach or the ute.
    The ‘hospos’ that count aren’t the overblown cafes (they get compo) but the front line health workers who run risks for the rest of us.
    Govt should stop the softly softly approach and state clearly this is a national emergency and those who don’t keep the rules will end up in jail.
    The Labour Govt did that during WW2.
    When we come out of this fully vaxxed and with the best economic recovery in the world, we might even have the balls to notice the carnage of climate collapse and do something about that.

    • Don’t expect the anti Ardern /Labour negative narcissists to agree. The same ones who blame them for mandating the vaccine to actually allow our businesses to open . Moronic thinking at best.

    • DB The old right wing arse holes abuse aye. Almost as bad as a left wing moron. Are you saying the million ordinary people in Auckland have no brain. Have you not noticed they are over it as well. I don’t know what you do or don’t do or where you live but you’re obviously insulated from the stress of living there. It’s always right wing filth that causes everything. You need to get out more.

      • The plan B remember was to let the virus rock to hell with the millions dead.
        Because it is the poor and unhealthy that are the main victims, that’s eugenics in my book.
        The right wing arseholes can’t see beyond their own profits and losses when they only exist as corporate bludgers.
        Who said the million out there have no brains?
        2/3rds of them at least support elimination. That shows a grasp of science being applied to an fast moving field trial.
        Its the feral self-infatuated egomaniacs who want to break the rules because they feel like it.
        They agree with the ‘experts’ in public health who opposed the move to L3.
        The ferals are the ones feeding the virus and expecting public health care.
        That’s why Govt should pull back from indulging these arseholes and revert to L4 in Auckland for 2 weeks and mandate (rather than urge) full vax for border crossings.
        What really, really, irks the bosses is that they know that the pandemic has shown that the market is bankrupt, so they (and their media hacks) are desperate to prove that the state must fail without the market.
        The emperor and his lackeys have no clothes.

        • Now just to be clear DB. Are all the bosses right wing. Are there no bosses out there that vote labour. And these feral people who break ranks. What political persuasion are they. And I guess you’ve got some proof two thirds in Auckland want elimination.

        • DB, I agree that your comments are part of the picture. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a right wing thing entirely. I see it more as a haves and haves not game. It’s always been this way amongst humanity and it’s factions. Leverage and pull. Humanity can be a cunning vile beast. Thankfully we do not all get stuck just operating from the dark side of our nature’s. Crazy days ahead for a while. We can each only control how we each behave. Buckle up and ride the wave the best way you can. We’re all doing pandemic and there will be pain. That is how we as a species shift the paradigm. Through the experience of jointly felt mass pain. Big picture styles. Humanity is a super slow learner

  10. Very interesting article this morning: Labour has lit a “no jab, no job” fire within the health and education sectors and walked away. Teachers have been left wondering “how the heck is this going to work?” Well well well, isn’t it just typical of this govt and Jacinda ….but there we go again. They do fuck all for almost two years, work hard on their arrogance, pick their noses and now that the shit has hit the fan, it’s the citizens fault! “Wasn’t us – it’s you!” They have this clever, cunning, sly and devious backroom PR machinery which always finds a way to divert the blame for everything! Jacinda’s Ardent (clever!) Fans here better not defend her on this. She needs to be called out on this.

    • I think it’s being worked out mate. Just because they’re not on Hosking telling you the details, doesn’t mean it’s been left.

    • Dr Ashley Bloomfield interview with Mike Hosking yesterday showed how loose and fast he, and the Government are on this Covid thing, for example, “What percentage of people living in Auckland need to vaccine for Auckland to get back to Level 2?”, Dr Bloomfield “I am not sure I can answer that”….

        • Who else can give Mike Hosking the answer about Lockdown levels if not Dr Bloomfield…the tooth fairy, Bigfoot??

          • Dr Bloomfield probably couldn’t answer that because he didn’t have the number available to him. Hosking is a “gotcha” capitalist and his questions are anything but questions. It’s akin to asking how many slices of bread in bag and by Christ you better be correct.
            Bigfoot or the tooth fairy would at least be honest.

            • Why does Dr Bloomfield not have the numbers/figures? This person’s position enables him to have those numbers/figures…

              I got the feeling listening to the interview that Dr Bloomfield has never answered non scripted questions.

              • It may just be akin to asking, how many idiots are holding Auckland up from moving levels? What is the percentage? Can you answer that Nathan?

          • How about trying to accept the situation is dynamic, constantly changing. Opposition parties and business demanding a fixed date for anything is showing a distinct lack of understanding what’s happening.
            But then they don’t care do they? The ‘money is everything’ brigade
            making fools of themselves e.g Jonky, Tamiki, Hoskings etc. Well, they are gonna get what they’ve been harping on about, opening up, to thousands of Covid cases, unnecessary deaths, long Covid and you want to know how soon you can get on with it? Capitalistic idiots.

  11. Level 4 only works when everybody follows the rules. It worked for the most part but it became clear in the last weeks of level 4 that a tiny group of people were ignoring it. And that’s all it took to ruin it. If we were still in level 4 now I am certain we would still have cases in the community, and unfortunately you can’t stay in level 4 indefinately. It’s a shame, because if everybody did their bit we totally would have beaten delta.

    I also have a hunch that the government might not have been too unhappy to drop elimination when they did. In an alternate reality where we did beat delta and went back to level 1, at some point in the future when we’re all vaccinated we’re going to have to open up to the world. Delta will get in the community. Some people will die, even if only a few. Who wants to be prime minister when your decision to open up causes deaths, as opposed to an outbreak that was heroically fought but not beaten causing them?

  12. The decision of September 22 was a betrayal.
    If you are going to do anything in this world, do your best to do it properly and follow it through to the end.
    The government lost its bottle in the last leg, negating most of the effort already made and ensuring the pain will be greatly extended.
    More articles from Ian Powell, please.

  13. Further to my comment above, As Martyn has alluded to several times. Robert Reid said it best:
    “No one mentions that every government is a coalition between elected governing party(s) and the senior bureaucrats.

    The bureaucracy acts as more of a handbrake than NZ First ever did.

    But most *ruling* parties let it continue to dictate policy.”
    (10:03AM Oct 19 2020 Twitter for Android)

    Not that I’m a fan of NZFirst or ‘retail politicians; – but his point stands.
    Unfortunately Senior and muddle management public servants have come to see things differently (as opposed to frontline worker-bee public servants). Their priority under the neoliberal corporatised public service has its priorities as the maintenance of the feifdom in which they operate, then public service. Their compliant Ministers (obviously those that now include Labour Ministers) seem to agree.
    ONE example:
    Today we learn there have been 117 MIQ breaches although Meggie (Bless her cotton socks) and others seem to think we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads, and we really only needed to know about 3. Apparently Hipkins didn’t need to worry his pretty little head either.
    Then of course there’s the shambles of MIQ booking system. Incidentally, a system (such as it is) that COULD have been delivered 5 or 6 months earlier than it was.

    I’ll be doing my best to ensure Labour is RELIANT on coalition partners in ’23. They really don’t deserve the mandate they were given if all it means is the ability to rest on their baubles and laurels and fritter.

    Fuk ’em

  14. Here goes…
    I think Prime Minister Adern ( I write ‘Prime Minister’ Adern because we should thank all the baby Jesuses our Prime Minister isn’t judith collins. Lets remember that? )
    I think Prime Minister Adern’s doing the best she’s allowed to do.
    Please allow me to dwell on a couple of points @ IP ?
    “It also meant that the country’s economy performed much better than it would have otherwise done; best performing in the OECD. New Zealand was also one of the freest countries in the world with fewer and shorter lockdowns.”
    ” It would have otherwise done;” ?
    There are those out there who live in dread of AO/NZ performing as easily and as financially robustly as it easily could.
    And if any thing has tentacles it’s those bastards. And by those bastards I mean those who I’ll refer to as The Invisibles. The privateer invisible hyper riche jonky fondlers who help themselves to our primary industry money sequestered from our farmers, and from us by association, via ‘producer boards’, cryptic tax shenanigans, shell companies and various other means via strange and foreign lands. Aye boys?
    “It is difficult to understand the reason for the Government’s backdown.”
    As above, really.
    The government didn’t back down so much as it was smacked down. Our government’s masters can’t have an AO/NZ government illustrate how rich, in fact, our country is !
    Let me remind you of your own admission;
    “It also meant that the country’s economy performed much better than it would have otherwise done; best performing in the OECD. New Zealand was also one of the freest countries in the world with fewer and shorter lockdowns.”
    Is there anyone else out there who’s hip to this shit? Or am I the only one…? What a scary thought !?
    Re the virus: The blatantly obvious action to have taken would have been to slam the borders shut tighter than a tight thing the nano second we heard of a deadly virus spreading from origins unknown. In this time of crisis we’d a survived for centuries, literally, without the need to have diseased and shambling tourists or speedy, super-spreader deal doers coming here. We could have had essentials like medicines etc shipped in, in exchange for the vast amounts of money we’d a been getting for supplying foods and wools etc to a viral shit storm world far beyond our shores.
    The reason we didn’t do that, or something very similar, is because The Invisibles wouldn’t let our government do it because we’d be asking very, very uncomfortable questions as to where vast sums of money was suddenly coming from after living like fucking refugees in our AO/NZ for almost a century.
    ( @ Maori? I know what the fucking Crown and the colonials did to you back in the day so when I write ‘Our’ and ‘Mine’ re AO/NZ it’s with the utmost respect for you and your Whakapapa. What more can an AO/NZ white person do? We’re here and I’m ashamed of the history of that but what can we do?)
    Our government isn’t ours, our money’s being stolen, we’re being placed at dire risk because rich invisible scum bags must hide their crimes from us.

  15. This is what I mean and better explained by Russell Brand and Edward Snowden.
    Russell Brand:
    “In part 1 of my discussion with Edward Snowden he explains the methods used to advance the most dangerous conspiracies and threats to our freedoms. Excerpts are taken from my upcoming Luminary podcast with Edward Snowden”
    Edward Snowden:
    “The Worst Conspiracies Are In Plain Sight”
    https://youtu.be/e0zAJfbP3gg
    All I’m saying in an AO/NZ-centric fashion is that our farmers, and you and me by association, are being ripped off daily and have been so for generations and because of that, it hampers the way we could all live much better lives.

  16. To think that Level 4 would have kept on working if everyone had followed the rules and we would have been
    able to carry this on forward for …how long? is dreaming. We are humans not machines.
    This piece from the link below is one to bear in mind.
    The Delta variant spreads ominously and without controls, every infected person, on average, would infect six more, then 36, 216, 1296, 7776, 46,656 – we would get to more than twice New Zealand’s five million with three more cycles.
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/453341/why-we-must-not-allow-covid-19-to-become-endemic-in-nz

    • All that article showed was how hysterical and unhinged the scientists/modellers have become.

      Twice the population being infected? How does that work? Also “no controls” assumes that people wouldn’t modify their own behavior without government mandated rules.

      • You’re being the wise person Brut adopting NZ negativity to back it – we have the best negativity in the world when we try! The whole idea was to show how quickly the Delta variant can spread replicating itself.

  17. Look I think Dr Ian Powell has summed the entire issue up superbly. I agree Auckland should have stayed at level 4 for at least one more week but I fear its too late to go back. As for the picnic policy in my view this was a bad move and just more risk taking. It is always better to use the keep it simple approach and the new level three for Aucklanders just complicated matters. Moving forward we need to push out the vaccines, concentrate on those we can best convince to get vaccinated. Work really hard on increasing Maori and PI vaccination levels, tighten the borders as hard as we possibly can, keep mask wearing up, encourage people to scan and keep track of there whereabouts and lift our communications Covid strategy up to another level. We must and we should use every lever we can as many people are getting tired and grumpy and unfortunately when this happens we start to drop our guard and become distracted and lose focus of the task ahead.

  18. Yes and Z energy is about to become another overseas australian owned company if the marsden point refinery goes import only. So more damn money being sucked out of our economy to Aussie.

  19. The true measure of the success of Jacinda and her expert scientists is the lowest death rates from covid around the world. Why does the tory right praise all the other countries around the world opening up but never refer to their current daily death rates and hospitalisations and ICU occupancy rates. Aotearoa still has a lot of leeway – 33 now in hospital, and 7 in ICUs and can surge up to 770 ICU’s if needed. We will have to leave the staunchest anti-vaxxers behind and carefully open up with some continued internal border control, vax cards and other restrictions. Yes Aotearoa sure has been lucky with Covid – lucky that the Collins, Key, Seymour, Bishop coalition weren’t in Govt.
    Thank you Jacinda and Ashley – keep the grim reaper and his covid helpers at bay and save us oldies.

    • I do no know where you get your figures from but in this mornings press it refers to NZ having 4.6 ICU bed per 100000. For a population of 5 million this works out at 230 . Australia has 8.6 and Germany 38.7 per 100000.
      Many of our beds are in use our are unusable due to a lack of trained ICU nurses 500 of which have been stopped form coming
      by this government.

    • I agree with you Nikorima when we compared ourselves with many other countries we look good particularly when we look at our lower death rates. The Irish who have a similar population said the two main motivating factors to get the majority of their peoples vaccinated was the five thousand deaths and their young people wanting to go to concerts. Every time we have a death (and one is one too many) more NZers tend to get themselves vaccinated. It is sad that it takes a death to prompt some people to act and even sadder that a death can be ignored by those who chose to believe what they read online. Another worrying factor is many of our Maori people who are anti vax need to be reminded who will suffer the most when and if our public health system falls over with too many Covid cases.

  20. Auckland would have gone batshit by now if still in Level 4 – everyone is over lockdown and not listening anymore – they want their lives back whether they get sick or not. Keep hammering the vaccination message and allow a managed spread over summer – it’s the only option.

  21. The government are not in control now.

    The Prime Minister and her cabinet have taken our covid response away from the public health experts, and handed it over to the business community. who’s first priority is to profits not public health.

    They are now running the show.

    Now that business interests are firmly in the drivers seat, they are not about to relinguish it.

    Government not considering alert level 4 ‘circuit-breaker lockdown’ despite calls from health experts
    1 hour ago
    Jamie Ensor

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/10/coronavirus-government-not-considering-alert-level-4-circuit-breaker-lockdown-despite-calls-from-health-experts.html

  22. A society ruled by scientists (or technocrats of any stripe) is not what we were born into or signed up for.

    I’ve got no doubt they mean well, but the “health advice” should ever only be one input into the decision making process.

    In fact, what should actually happen is the government decides a gradual programme for restoring our normal way of life, and the health experts get told to get working on how to execute and cope. We are running it arse backwards.

    • “I’ve got no doubt they mean well, but the “health advice” should ever only be one input into the decision making process”.

      Yes, the health experts do mean well Brutus. A good many countries tried running it arse forwards, to borrow your terminology. I don’t think the outcome was all that good. I’m ok with the culture of technical control in this case. Specialised knowledge and skills are important and equally so, fit for context. Would you have a surgeon designing or building a highrise, a master builder maintaining your car, the Chamber of Commerce running the response to a health pandemic. People are not called experts without good reason. Perhaps its inclusion into the decision-making you are referring to. A fair call. We can all think of examples where inclusion/ consultation has been absent. But IMHO at times those who don’t have the expertise need to step back for a bit – and this has been one occasion.

      But times are a changin’. Living with the virus will be a collaborative effort.

  23. It’s fair to say Minister Hipkins is now totally reliant on vaccinations in Auckland to save the day with an almost nonchalant attitude today to the 52 cases. The infection rate is certainly picking up speed with unlinked cases now the norm. We should hit triple figures next week and any level restrictions they care to name will be irrelevant.

    The other thing the government is pinning it’s hopes to is that they can use Auckland like some kind of quarantine facility so the rest of the country remains covid free maybe indefinitely. On that front, forget it. Because it’s turning to shit here simply means it’s going to get out, anytime now, but nice to think of us as expendable.

    From an outsiders point of view, watching the shoulder shrugging indifference by Hipkins and others at this game of chicken between Aucklanders and this virus must be interesting. For those of us living in it, not so much. Actually not at all.

    The theatrette in parliament must seem a very long safe distance away Minister, to be so casual.

  24. It’s a bit like how China determined on isolating community spread in a locked down Wuhan, Hubei province – and thus had spare medical capacity in the rest of the country to come in and help with treatment.

  25. Covid is a highly infectious virus that has caused an epidemic an epidemics require Epidemiologist not an economist. And we use experts in the field of interest and we are fortunate in our country to have some very good Epidemiologist and other Public health experts who we need to listen to and let them do their job that is what they are qualified for and that is what they have trained for, for so many years.

  26. “Its success was reflected in one of the lowest mortality rates in the world…”

    Queensland. Total cases (since the beginning of last year) 2,067; total deaths, also since the beginning of last year, 7. First Nation cases: 18. Those figures as of today.

    Queensland has a population about the same size as that of NZ, and land borders with NSW, SA and NT. I have a sibling living just across the border in NSW. Last I heard, there have been no cases where they live. Lockdowns there have been much less stringent than here: my sibling has been able to cross the border for medical visits and so on, also they’ve been able to visit friends and relatives, provided social distancing rules are observed. Takeaways were available right throughout the lockdown.

    “….the country’s economy performed much better than it would have otherwise done…”

    Hmm….depends which bit of it you’re in. It hasn’t been too flash for many, not exclusively in the tourism sector. Ask the construction sector about supply chain problems, along with increasing prices for products. Small business generally may well have a different view.

    “The Government’s response to the first variant infection (delta)….. was elimination.”

    Futile, going on overseas experience. Like many, I note that the govt was apparently caught napping, having done nothing to boost the ICU system and hospital facilities generally, and having been unaccountably slow with the vaccine rollout. Did it have its fingers crossed that delta wouldn’t arrive here?

    “…dictated by vaccine supply factors outside the Government’s control.”

    The evidence emerging suggests that this isn’t so.

    “The failure was in the third group….”

    We’re in group 3. Vaccinations for our group were supposed to begin in May. Then our local DHBs announced cheerily that they were prioritising vaccinations for Maori and Pacific people. The rest of us – risk status notwithstanding – were at the back of the queue. It wasn’t until the end of July that bookings were opened for the rest of us. We managed to get the first vaccination just 6 days before the delta variant came down upon us like the wolf on the fold (apologies to Byron), and the whole country was locked down. There’s been a lot of anger hereabouts regarding this situation.

    There were all sorts of bizarre and unintended consequences of this prioritisation. Pakeha at the golf club, getting shots because their spouse had a Maori grandmother. Maori women in Porirua getting shots, their mother (who refused to identify as Maori) in Wanganui not getting them. At-risk pakeha and others, waiting and waiting and waiting….

    I didn’t particularly care about the vaccine, but my spouse – who has a number of health conditions – certainly did. And I was so infuriated by the blatant discrimination, that I’ve had both.

    The dishonesty of the government and the DHBs has been breathtaking. The virus doesn’t differentially affect people because of their ethnicity: pathogens don’t work that way. They don’t give a toss what your skin colour is, or your culture. Maori and Pacific people don’t get sick because they’re Maori etc: that’s a patronising claim.

    And meanwhile, the MoH, having been hoist by its own ideological petard, has been publishing stats by ethnicity, and ignoring its published evidence. These stats have graphically illustrated that numbers of cases and deaths have been very low among both groups (until delta, which has differentially affected Pacific people because there was a cluster associated with a Samoan church – though still only two deaths). In fact, cases have been much higher among Asians (about the same size population as Maori) though no deaths. And the group with the most cases and deaths was – wait for it – Europeans. Not talking percentages here: just numbers. And which groups had to wait for the vaccine?

    “Many are considered to be ‘marginalised’ from the rest of society.”

    Hmm….the marginalised: the alternative term, frequently used, is “disadvantaged”. Anybody who’s worked for any time in the health sector knows full well the groups which fare poorly and why. It has nothing whatever to do with that ridiculous racism canard or claims about systematic discrimination in the health services: that’s just another bludgeon with which to beat inoffensive health workers. It’s this sort of thing which is the problem:

    https://i.stuff.co.nz/national/health/115930211/new-research-reveals-heartbreaking-cost-of-meth-and-a-growing-problem

    In my experience, many of the very poorest fail to engage with health services, either at all, or only when disease is well advanced, don’t keep outpatient appointments, don’t take notice of health messages, fail to take simple preventive measures which would protect their kids’ health. And so on. It’s disingenuous for people to claim that the services aren’t culturally appropriate. The rest of us must engage with the health services as they now are. And it’s a lot of years since all health workers in the sector were pakeha! Or even white….

    Yes, services are often difficult to access for the rural poor, but my experience has been largely in the major cities, where access isn’t so much of a problem, yet the same situation applies.

    “…suppression would now be used in Auckland but elimination would continue elsewhere.”

    This won’t work. The virus will sneak out, as it has elsewhere. Moreover – insult to injury – there’ll still be a border that the law-abiding cannot cross. We have family there. They can’t come and go from Auckland, yet one of them needs to for work purposes. They’re fully vaccinated, so there shouldn’t be a problem. But they can’t go to and fro. No permit: not essential work.

    “….the pressure to abandon elimination may have been a tipping point.”

    I’m unconvinced by this. It sounds to me like blaming someone else for a decision that’s been criticised. If the govt were sure of its position, it wouldn’t have “succumbed to pressure”.

    “….Dr Siouxsie Wiles to this shift was to say she was “grieving” and “gutted”.”

    Says the person who, it was reported, bent, if not broke, the lockdown rules. And was also – last week, I think – shouting in the media about somebody behaving irresponsibly. Best to keep shtum, if you yourself can’t at least give the appearance of following the rules.

    “…a positive start to mandatory vaccination requirements beginning with the health and education sectors.”

    Wasn’t it last year the PM was promising that vaccination wouldn’t be compulsory? People don’t forget these things. My family and I are fully vaccinated, but I’m dubious about the wisdom of forcing it on others, without there being pushback.

    It seems to me that the government has lost control of the situation, through a combination of its own missteps and the vagaries of human nature. I doubt that it can now regain control.

  27. So now the PM is taking advice from Frucor and Coca-Cola?
    The ‘Traffic Light’ Drink formula has been adopted as a health remedy for Delta??
    She meets with Health Experts, then she ignores their advice and turns to a kiddies drink to implement as a ‘cure’ for what is NZ’s biggest health crisis in the century!
    I think it’s time she steps down and hands the jandal over to a better person who takes expert advice more seriously.

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