Andrew Dickens: Lockdown has worked - now it's time to let us go

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 May 2020, 1:14PM

Andrew Dickens: Lockdown has worked - now it's time to let us go

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 May 2020, 1:14PM

Well, here we are in Week 7 of a nationwide lockdown to contain and eliminate the virus known as Covid 19.  A new or novel virus for which the world has no cure or vaccine. 

I think it’s fair to say that our patience for the lockdown has now broken. Our determination has wavered. Our resolve has weakened.

The moment we broke was yesterday when we learnt of the case of Oliver Christianson and his successful legal challenge against the Ministry of Health.

We all know the story.  His father dying from brain cancer, Oliver flew from the UK, a Covid hotspot, to spend as much time as he could with his Dad. He arrived and went into isolation as per our regulations but Dad started to fade away quicker than expected. So he applied to the Ministry of Health for an exemption so he could see his father and he was refused.

In the end, it was the ruling of a High Court judge, Justice Tracey Walker, that interceded last Friday. Oliver got to see his Dad for his last 36 hours.

One of the important things for me was Oliver’s good faith with our lockdown regulations.  He returned and was originally prepared to comply and waited eight days but then circumstances changed.

His Dad began to slip away.  He then looked for empathy and mercy and found none until he went to a judge. A judge who exercised common decency and common sense.

The Ministry had offered no exemptions in 100 per cent of the applications. 24 in total.  The problem being the Ministry wrote the ability to grant exemptions into its law and regulation. If their intention was to go hard and heartless then they should never have written the exemption clauses in the first place.

But the effect of the ruling has been to open the floodgates of emotion that many of us had been holding back. While everyone empathises with the Christiansen case there have been hundreds more that you will never hear of.

Like my mate whose Mum died a few weeks ago in lockdown. Due to the regulations, he waited for her death in the room next door separated by a few millimetres of jib and framing. Even though he had not been overseas, had no close contacts and was not unwell.  The three leading indicators. They couldn’t see each other as she took her last breath.  Other families were banned from being present. He never saw her body.

And with emotion comes anger.  And the anger is dissolving the voluntary compliance that the Ministry of Health has relied upon.  The halo of Saint Ashley Bloomfield has been tarnished and it’s starting to fall off.  He’s been accused of being complicit in politicking, even though he is the supposedly apolitical unelected professional in charge of health provision.

If Dr Bloomfield is capable of reading the mood of the country, he should know this. If he doesn’t then the empathetic Prime Minister should tell him.

It’s time to move on and he should not be disappointed.  Through human history, the concept of quarantine has been used successfully against pandemic after pandemic.  Quarantine comes from an Italian word Quaranta, which means 40. It refers to the 40 days that people were isolated for in the 1300s as we fought the Black Plague.

Yesterday was Day 40 of the Great New Zealand Covid Lockdown. You got us there, Ashley.  Now let us go.