Kate Hawkesby: Jacinda Ardern needs to go harder on coronavirus

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 Mar 2020, 10:18AM
Jacinda Ardern at a press conference on coronavirus. (Photo / AP)

Kate Hawkesby: Jacinda Ardern needs to go harder on coronavirus

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 Mar 2020, 10:18AM

Every country in the world has had to adapt faster to this thing than would've been convenient or they would’ve liked.

The World Health Organisation’s overarching message has been – act fast. 'Don’t wait for more data – move.'

We know that countries who didn’t act fast enough are paying the price, they regret it.

Professor of Public Health at Otago University Dr Michael Baker has said “we are still under estimating this virus… this is a time for absolute maximal measures.. we are being too conservative”.

He's echoed by doctors and healthcare workers who've signed a petition to government to increase the alert level to the highest possible and lock NZ down. They say we are running out of time to prevent serious horror, and we have just days or hours to take stricter measures.

Asking people politely to do stuff doesn't work. Asking people not to panic buy failed. Asking people to self isolate failed. Asking people not to congregate together, if the weekend is anything to go by, failed.

Yes, shutting stuff down is major – so was closing our borders, but it has to be done.

It will happen eventually anyway, why not be prudent and do it now?

The government says it's following the model of Taiwan and Singapore. That's an invalid comparison; our healthcare system, testing and contact tracing abilities, and response plan are nothing like those countries.

Our schools do not thermoscan students twice daily or provide plastic sheeting between desks, or sanitization stations, or get them to wash hands with soap and hot water every time they enter and exit. Many of our schools have run out of soap and sanitizer.

Our culture has a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. We send sick children to school all the time, those countries do not. They take sickness seriously, they lived through SARS and enforced epidemic response plans back then.

We're sending a quarter of our population into schools and tertiary institutions every weekday. Many of our teaching staff are over 60.

We need to think about protecting more than just ourselves. Saying children ‘are not at as much risk’ does not help the teachers and staff they’re surrounded by.

Despite the PM's cheery, 'kindness will save us all' message on Saturday, we can’t hug this one out. Literally, we can’t – social distancing. We can’t kill it with kindness.

Her tone needs to be more serious, as does the alert level.

The main message needs to be harder – maybe when we’ve taken all the measures and action we need to take, then we can work the kindness angle. For now, we need to act.