Kate Hawkesby: We need faster, bolder action on coronavirus

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Mar 2020, 11:10AM
Jacinda Ardern acted on gut instinct a year ago - but now seems to be hiding behind expert opinion, argues Kate Hawkesby. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Kate Hawkesby: We need faster, bolder action on coronavirus

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Mar 2020, 11:10AM

Though many, including the Prime Minister herself, are hailing her actions in response to this pandemic as strong and bold, I don't think they go far enough. I also think her announcement only created more panic and confusion.\

Schools are left saying, what about us? There's no clear directive on events. Supermarkets were again hit by panic shoppers. Airline help desks were overwhelmed. The Healthline itself can't seem to cope - I've heard two hour wait times to even get through are now standard.

Travellers were confused, especially when they scrambled to change flights only to then have the government back track and change the deadline by an hour. There's confusion over self-isolation, medical centres are being swamped.

What we need in a crisis, is quick decisive and bold action, clear and well defined, but most of all, fast.

The World Health Organisation's Dr Michael Ryan, who has been at the forefront of managing acute risks to global health for nearly 20 years, says at times like this: 'speed trumps perfection'. In essence, less time pontificating with committees, more time moving swiftly and decisively. He said you need to react quickly, coherently, be fast, have no regrets, move first.

Schools and uni's need to be shut, all public events cancelled, social distancing implemented to protect the elderly. We need more bold action.

If we look back 12 months almost to the day, we had a Prime Minister leading by gut instinct trying to make the country feel safe, making big calls, taking charge.

A year on, and under very different circumstances obviously, the PM is again trying to make the country feel safe, but this time not speaking from any kind of gut leadership, instead sitting behind sub committees, working groups, guidelines and expert opinions.

We acted faster and more aggressively to fruit flies.

The response so far has given us more questions than answers. We also have too much theory versus reality.

The PM said the airport would up their screening measures and there'll be forms to fill out. In reality, I know of several people who flew in right up until yesterday from Europe, and sailed straight through the airport without a single question being asked.

One of them, with an immune compromised child, and having travelled through Italy, called the Healthline of his own volition and was given conflicting advice about whether he should self-isolate. They also declined his request to be tested. It seems you practically have to have the virus already to even qualify for a test.

We know the best way to deal with this is swiftly and decisively. Yes, action has a significant cost, but inaction has a greater and longer lasting one.

Politely asking people to please self-isolate and not hug or hongi won't cut it.