Kate Hawkesby: Why are lockdowns still our only option for keeping Covid out?

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 Feb 2021, 9:59AM
Photo / File
Photo / File

Kate Hawkesby: Why are lockdowns still our only option for keeping Covid out?

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 Feb 2021, 9:59AM

A good piece by Richard Prebble in yesterday’s Herald. He raised the question of lockdowns and why it was the government’s only option. By now, his point was, it shouldn’t be.

By now we should have a much tighter border than we do, we should be further ahead on the vaccine than we are, we should have slicker contact tracing in place. Why do we have none of those things?

Well he says you have to look at the spin the Govt’s spinning and the way it’s not only being lapped up, but how the government itself has come to believe its own spin. “The trick to spin is to frame the question,” he says, and points out Ardern’s line - "I think everyone would agree it was much better to have a 72-hour [lockdown] than make the wrong call and have 72 hours of a community outbreak."

Telling us all what we all agree on is an classic tilt at spinning the narrative but this is a government so adept at spin I’m not sure they even know they’re doing it anymore. Prebble says, ‘Governments start to die when they swallow their own spin.’ The difference here though, is they’re taking people with them on it, so maybe this death will be a slower one than he’s predicting.

If you can carry the momentum of people with you, lace it with a sprinkling of fear and anxiety just to keep them attached, then you can spin as much as you want, they’ll be spinning right along beside you.

So the real question to be asked as Prebble points out, is how are we still looking at lockdowns as our only containment measure 12 months on from the start of the pandemic? Border failures were predicted, and we’ve just learnt from a trans-tasman study into the number of incidents and failures of MIQ in Australia and NZ, that our MIQ is 7 times worse than Australia’s. Seven times worse.

That’s not something to be proud of, at a time many Kiwis seem to be feeling so proud. I hear a lot about how people would rather be Covid free and have a lockdown than have more cases and deaths.

What seems forgotten here by all the people so enthused for lockdowns, is that the people being locked down are the same ones with businesses which pay taxes that fund the healthcare we enjoy in this country.

So shut us down to save us some Covid cases, but at what cost to all other health cases or potential deaths from other diseases? If, as many predict, this is something we will now have to live with much like a seasonal flu, then we need better ways of dealing with it than closing up New Zealand and hoping for the best.

I spoke with ANZ’S Chief Economist Sharon Zollner yesterday, she was saying how up until now, we‘ve been the envy of the world in terms of keeping our economy open, but as the vaccine rolls out in other countries way faster than it does here, we risk slipping behind.

Until we have herd immunity and everyone vaccinated, we’ll still be a risk, we‘ll still have borders closed, we won’t be as open for business as the rest of the world. So could our current Kiwi smugness end up being short lived?