I think we have reason to feel fairly buoyed by the official response to the Northland Covid case.
The contact tracing, the testing, the technology: all that stuff that we were all pushing the government to improve last year is clearly working well.
Obviously they are still in the very early days of getting hold of everyone with whom the woman may have been in contact and who stayed at the hotel, and so the picture may yet change a bit, but so far there seems little to panic over, especially seeing that neither the woman’s husband and hairdresser have tested positive - which suggests the woman may not be a big spreader of the virus.
But I think there is something we need to keep an eye on and that is what improvements to MIQ are made to prevent this happening again.
I am a little bit worried about what has been dubbed a ‘sluggish’ response to adapting to changes.
This popped up in an article in the Sunday Star Times over the weekend. To make it into Sunday’s paper, it had to have been written and submitted by Saturday at the latest, which is to say it was written before we knew of this outbreak.
And in the article, Michael Baker says changes need to be made to MIQ so that the more contagious UK and South African Covid variants don’t leak out into New Zealand.
And look what happened the very day that article went to print. We got news the South African variant had leaked out.
And this despite the fact that Baker and others have been urging health authorities for months now to adapt and warning them that we are in possibly our most high risk period right now.
He says the authorities are “sluggish” - his word - in adapting to the new level risk.
If you look back you see plenty of examples of them ignoring Baker’s advice for months before they inevitably are forced to do exactly what he said.
He suggested face masks on planes for months. The Ministry of Health poo-pooed that idea until they adopted that idea.
He suggested everyone get a negative test before they jump on a plane to New Zealand. Even Jacinda Ardern said no it wouldn’t necessarily work until her government made it a rule last week.
So I’ve been watching and listening to the government interviews and press conferences today with that mind. How much of what they are poo pooing right now will they just end up doing in a few months?
And the main things are what Baker is recommending in order for us to be able to deal with these new, more contagious variations:
Stop people mixing in MIQ, especially in smoking areas
Take MIQ facilities out of main centres
Turn down the tap on people arriving from those parts of the world where these contagious strains are prevalent.
That last point is not crazy. Australia has done it.
Baker’s been proven right. This variant is contagious enough to make it past MIQ. How much of what he’s recommending right now could prevent that happening again? How long before the Ministry of Health actually makes the necessary changes to stop it?