Heather du Plessis-Allan: Listen to experts, not entrepreneurs, on coronavirus

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thu, 19 Mar 2020, 4:11PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Listen to experts, not entrepreneurs, on coronavirus

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thu, 19 Mar 2020, 4:11PM

I got an interesting email yesterday. It came from an American PR company working for a NZ entrepreneur. The PR guy asked if we put his client on the show to talk about coronavirus

The entrepreneur thinks the government’s not doing enough and they want to say publically what the government should be doing.

We weren’t the only show to get this email, and radio is not the only way this entrepreneur is banging that drum

I’m not going to name this person, because I think they mean well. They’re truly worried for the country

But even if they mean well, is it the right thing to take pandemic-management advice from a business person with absolutely no obvious qualifications in this area?

They are not experts, nor am I and nor are you. We don’t know how to handle this. We have no previous experience to compare this to. People study for years to know how to handle this kind of thing.

And yet we should listen to someone else whose watched videos on the internet?

Some of the suggestions I’ve heard from non-experts in the last week seem to like common sense. Test more, shut schools, close the borders.

But as logical as it sounds, it might not be the right idea. There may be unintended consequences.

Testing for example. We all want more tests, and South Korea is a stellar example of how extensive testing can help. But South Korea only ramped up those tests when they had people in the community passing the disease on and they needed to find those people.

We don’t have proof at this stage that people are passing it on in the community, and there are not infinite supplies of the testing kits. If we use them all up now, we might regret it.

Border closures, banning anyone from coming in, sounds wise, but if we ban all travellers, won’t all the planes stop coming? And the 80,000 kiwis who still want to get home might not be able to?

School shut down? Who looks after the kids?  Its fine for office workers who can do their jobs from home. It’s a lot harder if you’re in the freezing works.  You can call in the grandparents, but then you’ve got the super vulnerable looking after the super spreaders.

We can’t stop people from complaining publically about the government’s action or inaction. But we can and should judge for ourselves how much credibility they have on this particular subject, and decide how much attention we pay to them.