Barry Soper: PM to reveal new level 3 details - but our leaders went too far

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Apr 2020, 9:47AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Barry Soper: PM to reveal new level 3 details - but our leaders went too far

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Apr 2020, 9:47AM

COMMENT:

It's true that with the benefit of hindsight we would all be much better off, and that most certainly applies to political decisions.

Some of us were aghast when the Prime Minister announced on a Saturday afternoon just over a month ago that New Zealand would the following midnight expect everyone arriving in the country to self-isolate for a fortnight.

They had to extend the midnight deadline by an hour to account for the planes already on the way here. That immediate reshuffle of the timeline should have been a signal to all of us to worry about what was to come.

On that Saturday afternoon some, if not most, of us saw the inevitability of what lay ahead.

Over the coming days the self-isolators went on walkabout, hardly surprising given the Beehive edict had obviously put paid to their well-laid plans.

Our lifeblood had just developed a major clot and our economic heart was close to flat lining.

Several business leaders contacted within hours of the announcement were dumbfounded; they couldn't believe what they had just heard from the Beehive.

Our prosperous airline was almost immediately in free-fall and they knew it. It didn't take hindsight to know the die had been cast.

The Beehive boffins came up with four alert levels and within days we were locked into the harshest.

That was the clot that stopped the economic heartbeat.

Today the Prime Minister will tell us what to expect if Cabinet decides on Monday to move us down to the level we were actually in for a couple of days, which isn't much different to what we've been in for the past three weeks.

Why Jacinda Ardern has to spell out what the new level would look like is essentially because they know they went too far. There was no need to strangle the economy the way they did. The Australians have shown us that with similar results to us in fighting the dreadful virus but keeping their economy ticking over.

Grant Robertson, who seems much more enthusiastic about moving out of the lockdown than his cautious boss does, gave us a pretty good indication what to expect from Ardern when he spoke to Business New Zealand yesterday.

Robertson said the goal would be to expand economic activity to allow those which were safe but not essential to operate.

The Finance Minister, who's become a bit like the stoker shovelling money into the firebox of a steam train, says business would have to give assurances they can operate while maintaining social distancing and have the ability to build contact-tracing tools to keep track of their supply chains and customers.

It's a pity safety wasn't the criteria for business from the beginning. If it had been, the economic pulse - as weak as it might have been - would still be felt.

Now the ultra-expensive defibrillator will have to do the work - and let's hope the first shock will start to show a bit of life this time next week.