Barry Soper: PM's playing with words - a new meaning for elimination?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 Apr 2020, 9:58AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Barry Soper: PM's playing with words - a new meaning for elimination?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 Apr 2020, 9:58AM

COMMENT:

We could all be forgiven for suffering, not from the dreaded and feared Covid-19, but from cabin fever after being on home detention for five weeks.

The Prime Minister's obviously lost count. As she was heaping praise on team New Zealand, all five million of us give or take a few, she admired the determination we have shown during the four weeks of lockdown, making sacrifices to protect the vulnerable.

But it seems Jacinda Ardern's also willing to accept a word can mean something other than what it was invented to mean. She and her head health honcho Ashley Bloomfield kept telling us at the beginning of the week that Covid-19 had been "eliminated", which seemed strange considering they were standing alongside each other still reporting new cases.

Clearly their spin doctors were sounding like humming tops overnight because the pair emerged the next day and set about reinventing the word.

But the impact of it had already resonated around the world, resulting in even more praise being heaped on Ardern, setting her aside from all the others as being the leader among leaders at a time like this.

Ardern's now putting the use of the word 'elimination' down to technical epidemiologist talk and she's adopting a new word - eradication - which would now seem to be the new, ultimate gold standard.

Bloomfield weighed in when he conducted this daily call of the latest numbers, explaining what they actually meant by claiming elimination.

It seems in his book, elimination under alert level 4 means something different to what it does under level 3 but now admits it actually hasn't been achieved.

He then he went on to explain elimination "is not a point in time - it's not 'we've got to the end of alert level 4, we've eliminated it'.

"It's not something that you can just say 'done and dusted' - it is an ongoing effort."

Bloomfield defined the "elimination" goal as "a small number of cases, a knowledge of where those cases are coming from and an ability to identify cases early, stamp them out and maintain strict border restrictions so we're not importing new cases. That's what underpins the elimination goal".

He admits it's confusing and says the water may have been muddied but appeared satisfied it had now been cleansed.

But it's even more polluted than it was before they made the claim.

Having announced late last week that the daily duo with Bloomfield was going to be her last, Ardern had, within hours, changed her mind. They'll be back offering us words of encouragement and probably others that we'll struggle to understand the meaning of.

Imagine their explanation of eradication, although when it comes to Simon Bridges at least Ardern will know what she will hope it means for her.

But then, that's politics and this is level 3.

 Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website