I’m feeling for everyone in the South Island as we watch what's happening in the North Island and hear the experts tell us it's only a matter of time before Delta makes its way here.
I think yesterday was probably one of the most, if not the most, disturbing day during this whole pandemic. Because we had the news about the 39 new cases in Auckland and Waikato; we had the news about the man in his 50s who died in hospital from COVID; and we had, what appeared to be, a government sitting and waiting to see what happens next.
And I think for the first time since the pandemic began last year, we also had people other than the Government talking about tighter restrictions. Waipa district mayor Jim Mylchreest, for example, said using roads as borders is difficult because there are all manner of roads snaking in and out of areas, so it’s not really effective. You can imagine it - there’s a checkpoint on the main drag, but there’s bound to be a back road somewhere, and you can go wherever you want.
So when you’ve got no clear steer coming from the Government, there will be no shortage of potential solutions being offered up. Such as my idea that we shut down movement of people between North Island and South Island until as many of us as possible here in the south have been fully vaccinated.
We have been COVID-free for months but, as the experts are pointing out, if Delta can cross the Tasman, it will get across Cook Strait.
Siouxsie Wiles is one of them. She says everywhere is vulnerable, especially places with limited access to hospital care. Which has been an issue in the South Island, particularly, ever since health funding started to be based on population levels. This goes back to the 1990s, if not earlier.
And Christchurch intensive care specialist Geoff Shaw is saying there is real concern throughout the South Island about hospitals getting overwhelmed. GPs are concerned too.
So we can’t wait. And that’s why I think that the border between the North Island and the South Island should be closed as soon as possible, with only essential health, police, military and supply chain workers allowed to travel between the islands. It would only be re-opened once 90 per cent of those of us here in the South Island who are eligible for the vaccine (that’s anyone over the age of 12) have had both of our COVID jabs.
The South Island is an asset in New Zealand’s pandemic response.
Its COVID-free status means our hospitals aren’t over-run and we are in the position where we can send medical staff to Auckland to help out. This is happening on a daily basis at the moment.
Our businesses are also operating at higher levels than businesses in the north, and generating revenue for the Government through the tax take.
This is an asset worth protecting.
So, how long might we shut ourselves off from the North Island? Well, that would depend on how long it took to get to that 90 per cent vaccination rate.
The looming Christmas holidays would be a great motivator, wouldn’t they? But, irrespective of how long it would take, closing the border between the North Island and South Island has to be up for discussion because, at the moment, we are sitting ducks.