Get it done

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
20 August, 2021

The best option in a bad state of the world is not going to be great. But taking it up is still the best response – while working to reduce the risk of it happening again.  

This week’s lockdown is necessary. And it is likely to be extended later this afternoon. Reported cases in Wellington make clear why the whole country was put under Level 4 for one case in Auckland.  

New Zealand does not have the vaccination rates allowing other options. Vaccination rates are even worse when we remember youths ineligible for the vaccine are still eligible to be infected and to infect others.  

The government’s announced mask mandate is also necessary. It reduces the risk. And the baseline risk from delta is substantial.  

All of it is frustrating.  

It appears the initial case likely came as a leak from MIQ but other sources took a bit of time to rule out. For far too long, the government failed to enforce testing requirements for arrivals from Australia, which could have easily resulted in an outbreak. 

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Wednesday that the Ministry was starting talks with private saliva-testing providers for surge capacity. That is promising. Rapid, non-invasive, low-cost testing is critical, especially when testing a large number of contacts. Rapid test results narrow down contact chains far more quickly.  

But it should have been ready in February. Rako Science has been testing privately since January. The Covid case in Wellington, involving Te Papa, should have been a wake-up call. Our government's pettiness about dealing with a private provider put us all in jeopardy. 

With the number of reported locations of interest, contact tracing will be stretched to the breaking point. Despite repeated warnings, last week's Skegg report confirmed that capacity was still insufficient. 

Hospital capacity still needs to scale up but seems not to have been a priority. The Taxpayers Union noted that Covid funding went to things like jobs for nature ($1.2b), school lunch programmes ($516m), and arts grants ($374m).  

Our vaccination programme is one of the slowest in the developed world. We will need boosters next year, but the government refuses to order any, even though orders are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The worst-case scenario in a bad world would be for frustration to boil over into a refusal to comply with harsh, but necessary, measures. 

Stay home. If you must go out, wear your mask.  

Do not put yourself and others at risk.  

But demand better.  

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