At last: Action against COVID-19

At the Prime Minister’s press conference today announcing Level 4 lockdown Jacinda Ardern said, “If community transmission takes off in New Zealand the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens unchecked our health system will be inundated and tens of thousands of New Zealanders will die.” Ardern reminded the media that at 102 cases New Zealand was at the same level as Italy was at not long ago. 

At last, realism. My mood has brightened considerably now that a way forward to beat the epidemic has been mapped out. After listening to days of bromide from the Ministry of Health, I and other parents had already voted with our feet and withdrawn our kids from school. Now we’ve been ordered to. 

Now the government must follow WHO advice and “test, test, test.”

Criticism of government inaction had been mounting. A petition authored by Dr Kelvin Ward quickly garnered 10,000 signers. It called for:

  • The full quarantine of patients rather than self-isolation.
  • Increased testing and contact tracing.
  • Self-isolation of all asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) contacts.
  • A mandatory social lockdown.

Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s former chief science advisor, had called for an extreme shutdown.

All socialists must welcome the emergency restrictions and be champions for abiding by them. The more strictly they are followed, the sooner will the epidemic be beaten. 

The restrictions should be taken a step further by instituting quarantine instead of self-isolation for confirmed cases, possible suspected cases and people entering the country by air or ship. People arriving at international airports and ports should be put into quarantine there and then. Official government advice to the question ‘How do I get from the airport to where I am staying?’ is still lax: “You can only use public transport (taxis, buses, riding sharing services or other public transport) after you arrive in New Zealand, for the SOLE purpose of getting directly to the place where you will self-isolate.” 

This has been a good day in Aotearoa, but not so in many other countries where the response to the health crisis is still remains woefully inadequate and where we must expect a terrible toll.