COVID19: Tough times ahead for New Zealand

The times, they are a toughenin’. At a press conference on Saturday afternoon, the Government in response to the escalating COVID19 crisis, announced a blanket measure that after 0000 hours on Monday, all people entering New Zealand would have to self isolate for 2 weeks. Only those entering from the Pacific Islands would be exempt.

At the press conference two charts were shown. One showed a steep spike with fairly rapid tapering off and decrease. The other one showed a gentle upwards curve gradually tapering off and a slower decrease. Through both was a line that showed maximum hospital capacity. The former suggested that hospitals would be briefly overwhelmed by the surge in patients. The latter showed that they would be at or near capacity, but would cope.

The key points to take away from Ms Ardern’s press conference are:

  • No cruise ships will be allowed to dock in New Zealand until 30 June
  • All people entering, unless they are arriving via the Pacific Islands – Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Rarotonga – will be made to self isolate for 2 weeks on arrival
  • Cargo and freight will continue to arrive by ship and by aircraft

I agree fully with Ms Ardern’s comment that we must go in hard now and early.

For many New Zealanders this will mean some changes to everyday life.  For all New Zealanders it should mean that the following things are viewed as essential.

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Self isolation if sick
  • Follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines on their website and elsewhere – I have tried to get them to put up instructions in Hindi, Te Reo, at least a couple of the Island languages and Arabic

COVID19 is dangerous and we do not yet understand how it is working. However, we are very lucky in New Zealand in that we are one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and have a matching very high rating in this regard from Transparency International. It means in the case of COVID19, we can have greater confidence that our Ministry of Health is doing all it can. We also have a very well run, resourced and staffed health care system, which is what a lot of people in other countries do not have such great fortune. We are also lucky

Am I concerned? Absolutely. Working in the rental car sector, I can only imagine what is coming in the next few months as we try to tackle this. There might be job losses. There will definitely be a major slow down in hiring and the international market if I had to guess is going to all but dry up for awhile. Major events such as concerts are either being cancelled or – if it is a sporting fixture – being played in empty stadiums as the New Zealand cricket team did against Australia on Friday night.

Whilst having drinks with a mate on Friday night we were looking at the stock market charts from the day and wondering how much worse this could get. For the New Zealand SX  this was the worst day since the 1987 crash.

Should others be concerned? If you are not concerned, you are not paying attention! No country is likely to escape this. Even though African and Latin American nations have not got the same tourist traffic that north America, South East Asia, Europe and so forth have, they still have about 95 and 160 cases respectively across the two continents. Granted with travel bans coming into force all over the world, much of the remaining international air traffic is likely to subside, their numbers will most likely increase and maybe have a spike as well.

Where do I think New Zealand will go from here? It will probably worsen somewhat before it gets better, just because even though the Government is announcing significant restrictions, does not mean other nations are acting appropriately. There are a number of other nations that have not got their act together, and their poor recording and reporting mean they might be in worse circumstances than are being admitted to. We might yet have a spike as well.

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