Yesterday was DAY 5 in lock down as New Zealand tries to fight the COVID19 pandemic.
Over the past few weeks we have heard a lot about how this pandemic might play out, both in New Zealand and abroad. We have heard from people involved in the race to find a cure or at least some medicine that will cripple COVID19 about how a task that normally takes anywhere between a year and 2 1/2 years to a decade, will try to be achieved in 18 months. Others have talked about modelling the potential scenarios depending on a nation’s response to the pandemic.
I want to talk about how beating COVID19 is a bit like stopping a big train in a rush. You will be aware that hitting the brakes on a fully laden train that might be doing anywhere between 50km/h and 90km/h depending on whether it is in an urban area or a rural area, where the speed limits are different. The driver sees something that requires the train to be brought as quick a stop as possible. A freight train moving at speed needs about 1.5-2.0 kilometres to slow down. In northern Christchurch a northbound train that is doing 50km/h hits the breaks at the Fendalton Road crossing will cross it, the Wroxton and Glandovey Road level crossings before coming to a stop somewhere between Glandovey Road and Wairakei Road. That a distance of about 1.0km and would probably trigger the alarms for Wairakei Road.
It is similar with COVID19. You will have noticed we are locked down and the borders are closed to everyone except New Zealand permanent residents and citizens. However despite this attempt to apply the brakes, the number of cases continues to rise steadily and will continue to do so for the next several days. One estimate is that the rise in COVID19 cases will continue unabated until about 06 April 2020. If we are on schedule – which at this stage New Zealand is not (more on that later) – it will then take a few days to taper off completely before starting to slow down. It may be mid-April before it starts to slow down. The slow down likewise will take awhile before the COVID19 train comes to a stop. I suspect if mid-April is the point at which it starts to slow down, it might be early-mid May before it comes to a stop. It will go right through Easter, A.N.Z.A.C. Day and possibly reach Mothers Day before it stops.
Except that we want the freight train to get going again when the track is clear of whatever made the driver stop in the first place. COVID19 is different. We want this train to stop and stay stopped. Permanently.
New Zealand is not on schedule. Having not been in such a situation in modern times I did not fully expect it to be either. Our cases, if I had to guess, will not stop rising completely until about the end of the week that Easter Monday falls in. Sometime between then and A.N.Z.A.C. Day, when the Government will review the lock down, they will start falling, but will need to come to a complete stop. This will be a period with no new cases having been announced for several days at least to create a buffer between the last cases being announced and the last people being treated. I anticipate that will be in early May and possibly as late as Mothers Day (10 May).
But when I look at what is going on in Europe and the U.S., I think New Zealand is doing very well for the most part. For the very most part people want to get this over and done with. Going hard and going early was the right call, and when other countries are probably still struggling with it, hopefully we will be able to go to the pub and celebrate a hard job well done.
Before focusing on the long economic recovery.