N.Z. in lock down: DAY 6

Yesterday was DAY 6 of New Zealand being in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

There are times when I am truly frustrated with New Zealand. There are times when the Mixed Member Proportional system of governance, combined with our laissez faire “she’ll be right” attitude to society, to life is like a car revving its guts out, with the hand brake still on.

But right now is not one of those times. In a world where much bigger, better resourced nations that should be leading decisively, showing the rest of the world how to beat COVID19, we are seeing the major powers make massive mistakes that are literally killing people, accelerating their case rate, accelerating the probability of a massive medical catastrophe. We are seeing countries that our grand parents were encouraged to look up to and say this is who New Zealand should be following – the United States, Britain, Australia, and that little ol’ New Zealand is too small to do big things.

This really is not one of those times. The nations that are leading the world at the moment, with New Zealand in pursuit are Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea. These nations have the experience of the S.A.R.S. emergency in 2009, and out of that realized that their testing regimes, their hospitals and nursing systems had to be overhauled. They realized that should a pandemic hit, they have to have action plan ready to go and be prepared to enforce it rigorously. Dutifully all three nations made those preparations and although none of them are yet clear of COVID19 cases, compared with Spain, Italy and the United States, they have the situation well at hand.

New Zealand is not quite tracking like they are yet, but we are doing well. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet made the decision to “go hard and go early”, realizing the longer we waited the worse it would be and the more explosive the growth rate in cases would be – hundreds, maybe even thousands, instead of several dozen a day at the moment. Our case rate is moving further away from doubling every couple of days and is now taking several days to double, meaning our rate is growing in linear fashion instead of exponentially.

Is our response perfect? No. And nor is anyone else’s. All nations with COVID19 cases are probably looking back at their progress so far and probably wishing they had done things a bit differently. In the case of New Zealand, we should have probably arranged bus companies to scour both islands and round up any travellers who wanted to get out of the country before the borders shut and get them to Christchurch or Auckland airports. In reverse, maybe a pair of Air New Zealand charter flights using 777’s or 787’s to likewise recover New Zealanders wanting to get out of Europe and Asia before they shut down would have been useful as well.

Our biggest challenge will be in a few weeks, when the pressure to relax the lock down will really kick in. People will want to see businesses rapidly reopening, but we will have to be patient. Much of the world will still be in lock down and the borders shut, which I suspect will probably be until late this year if the news from popular travel locations such as the United States and Europe are anything to go by.

But for now, New Zealand needs to keep doing what it is doing. It needs to look to Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan for signals rather than our traditional friends in the U.S. and Europe. And whilst acknowledging the very gloomy time it must be for businesses here, they, like the rest of New Zealand are on board with the idea that beating COVID19 involves an all in effort. As the financial year ends and the new one starts, we should thank them for that.

N.Z in lock down: DAY 5

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.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 4

Yesterday was DAY 4 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to tackle the COVID19 pandemic.

As the reality of lock down makes itself known, I am sure I am not the only person wondering what happens when the Government decides there is no good justification for persisting with the lock down. With an economy ground to a halt, and most probably by then have shed tens of thousands of jobs across the board, getting back on our feet will not be a walk in the park.

There will be many challenges. Bars, restaurants, cafes, butcheries, bakeries, eateries, and even service stations will have to wait whilst the chains that supplied their edible goods get re-established. Those establishments whose performance was marginal and might have struggled to stay open over the quieter winter months, this might be a death blow. The four weeks that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said we will be locked down for is most probably a conservative estimate and 5-6 weeks is probably more likely.

But the demand will surely be there as soon as people have good reason to think that COVID19 is gone and that it is safe to start venturing out. I am in that year group where a huge number of people I know are having 40th birthdays and the several who found their plans for a big party and night on the town put on ice by COVID19 will be wanting their fun. Fortunately I am in December, so by the time my birthday rolls around, New Zealand should be fully open again. The organizers of all the many weddings and hens and stag nights that would have been on, and which have postponed, will be looking at options for rescheduling them.

But it will not be just the hospitality industry that is looking for a rapid revival. The construction sector will be looking for a shot in the arm to get things moving as well. A few minutes walk from my place is a two story rest home complex being constructed and I think the first stage is meant to be opening in June – I doubt it will be ready before August now. The Christchurch Convention Centre called Te Pae, and the Metro Sports facility are now both behind schedule.

The Government is promising a massive infrastructure splurge to get things moving again. Treasurer, Grant Robertson has promised to open the wallet for a substantial shot in the arm, on top of the billions that have been already allocated to supporting workers whose employers have shut and assistance for those with no work. The measure is one that I support, but I want the decision makers to think boldly about green infrastructure such as hydrogen plants instead of petroleum or diesel facilities, looking at e-waste recovery facilities and waste to energy plants.

However it is the tourism industry that is in the worst shape and it might well be the tourist industry that is still in the worst shape even after the economy is moving. Because of its high reliance on tourists from other countries, which might not have been so proactive as New Zealand in shutting down COVID19, tourism operators, small businesses will be slower to get back on their feet. Businesses such as the bakeries in Geraldine and Fairlie in south Canterbury, which are among the biggest employers in those towns will have taken substantial hits and most probably laid off staff. With everyone instructed to stay home there, will also be no case for tourism operators working, and those with expensive assets such as helicopters and light aircraft, which cost substantial dollars for every hour they are grounded, may fold.

And finally there is the service industry. The sector supplying services to the other sector – in the case of my work, rental cars – is severely restricted in terms of what it can do. Whilst a few rental cars may be required by Government agencies for official business, its lock down period is unlikely to immediately end just because the restrictions have been lifted. My guess is that I might not have work for 6 weeks/early May.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 3

Yesterday was DAY 3 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to beat the COVID19 pandemic.

Last night I was wondering what the Police would be doing with themselves. Friday and Saturday nights are normally among their busiest nights of the week as they deal with drunks, fights, assaults, disorderly behaviour – all the usual problems that go with drinking alcohol. With all of the bars, restaurants, night clubs, cafes, take away shops, fast food places and so forth shuttered until sometime in late April at the earliest, I am sure they will be looking forward to an associated drop in alcohol fuelled crime in the usual hot spots.

I am however certain that a couple weeks from now, with any novelty that might have existed at the start of this lock down having thoroughly worn off, that there will probably be an increase in cases of Police being called to people’s homes. There will be an unfortunate few whose ability to control themselves and not lash out at their spouses, at their kids will be fracturing. No doubt there will also be more tense moments where normal debates become full blown arguments.

At home it was pretty quiet yesterday. A cold and overcast sky with a brisk southwesterly wind pushing the along the odd shower along meant that it was Christchurch’s first truly indoors kind of day in the COVID19 lock down. I cleaned out my wardrobe – or at least tried before realizing the extent of a previous attempt was much more comprehensive than I remembered it being and there was actually very little to do. For fun, and just as a way of help away the time, I have also started an Excel spreadsheet recording the daily statistics from the Ministry of Health COVID19 update.

I continued my exercise, albeit taking a shorter route and being out for about 25-30 minutes, as opposed to about 70 minutes on Thursday. Despite the colder weather, I saw more people out for exercise than I did moving cars. I believe that as long as people maintain the 2 metre spacing between themselves and others, go by themselves or with their “bubble” – whoever is living with you – without stopping to talk to anyone, it is quite okay to walk, jog, run, bike.

In the next day or so I will finish my assignment for University. I will also do my first study in nearly 2 weeks, having had most of the last fortnight upended like everyone else by a combination of COVID19 announcements and stressful days at work.

Comparing conservative government and social government responses to COVID19

This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.


In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s. Although Australia’s rate of new cases is falling, only a comprehensive response will ensure it continues to fall.


In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.


In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.


In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.


Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.