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.

Comparing conservative government and social government responses to COVID19 Part 2


In my previous post I examined the responses of several conservative governments around the world to the COVID19 emergency. I sought out the potential deaths and the actual deaths to give you an idea of what different countries were facing under their conservative governments.  In this article I examine the responses of notable socialist governments around the world to COVID19, using the same format.

The most notable socialist government in the world – actually a Stalinist state known as the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) – is also the least responsive and by far the most deceiving. Governed by the cultish figure of Kim Jong Un, North Korea can apparently do no wrong. Mr Kim has brazenly told the world COVID19 does not exist in North Korea, which is, despite the severe travel restrictions almost certainly untrue given China is on one side and South Korea the other. Most probably a large unknown number are infected, and many more will eventually become so as the North Korean regime and military get top priority for just about all goods and services in the country.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: UNKNOWN.

South Korea elected a more progressive Government under Moon Jae In, which has overseen one of the best responses to the COVID19 emergency so far. South Korea saw the COVID19 outbreak coming based on their experience with the SARS outbreak in 2009. Harsh lessons were taught in 2009 that South Korea was made to learn. Testing as many people as possible is everything. Decisive leadership with clear communications about the expectations on the people and the full on practicing of social distancing, have all contributed to the improving situation we see there today.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 120

In Canada in the week of 12 March, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie Gregoire tested positive in mid March. The following week Canada rapidly ramped up its efforts against COVID19, blocking non-Canadians from entering, advising against international travel and blocking non-essential travel across the border with the U.S. in both directions. In the same week, the hospitality and primary education sectors. Gatherings of more than fifty have been banned. States of Emergency were also declared in the same week in every province.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 27

Whilst the COVID19 pandemic has taken longer to reach South America than many other places, it has developed 387 cases in Argentina. Thus far 4 people have died across the country from it. Most cases seem to be concentrated around Buenos Aires. A mandatory lock down was put in place from 20 March to 31 March. Argentina’s relatively well resourced health care system and

POTENTIAL ARGENTINIAN DEATHS:  TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 4

The spread of COVID19 has not been as fast in Africa, where it is only just starting to take hold in countries now. Much of this might be due to Africa lacking the airline connections that are found throughout Europe, Asia, North America. However no African nations have the medical resources available in western countries to combat COVID19 and poor testing regimes mean it is not clear whether it is spreading undetected or being hampered by the climate. Nor do many African nations have comprehensive plans isolating their patients. The largest number of cases reported are in South Africa, which is going into lock down.

POTENTIAL SOUTH AFRICAN DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 0

The uncertainty about how African and Latin American nations are going to respond to COVID19, the lack of transparency of other nations does not give either conservative or socialist governments a clear advantage. I left out Singapore, which has been very successful in testing because it is a one party state. I considered Middle Eastern nations but decided I did not understand enough about their respective politics to judge. The potential deaths are based on their population sizes and the quality of their health services.

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

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.


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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 500; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

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.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

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.

COVID19: A great leveler of society


There is nothing like a major disaster to make people realize that social classes are a construct that is only as good as the events – natural, technological, economic and so forth – that toppled it. And as the world realizes this is the most global disaster since World War 2, COVID19 is testing that very construct, possibly to its limits.

Its complete and utter disregard for all walks of life across nations on both sides of the equator shows that COVID19 is sparing no part of society. Politicians, sports people, artists, students, people in every day jobs are finding that there are things that can cut a swathe right through society.

For the first time ever New Zealand’s borders are closed. Only New Zealand Citizens and Permanent Residents can enter. For the first time tourists have been deported, not for being tourists, but because they ignored the 14 day self isolation rule. Parliament is planning for a potential time in the near future where it will have to run on a skeleton staff, with minimal Members of Parliament present in the House of Representatives.

I look at the Christchurch earthquake as an example of how a disaster is some sort of crude equalizer. I have to look no further than the suburbs on the Port Hills, where many properties were well in excess of $1 million in value prior to the earthquakes of 2010-2011. Standing near cliff faces of hardened basaltic lava that flowed from the Lyttelton volcano, every time a significant earthquake hit (04 September 2010; 22 February 2011; 13 June 2011; 23 December 2011), metres of cliff face fell into Lyttelton Harbour, the sea around Scarborough Heads and onto the ground in Redcliffs. Houses that were 20-30 metres from the sea now found themselves being hastily abandoned.

At the other end of the scale, people living in poor socio-economic areas such as Aranui and Wainoni were no better off either. Many of these people had to move into the emergency accommodation set up in the gymnasium’s of major high schools, such as Burnside and Papanui High in lesser damaged parts of the city. A combination of lateral spreading and liquefaction wrecked many properties, which were red zoned.

Everyone was subject to Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, which was invoked to declare a major State of Emergency. This meant Civil Defence could direct what resources it deemed necessary to get on with response tasks could be requisitioned. A dusk to dawn curfew was imposed; schools were shut for a month; the New Zealand Defence Force had its largest peace time deployment to assist with emergency logistics; law and assisting with search and rescue.

Despite its very different origins, cause and effects, COVID19 is no different. By order of the Government nowhere can have more than 100 people indoors. Nowhere can have more than 500 people outdoors. Places that do must immediately shut until the numbers of people present are at or less than those numbers, which has meant the calling off or cancellation of some high profile weddings/receptions in New Zealand and abroad (musician Lizzie Marvelly; Princess Eugenie of U.K.). Countries like Italy where younger people and older people tend to be together more, are finding that there is a grim price to be paid, with thousands of deaths and the whole country is in lock down.

In New Zealand universities are putting their content online as lecture theatres are inside and thus cannot hold more than 100 people, even if everyone was socially distanced by two empty seats. Museums, libraries, public pools and other attractions are being closed. As yet we have not moved to a nation wide shut down, but that is possible in the coming days