N.Z. in lock down: DAY 37


Yesterday was DAY 37 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

It has been interesting to look at the news from around the world these last few weeks and observe the hugely varied reactions of politicians and the public to COVID19. The diversity of reactions and responses has been quite profound. From the grim unity of New Zealanders going into lockdown to the increasingly violent division in the United States; from the quiet success of Taiwan to the flat out denialism over taking Brazil and some third world despots, the variation in the reactions and subsequent responses have been startling.

I will not concentrate on New Zealand so much as that is well documented and now receiving high praise from around the world, warranted or not. Instead I will look at some of New Zealand’s major international partners and where those partnership might go in the post-COVID19 environment.

A few days ago I examined the Australian response to COVID19 and noted that it is doing per head of capita, slightly better than New Zealand. The governments of both countries are talking to each other about how reopening the borders might happen, which is good. However, there are other nations that New Zealand and Australia should start talking to about an extended bubble. Taiwan is one of these nations. The island nation east of China has been one of the true success stories in the global campaign against COVID19. It has had just 429 confirmed cases, of which 324 have recovered with 6 deaths. No new cases have happened since 26 April. New Zealand and Taiwan have good relations and share similar democratic principles. South Korea is another one that could potentially be invited to join the bubble. It has 10772 cases of which 9072 have recovered, with new case rate per day in the single digits.

I now examine the risks posed to our small Pasifika neighbours like Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, and our Melanesian neighbours in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. These little island nations might have dodged a bullet by being remote and not having large numbers of tourists arriving like Tonga, Fiji and Samoa do. All of these islands have weak health and social welfare systems, which means a potential outbreak in any of them could be absolutely catastrophic. The last serious pandemic to affect them would have been the 1918-1920 influenza, which was transported around the world by ships carrying soldiers returning from the battlefields of Europe. A ship that was carrying infected New Zealand soldiers was allowed to dock in Apia during that time and 7,000 Samoans or about 1/5 of Samoa’s population then died.

It is not just these small nations that could be devastated. It is also the even smaller territories such as Wallis and Futuna, Niue, the Cook Islands, Tokelau, Kiribati, Palau and other tiny land masses could potentially have their entire populations wiped out. Because of the great risks posed to these nations, no one should be surprised that they were quick to slam their borders shut.

New Zealand and Australia need to take charge of aid to these little nations. They cannot afford the lack of transparency and the potential for agenda setting that goes with Chinese aid. Nor can we rely on American aid any for them any longer in the age of Donald Trump. Given the size of some of the smaller territories like Wallis and Futuna, a sum of say $200,000 directed through the Red Cross would be quite substantial.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 32


Yesterday was DAY 32 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

After an initially sluggish response, Australia now joins New Zealand as one of the leading countries in the war on COVID19. Although the “lucky country” has a population 5.1x that of New Zealand, its death rate has per head of population been at a slightly lower rate to that of New Zealand. On 26 April the New Zealand death toll stood at 18; the Australian death toll at just under 90. The number of cases per capita has had a similar trend. Compared to New Zealand’s 1470 as at 26 April, Australia has recorded about 6800.

Initially Australia did not seem to be taking the matter as seriously as New Zealand and it – rightly or wrongly – suffered considerable criticism as a result. Multiple times, despite the risk at that point being well advertized there were reports of large numbers of people at popular leisure spots such as Bondi Beach in Sydney. State Governors and health officials warned the public that if they continued to ignore the warnings much more stringent, large scale stay-at-home orders would be implemented.

For the most part, Australia seems to be complying. Unlike the catastrophic bush fire season of 2019-2020 where the Government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison was blasted both domestically and internationally for its lacklustre response to huge fires ravaging large tracts of the eastern seaboard, the individual State Governments and Federal Government appear to be working together. On 28 March 2020 Australia recorded 454 cases of COVID19; on 26 April 2020 22 cases were recorded.

Like New Zealand and elsewhere there are proponents of Australia going back to work quickly, despite the risk posed by COVID19. Just a few days ago 150 scientists wrote to the Federal Government warning them of the dangers that go with loosening the restrictions too soon.

We need to – and I am pleased to see this happening – start co-ordinating with Australia a phased reopening of our economies and borders. We might have been poles apart on the bush fire response, but Australia is definitely proving to be one of the brighter stars in the COVID19 sky and New Zealand should be grateful for that and encourage them on their way. This is all the more important since it looks like more distant (geographically and COVID19-wise)friends like Britain, the United States and Singapore are not as far out of the proverbial woods as we would like to think. For a while we might have to accept a closed international bubble limited to Australia, New Zealand, maybe Taiwan and also our Pasifika neighbours.

Does that mean thing are going perfectly? No. Australia, like New Zealand and other countries, is facing internal calls to be done with the restrictions, despite the fact that they are still – like New Zealand and other countries – recording dozens of cases a day as well as deaths. But fortunately our trans-Tasman neighbours seem not to be suffering protests by gun toting anti-Government demonstrators like the United States, or demonstrations such as those happening in Berlin and other German cities.

 

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 25


Yesterday was DAY 25 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

I monitor a range of media, political, economic, environmental and social commentators on Twitter. They include columnists such as conservative columnist Matthew Hooton and socialist commentator Chris Trotter, China specialist Anne-Marie Brady and a host of others.

Over the last 3 1/2 weeks, it has been really interesting watching the commentary flow about how New Zealand is doing, how we compare to other nations. But one thing that everyone seemed to have overlooked was how are our little Pasifika neighbours going.

It turns out, very well.

Last night Professor Brady, who works at University of Canterbury, had an idea on Twitter that I quite like about how New Zealand’s border might initially reopen. Professor Brady noted that the vast majority of small Pacific Island nations are clear of COVID19. In this she is thinking of – but not limited to:

  • Fiji
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Vanuatu
  • Solomon Islands

Her vision is of a small islands super bubble. Other commentators on the thread thought that if we do that, New Zealand’s role would be to ensure that the bubble is not breached by anyone with the virus, which would be done by requiring them to quarantine at N.Z. facilities before they travelled to anywhere else in the bubble.

Due to the heavy reliance of many of these places on tourism, but also recognizing that outsiders carrying COVID19 could potentially completely destroy the smallest of these states, this would be the most fool proof way. The United States is too risky by simple virtue of their lack of organization in defeating COVID19 and Autstralia, whilst having a falling rate of cases, has in effect detuned from its South Pacific responsibilities.

Even if this idea does not fly, this is a great opportunity for New Zealand to steal a lead in the South Pacific by offering to help them build up their health sectors. An investment in that could be looked as both an investment in their well being, but also an investment in New Zealand’s national security, by helping to ensure that these nations are not crippled in the future.

 

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.