The PM’s address about the four-stage alert levels for Covid-19 was intended to reassure the nation, but instead of averting panic, her disappointing lack of leadership fuelled it.

Ardern was criticised for not closing airports earlier and for allowing cruise ships, (breeding grounds for the virus), to dock at New Zealand ports. After the Ruby Princess, with sick people on board, had disgorged sightseeing passengers into Wellington, four people tested positive for the virus in Sydney last week.

“Ardern defended not shutting the borders earlier, saying that doing so with only 28 confirmed cases was an aggressive move.

She said cruise ships had been barred when asked about a cruise ship arrived yesterday.

No one in the world has taken the measures that we have as early as we have. We have had police knocking on people’s doors checking that they’re self-isolating.”

A newspaper

Besides being untrue, isn’t it a tad premature to brag about being ahead of other countries when our Covid-19 trajectory has only just begun? With Italy’s tragedy staring us in the face, it is clear the PM’s measures are nowhere near aggressive enough.

Italy is in green and we are the yellow line following their path.

All we needed was a simple two-step process based on the KISS strategy: step one to prevent Covid-19 from entering the country, and step two to prevent the spread if step one failed.

Instead, Ardern adopted an inflexible, set in stone, four-step check-the-box process which was no match for the nimble Chinese Coronavirus dragon. The dragon is winning.

Our biggest weapon is our watery borders that provide us with a natural defence. Had it been used swiftly enough, the dragon may have been repelled, or at the very least, slowed down. We didn’t act and the Chinese dragon now roams freely, spreading the lethal virus. Even now, we fumble with this valuable weapon. Xavier Theodore Ordinary writing for The BFD says “It is criminal how the COVID-19 crisis has been handled at the border”, and last week complaints were made about non-existent airport security.

“A Kiwi traveller was left stunned after claiming Auckland Airport hadn’t run any health checks on passengers arriving back from Hong Kong this morning. The Auckland man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he had recently travelled around Vietnam and Singapore before returning home. But when he arrived at Auckland Airport, he walked straight through customs and security with no additional screening or health checks.”

A newspaper

The second and last step to prevent the dragon from breathing Covid-19 fire is everyone, except essential services, must go home and stay home. It’s a tough call, but one that Italians, in their distress, are urging other countries to move faster on. Their lethal dragon is still gaining momentum because they were too slow.

“Italy now has more than 53,000 recorded infections and more than 4,800 dead, and the rate of increase keeps growing, with more than half the cases and fatalities coming in the past week.”

Despite now having some of the toughest measures in the world, Italian authorities fumbled many of those steps early in the contagion — when it most mattered as they sought to preserve basic civil liberties as well as the economy.

Italy’s piecemeal attempts to cut it off — isolating towns first, then regions, then shutting down the country in an intentionally porous lockdown — always lagged behind the virus’s lethal trajectory.

But the tragedy of Italy now stands as a warning to its European neighbors and the United States, where the virus is coming with equal velocity. If Italy’s experience shows anything, it is that measures to isolate affected areas and limit the movement of the broader population need to be taken early, put in place with absolute clarity, then strictly enforced.”

New York Times

The dragon is hungry and fast, much faster than the WHO guidelines on Covid-19 that Ardern implemented and then boasted about “going hard and going early”.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards says “some public health experts and commentators do not believe the Government is being radical enough, and that the consequences, in terms of life and death, could be huge.”

“Over 3000 people have signed a petition to Jacinda Ardern started by Dr Kelvin Ward, who says New Zealand needs to go to level 4 alert now to prevent the overrun of our health system and “countless unnecessary deaths”.

However New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) calls the number of medical professionals who have signed “absolutely disappointing” – and warns the petition’s “very likely” to cause panic.”

Bryce Edwards

Panic won’t maim or kill us but the dragon will slay us.

By the time the PM made her second report to the nation about Covid-19, parents had already started taking children out of school and pre-school and stocking up their cupboards with essentials. When the government moves too slowly or doesn’t do enough, naturally we do everything we can to protect ourselves.

“Leading the charge for a more radical approach is University of Otago Professor of Public Health, Michael Baker, who has been advocating for months that an aggressive approach is required to stave off disaster.

Baker, who is an expert in the spread of pandemics and how to control them argues that New Zealand is wrong to take what he sees as a “conservative” approach in which it is accepted that Coronavirus will become widespread here with the emphasis on managing it.

He argues New Zealand has a small window of opportunity to stop the spread of coronavirus, and needs to take extreme measures, such as an immediate lockdown of the country: “It sounds melodramatic to say now or never, but I think it’s the case”. He advocates the Government immediately lift the official Alert Level to Three or Four.”

There is little confidence that this government has done enough planning for a crisis of the magnitude of Italy’s whose trajectory we are following.

We are not confident the government is doing enough. We are not confident there are enough Covid-19 testing kits. We are not confident enough testing is being done. We are not confident the government is investigating drugs to fight the disease or that we have sufficient stocks of them.

How much of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine or the updated hydrochlorquine do we have? How much of the rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizuman and the antibiotic azithromycin used in conjunction with chloroquine? Are medical staff even aware these drugs are being used successfully overseas to reduce the severity of Covid-19 and save lives?

Desperate times call for desperate measures and more flexibility than that displayed by this government. Little wonder people take safety measures into their own hands.

The BFD. Photoshopped image credit Pixy.

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