I applaud the Prime Minister and her government for her actions in recognizing the seriousness of the coronavirus and now moving rapidly to alert level 4 – shutting down the country this Wednesday. Phew, not before time. 

However, being of the left persuasion she must find it painful to have to dispense with her usual corporate-speak, avoidance, and euphemisms when addressing issues. So far so good. 

To make a point during these unprecedented, anxious times, strong stark words are required. And fear can be effective to get into some people’s heads that this is really serious, not playschool.

In my opinion, the word ‘Quarantine’ should have been used. More definite and clear than the more euphemistic ‘social or physical isolation’. And phrases like the invisible deadly killer to describe the virus should be up everywhere to illustrate for children (and big children) the severity of our situation. 

Examples of adults intending, during shut down, to go fishing, or requesting farmers’ markets remain open as the produce is much fresher there, have popped up on talkback. ‘First world problems’ are clouding the judgement of these people, who are used to their independence and living off the fat of the land. They are in denial and are refusing to face our new reality. 

We need to be reminded of the conditions our ancestors endured last century, living through the first and second world wars and the Great Depression, when austerity and rationing were their harsh reality. There was no selfish stockpiling of food, no supermarkets; just the corner shop to hand in their meagre supply of food coupons to buy the basics to survive. And find their happiness in the simple things of life. 

The PM has employed the word ‘alert’ for each of the four stages of severity which we are moving very quickly through. Brave woman, given her minister’s distaste for the word.

I am reminded with amusement of a recent parliamentary question time, when Minister Hipkins, always ready to rebuke the opposition and give them a mini-tutorial, did so whilst addressing measures being taken for schools over Covid-19. 

He rebuked them for using the word ‘alert’. He said it was too severe a word, too harsh for the children’s tender ears, or words to that effect. I laughed out loud and despaired how someone so naïve, impractical and grounded in ideology could be in charge of the country’s education. (Despite the fact that at times I enjoy his quick-witted positive responses, a welcome respite from the dull-witted confrontational approach of so many of his colleagues.) 

So, Minister Hipkins, I hope you have emerged from your safe space and are readjusting to our brave new world and new norm of harsher ‘politically incorrect’ language. The four ‘alert’ levels along with a plethora of information to fight our new common enemy are in our faces everywhere we look as the government’s public health information campaign has kicked into full throttle; and not before time.

Politically correct, ideological euphemisms (and stupidity) must be put aside in the face of our impending war against the invisible deadly killer, the coronavirus as we fight this new enemy together as a nation.

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