New Zealand’s borders remain closed to the world, with returning residents forced into managed isolation facilities.

The government’s 26 temporary quarantine facilities – which are essentially commandeered hotels – have the capacity to accommodate 6,849 people. They are almost full. Several residents are reported to have behaved badly. Some have escaped, placing others at risk. The police will now be guarding them.

Airlines, including Air New Zealand, have been asked to “do what is right” and limit their capacity into New Zealand in order to ease the pressure.

Instead of front-footing the problem, the government is now in charge of an unfolding fiasco. So long as COVID-19 remains at large overseas, New Zealand will (due to current policy) be isolated from the world.

There is no Plan B. The cost of running these facilities is enormous and, like ‘homelessness’, potentially never-ending.

The cost of our isolation to the economy is crippling. A cynic would say we are only likely to find out the true extent of the carnage after the election.

Some questions:

Given that the returnee New Zealanders in quarantine facilities didn’t do the ‘hard yards’ with us when we were in Level 3 and Level 4, and didn’t heed the warning to return pre-lockdown, why is the taxpayer footing the bill for their two-week hotel stays now? Why are the people in managed quarantine facilities not required to pay for themselves?

If arrivals were required to pay for themselves, would this reduce the demand to return?

If it would, are people really returning out of necessity?

The government recently extended a $37m package to non-New Zealanders who are ’stranded’ here. Yet when non-residents apply for visas to enter the country they are supposed to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to cover their own costs. This should include insurance. Why is the taxpayer funding these people? And why are we not sending them home at their own expense on one of Air New Zealand’s planes which are currently flying empty?

Seeing as COVID-19 has a ‘long tail’ overseas, how long does the government expect to be running its quarantine facilities, and what will be the eventual cost to the taxpayer? More to the point, how long do we expect to keep our borders closed?

Why is the government not screening for COVID-19 in the general population? The ‘accepted wisdom’ is that New Zealand has only been exposed to it in isolated ‘clusters’, whereas widespread testing in other countries has found that between five and 30 percent of people have had it – with many remaining asymptomatic. Are we being too smug in assuming that the sweating hordes who descended on our main centres and country towns last summer, busy as they were dropping litter and defecating in our waterways, didn’t bring it with them?

If COVID-19 has been more prevalent in New Zealand than we think, should we not be finding this out? And should we then re-assess the risk?

Should we not be planning to open our borders – even if only to selected countries – in order to re-start the stalled sectors of our economy?

Should we not be extending assistance to those who are most at risk from COVID-19 – such as the elderly – while doing everything we can to restore international travel?

Rather than threatening the general population, isn’t the real risk posed by COVID-19 the possible collapse of our poor and ineffective health system – which struggles to keep up with others in the developed world? Why aren’t we doing something about that?

Is the nanny state killing us with its perverse and suffocating brand of ‘kindness’?

The BFD. Photoshopped image credit Boondecker. Concept credit: Juana

Am I the only person in New Zealand not on a government wage subsidy? Are all of the subsidies necessary, or are some people enjoying an unnecessary free ride? Does anyone else care about this, or have we all become too complacent as we watch the national debt soar towards 60 percent of GDP, much as we would watch the New Year fireworks, before going home to sleep off a hangover?

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