The Parlermaid

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reassured New Zealanders that the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 (‘the Order’) is “also about providing a greater protection than we have now. By using vaccine passes it makes sure that unvaccinated people aren’t being put at risk in environments where it is harder to keep them safe.” She says she is confident that the Order will do that.

Let’s be very clear though. The Order was not drafted to keep the unvaccinated minority safe. That was not its purpose – it is not about the health of one group over another. The stated purpose of the Order is to “prevent, and limit the risk of, the outbreak or spread of COVID-19, and to otherwise support the purposes of the Act”. The Act referred to is the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 (‘PHRA’).

The purpose of the PHRA is to support a coordinated, orderly, and proportionate public health response to COVID-19 that takes into account the infectious nature and potential for asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 in preventing or limiting the risk, outbreak or spread of COVID-19 – while at the same time avoiding, mitigating, or ensuring remedy for the actual or potential adverse effects of the COVID-19 outbreak (whether direct or indirect). The Order must allow for social, economic, and other factors to be taken into account where it is relevant to do so. These are the all-important premises of any Order issued under the PHRA.

So has Government actually done this?

Taking into account the infectious nature and potential for asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 among vaccinated individuals, long recognised by the Ministry of Health, there is no viable position that the Order can take that justifies the dismissal of unvaccinated individuals from their jobs in circumstances where prudent health and safety based risk assessments and other control measures make any increased risk among healthy unvaccinated individuals negligible or nil.

There has been no allowance for the social or economic fallout from the implementation of the Order on either individuals or businesses.

Given that most of the newly unemployed will not find alternative work and will lose their income, to be replaced by the very meagre unemployment benefit, the economic disadvantage is obvious. Anecdotally, newly unemployed couples are selling their homes and belongings to liquidate assets in the face of a long-term life on the dole. Getting another job or being reinstated in their lost careers is just not on the cards that they have been dealt by Labour.

Penalising businesses who do not or cannot comply, with fines up to $15,000.00 if they do not ‘punish by proxy‘ the community’s unvaccinated people by excluding them from goods, services, and the right to work, is far from taking into account the economic fallout of the Protection Framework; rather, it promotes a system of financial penalty with no assistance whatsoever provided for those businesses that are unable by virtue of their physical layout or staffing levels to fully abide by it.

In terms of proportionate prevention or limitation of risk or outbreak or spread, clearly, the Ministry of Health is well aware that unvaccinated individuals at the peak viral load (approximately two days before and three days after they develop symptoms) are as infectious as vaccinated individuals who may show no or very few symptoms to indicate their contagion. Asymptomatic vaccinated individuals are therefore more likely to spread the disease during peak viral load.

Excluding unvaccinated people from the provision of goods and services, and barring them from a variety of venues is simply not scientifically valid in the prevention or limitation of risk or transmission. It is purely punitive and the sole end goal of a Prime Minister who dared to openly smirk with self-satisfaction at the deliberate creation of ‘Two Classes’ of people in New Zealand.

Image credit The BFD.

There can be no doubt that the Order has failed its most fundamental purposes, and it is likely not lawful on that basis alone.

Instead, Ardern has undertaken a classic ‘bait and switch’ approach – now advising that her Traffic Light Protection Framework is about making sure that unvaccinated people “aren’t being put at risk in environments where it is harder to keep them safe”. That too is problematic, however, in light of the multitude of studies showing that natural immunity confers longer-lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalisation caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity[1]. Vaccinated individuals are more at risk than their unvaccinated counterparts with natural immunity.

The wheels are truly falling off the bus for the Labour government’s COVID-19 response. Every time they turn a corner it turns out they are in another blind alley. We had a time bonus bought by the hard yards run during the 2020 lockdown – we had time to prepare our hospitals, to educate the population about good health and boosting their immune systems naturally, and to encourage every non-controlling safety measure we had in our arsenal.

Instead, Ardern’s bloody-minded dedication to a failing vaccination programme[2] has taken us right back to square one, only now she’s caused incomprehensible damage to the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and businesses while doing so. And still, we wait for ICU and hospital capacity to be factored into our health response.

In one word: “Karekau”. Our government is simply “incompetent”.

[1] https://brownstone.org/articles/79-research-studies-affirm-naturally-acquired-immunity-to-covid-19-documented-linked-and-quoted/

[2] https://dailytelegraph.co.nz/opinion/the-long-read-jacinda-ardern-science-and-covid-mandates-events-facts-and-fallacies/

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