Last night, the wife and I raised our glasses (Giesen NZ Riesling 2017 if you’re curious) to celebrate the news that the nation will move from COVID-19 Alert Level Four to Level Three as from 11:59 PM on Monday, 28 April.
In practical terms, going to Level Three will make little difference to our personal lives. Our isolation bubble will not expand – it will remain at just two people. All retail facilities in town will remain closed apart from those that have been allowed to remain open during Level Four – supermarkets, pharmacies and service stations.
However it will mean that we will be able to drive the few kilometres to Kitchener Park and take the boardwalk through the forest. One difference here will be that when the wife needs to sit to ease her back pain, she’ll use a collapsible 3-legged stool instead of the fifteen or so park benches scattered along the walk – all in the interests of preventing contamination of our bubble.
Perhaps the most significant easing that Level Three provides for us will be that many more items will be able to be purchased online for delivery to our home. Currently deliveries can be made only for products that are considered essential.
We have also been given a start date for our home renovations – 1st of June, provided the Alert Level has dropped below Level Three. As almost all work will be inside, there’s no way we can keep our bubble protected from the various trades people who will be working on the project.
Unlike in the US, where we have seen news clips of shoulder to shoulder demonstrators calling for the end of COVID-19 restrictions, here we’re seeing concern that the relaxations are happening too soon. Under Level Three, child care facilities can re-open as can and schools for students from Year 1 through to Year 10. The emphasis is on can. Government advice is to keep kids home if at all possible. But there is considerable apprehension from staff mostly around managing social distancing for children – something that will be almost impossible to control.
Our Prime Minister has an approval rating of around 90% for her handling of the pandemic, even though our nationwide lockdown has been one of the most restrictive of any nation – certainly among those with a Western style democracy.
This is no more readily apparent than the public reaction to a comment on facebook by Simon Bridges, leader of the National Party and the Parliamentary Opposition, and currently chair of the Epidemic Response Committee, where he was critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Most see it as political grandstanding, including many National Party supporters. At time of writing, the post has attracted over 28,000 comments – mostly negative.
News headlines are suggesting there’s leadership coup being planned within the National Party, but of course they’re being denied. National Party support has plummeted to around 30% – way down on its pre-pandemic rating of low to mid forty percent, and doesn’t bode well for the party in the upcoming general elections currently set for September. I can understand why Jacinda Ardern is reluctant to push the election date back to November – a call being made by both the opposition and her coalition partner.
For anyone interested in NZ style politics, have a look at live streaming and recordings of previous sessions of the Epidemic Response Committee. This committee oversees government actions while Parliament is in recess during the lockdown.
Before the current crisis, the National Party had a comfortable lead over the Labour Party – often by as much as ten percentage points even though support for its leader trailed far behind that of the leader of the Labour Party – 5% – 10% for Simon Bridges compared to 40% to 50% for Jacinda Ardern.
We now see National have the lowest support for more than a decade. In Aotearoa New Zealand, our MMP electoral system means that parliamentary representation almost exactly reflects party support at time of a general election. Although in opposition, National has has been the largest party in Parliament. If an election were to held today Labour would be able to form a government with support of the Green Party.
I can’t see National and Greens being able to form a coalition in the foreseeable future, being at opposite ends of not very wide NZ political spectrum. Think of Biden as National, Sanders as Labour and Greens as Andrew Yang. There’s no popular support here for an equivalent of the Republican GOP.
kia haumaru, kia kaha
Keep safe, be strong.