I will let Peter Davis’ article speak for itself. There’s nothing more I need add.
Published in Social Europe, 21st. December 2021.The virus antidote: political leadership, progressive government, public services — Peter Davis NZ
I will let Peter Davis’ article speak for itself. There’s nothing more I need add.
Published in Social Europe, 21st. December 2021.The virus antidote: political leadership, progressive government, public services — Peter Davis NZ
by Barry 4 Comments
Knowing that vaccination status certificates (vaccine passports) will be needed in little over a week, if I wanted to continue with the freedoms I currently enjoy, I decided that it was time to obtain mine. The exercise proved to be surprising frustrating, even more so when helping The Wife get hers. Here’s my experience. I wonder how many others will simply give up.
First question: where do I apply for the passport? The fact that they are available is one thing, knowing where to get it is another. The logical thing to do is google for it, so I typed get covid vaccination certificate into my browser, and lo and behold there were multiple links – news items about the certificates and instruction on how to obtain proof of vaccinations – for Australian, UK and US residents. Pertinent links for NZ residents were limited to news items only, none of which included the necessary link.
Some of the NZ related articles mentioned the term My Covid Record so I typed that into the browser. Yep, the first link listed was to My Covid Record | Ministry of Health NZ. Success. Following that link takes you to a page where you can log into, or sign up for, a My Health Account from where you can request your My Vaccine Pass (hereafter abbreviated to MVP) for use within Aotearoa or your International Travel Vaccination Certificate for use outside our borders.
At the top of the webpage an ominous message:
We’re experiencing a higher volume of traffic than usual. If you experience problems accessing My Covid Record, try again later.
Thankfully this didn’t prove to be too much of a problem, although some pages took a little while to load.
Question: do I already have a My Health account? I have a Manage My Health account where I can access my medical records, make medical appointments, renew prescriptions etc. I wonder it they’re the same? Nope. Click the Sign up link:
RealMe is an identity that can be linked to many central, regional and local government/authority websites. I’m reluctant to use it for all as the consequences resulting from RealMe being compromised are too horrible to contemplate. I use it for one government department only. Not everyone has a RealMe account, especially older folk including The Wife. The process of obtaining one is lengthy due to the need to prove your identity. I chose to sign up with email as the wife would need to use that option.
Ok. I see a problem: Many of our friends share a common email address between spouses/partners, usually one that is provided by their ISP. I appreciate those from a younger generation will probably have multiple email accounts, but it’s less likely for Baby Boomers. Sure most will have a mobile phone, and if it’s Android powered, probably have a gmail address associated with it, but the odds are they never use that address and don’t check their mail on their phone. Instead they’ll use their desktop or laptop machine for email and probably most internet activities. I’ll return to email addresses when it comes to installing the MVP onto the phone.
The wife and I have our own email addresses – I have many: several hosted on my own mail servers, several with Gmail, one with Outlook.com and a few others scattered around various providers that are kept only for historical reasons. It was the this point that we made the the first “tactical” mistake. We chose to use our personal (not Gmail) addresses, and I suspect this might be a hurdle some folk will be unable to jump over.
For folk who share an email address, it will be necessary for one of them to obtain a new address before they can progress further as the email address is the logon ID.
After entering an email address and clicking Send verification, a six digit code is sent to that address. Problem number two: The Spam filtering system I employ on my mail servers includes the ability to hold mail from specified geographical locations in quarantine for a specified period of time and rescan them before being released. This allows the system to detect new Spam patterns in real time between the original scan and the second scan. A number of ISPs do the same.
The greatest source of Spam on my servers is the good ol’ USA and mail from there is delayed 30 minutes before being re-scanned and delivered if still clean. Guess where the Health department sends its confirmation messages from. Yep, the USA. No, I don’t know why. I’m familiar with releasing email from quarantine before the 2nd scan, but I wonder If other people are. The Wife isn’t. When the email finally arrives, it warns you that the validation code must be entered within the next 20 minutes.
What it fails to do is inform you that the countdown started from the moment you clicked the Send verification link, not from when you received the email – another hurdle many people will be unable to jump over. How many folk are going to wonder why the validation code they were sent doesn’t work and after many attempts give up in frustration? This would have been an issue for The Wife, but fortunately I was there to help her out.
With the validation code accepted, we were each able to sign up for an account using our driver’s licence. Other options were passport, recent birth certificate or citizenship certificate. Once we were logged in, the system automatically linked us to our respective NHI (National Health ID) and verified that we have had two Pfizer shots. So far so good. At this point we were given the opportunity to have the MVP emailed to us.
Another hurdle in the making. I was cautious about how this might work, so we decided to experiment with mine before attempting The Wife’s. The web page had prefilled the email address with the one I had used during the validation process, so I simply used that.
The resulting email included a PDF attachment that can be printed out, and the body of the email includes links that can be used to install the MVP on your phone. We both have Android phones so I do not know what the experience is like for users of Apple Wallet. Here’s how we fared.
The Android link adds the MVP to Google Pay, and of course cannot be installed from a Windows or Linux machine. It means that the link must be transferred to the phone. In my case that was simple as I get my email on both all my devices. So I opened the email on the phone and installed from there. It installed successfully with just a couple of clicks and offered to place an app button on the phone home page, which I accepted. Job done on my phone. Now for The Wife’s
The wife had not set up her phone to receive mail from her personal account, and as far as she was concerned that was the only email account she had. I could have added the email account to her phone, but she had forgotten the mail account password. Not to be deterred, I reasoned she must have created a Gmail account when she first set up her phone. Yep, the Gmail account listed hundreds of emails, all unread.
So returning to her desktop computer I entered her Gmail address for receiving the message with PDF and installation links. Sure enough, within seconds, the email arrived (I had whitelisted the Ministry of Health email address so that it wouldn’t be delayed in quarantine), and confidently knowing the job was almost done clicked the Google Pay link. After agreeing to install the MVP I expected it to be plain sailing. WRONG!
I was advised that the MVP could not be installed until the software was updated. It didn’t say what software, so I assumed it meant the Android operating system. Nope that was up to date. So I tried installing the MVP again. Same result. Time to consult the oracle known as Google. No information forthcoming, so I consulted the lesser oracle known as Bing, with the same result. Duckduckgo, Ecosia, Yahoo! and Yandex weren’t any more enlightening. Nor was a hunt through the Ministry of Health Website.
Finally it hit me. Perhap Google Pay wasn’t installed on The Wife’s phone. Into Google Play and a search for Google Pay revealed that indeed it was not installed. Problem solved I thought (incorrectly) and proceeded to install the app. Once more I tried to instal the MVP only to have a request to confirm installation via fingerprint ID. If The Wife had set up fingerprint ID, she couldn’t remember, and even after trying every finger on both hands we were no further ahead.
At the first fingerprint ID failure there’s an option to use the screen lock PIN instead, so I suggested she try that. She did and after a few seconds…
The fingerprint prompt returned! After repeating the same process several times, she was ready to give up. I persuaded her that she should set up fingerprint ID.
It appears she had set it up originally but however she did it, it was no longer recognised. The Wife has very small hands and her phone is large – a 6.5 inch screen and she attempted to set the fingerprint ID with the index finger of the right hand while holding the phone in her left.
That was never going to work, but with a considerable amount of coaching from me, we managed to find a way for her to hold the phone in one hand allowing the index finger to make contact with the touchpad on the rear of the phone. Finally she was able to create a fingerprint ID that actually worked reliably.
Back to installing the MVP. This time she sailed through the fingerprint ID and finally reached the point where she was offered the option to install the app on the Home page, which she accepted. Except it didn’t appear on the Home page. Nor was it listed in the App drawer. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. She did, with the same result. No sign of the MVP anywhere.
Finally, in frustration, she handed the phone to me to “fix”. To cut an even longer story slightly shorter, it turned out her Home page consisted of eight horizontally scrolling screens, most of which were empty. The eighth page contained the MVP. Finally, after moving it to the default Home Page screen and removing the unused screens, The Wife is ready for 2 December!
The Wife’s computer skills are about average for a Baby Boomer, perhaps a little better than average. On her desktop machine she’s regularly on Facebook, and Pinterest. Her browser typically has ten or more tabs open at any time, most of our purchases are done online by her, and she’s likely to have a number of applications open besides the web browser and email client.
She’s less comfortable with the phone. At our age the small screen and font aren’t kind on the eyes, and fingers seem to be too big for the virtual keyboard, making it less than enjoyable. For The Wife, it’s main use is for scanning Covid QR codes at places of business via the Covid Tracer App, for video chatting with family via WhatsApp, and for use in case of emergencies.
She could not have installed MVP without my help, and I have absolutely no doubt that she’s not an exception. Given that amongst her friends, she’s viewed as someone “knowledgeable with computers”, there’s a great many people in the same situation.
Most people already have the Covid Tracer App installed on their phone. I thought it would have been logical to update that app to include the MVP. That app already records the NHI ID , although that’s optional. It would avoid the need to open two apps every time we enter a place of business. I do wonder how much consumer testing is done before this type of app is released to the public. My guess is that if there is any testing, it does not include Baby Boomers or older. Although our demographic isn’t quite as large as it one was, we nonetheless are still a significant proportion of the population.
I have reblogged an almost identical post from Peter a short while back, but in light of the progress of the Delta variant of Covid-19 over recent months, I believe it’s well worth repeating.
Published in Everyday Society, a publication of The British Sociological Association, 15th Nov 2021‘The pandemic is revealing our societal vulnerabilities’ — Peter Davis NZ
Winter and Meals go together so nicely, and this winter has been no different. And we’re not going to let the inconvenience of a lockdown get in the way. The video clip is here to remind me of the pleasure I get sharing meals with the wife and whānau. If you enjoy it too, so much the better.
The meals have been made by the wife and/or myself. Care to speculate who cooked what?
by Barry 2 Comments
In my last post post I promised to comment on misconceptions that many Americans, especially those on the right, hold about my favourite nation – Aotearoa New Zealand. But before I start I need to make a small correction. In that post I included a link to Tucker Carlson’s opinion piece but I inadvertently referred to uninformed comment that was actually on a different Fox News article. That article is a news item titled New Zealand to enter nationwide lockdown after single coronavirus case found. I should probably have held off publishing the post until later that morning instead of at 2:30 am. I’ve been suffering from the effects of a migraine that won’t decide whether it should come or go, and I was up at that time because sleep evades me with that type of migraine. I should have had the sense not to click on Publish, but I did.
The Fox News item was published on the day we first became aware of covid being in the community, and perhaps one of the most repeated comments was that locking down for one reported case was idiotic. I’ll ignore all the comments about authoritarianism, fascism and comparisons to North Korea, and for the moment I’ll take for granted that an elimination strategy is the appropriate course of action for this this nation. My question to those who consider a lockdown on a single reported case to be an overreaction is this: If this nation is to maintain an elimination strategy, how many known cases in the community should there be before a lockdown is considered? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? As was has been illustrated by the events in Australia, gradually ramping up restrictions based on the number of known cases is simply too little too late.
Here’s something to consider: How many other cases were there already out in the community? Is this the only case or is it the tip of a covid iceberg? Remember that with the Delta variant, people can be infectious before they experience symptoms. There is also the question of how did the virus get into the community? There may already have been a super spreader event where hundred of people have become incubators for the next wave of infections. This has already proven to be true. The number of confirmed cases, only twelve days later is now 512. The detailed situation as it stands at time of writing can be found on the Unite Against Covid-19 website.
On the Sunday before the first case was discovered, members of the Samoan Assembly of God church gathered as a community for the day, including worship sessions and gathered meals. One attender had unknowingly caught covid and passed it onto hundreds of other attenders. And before anyone else accuses the church members of ignoring rules or flouting safety precautions, let me be quite clear: They were responsibly following not only the “letter of the law”, but also the “spirit of the law”.
Just like everyone else in this nation they were not subject to any rules regarding social distancing, mask wearing, or limits on the size of gatherings. After all, we’ve been having sports events and concerts with up to 50,000 attenders throughout the pandemic apart from the brief lockdown periods, and all without incident. I need to point this out as already members of the AoG church are facing a backlash over this. The congregation and its leaders had no reason to suspect that someone within their midst was infected. Why should they? After all, the last reported community case was way back in February.
The need for some sections of society to scapegoat minorities – in this case Samoans and Christians – is appalling and must cease. And just in case you require statistic to support my stance, of all ethnic groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pasifika community has the highest vaccination rate for people over 40 years of age. They are also the most religious. So please no more talk about ethnicity or religion contributing to the current outbreak.
When we examine the number of ICU beds available in various countries, and see how even in the US, which has one of the highest number of ICU beds per capita in the world, still was stretched to capacity, and countries such as Italy had to ration access to ICU beds, it’s little wonder that NZ, with few ICU beds would look for another way to manage the pandemic. As a comparison, ICU beds per 100,000 of population are: US: 29.4; Italy: 12.5; NZ: 4.6. On a per capita basis, the US has more than six times as many ICU beds as NZ.
Another common theme to run through the comments was that we suffer under an authoritarian government and our freedoms are on par with North Korea or life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The simple fact is that for the most part, this nation has had less stringent covid restrictions that the US, the UK, and yes, even more freedom than their golden boy model of covid management, Sweden
From 14 May 2020 to 11 August 2020 and from 31 August 2020 to 17 August 2021, Aotearoa New Zealand had fewer covid restrictions than the US, the UK and Sweden. Even during the period of 12 August 2020 to 30 August 2020, this nation was only marginally higher than the US and the UK. I included a Covid Stringency chart on my 2362 contacts post. But in case that is not enough, here’s some other freedom comparisons. I’ll restrict this to comparisons between NZ and the US as invariably, the accusations of a lack of freedom in this nation comes from Americans:
|Aotearoa New Zealand||92.92||98.04||91.84||94.26||1|
|United States of America||82.88||89.22||79.17||83.76||27|
|Aotearoa New Zealand||9.21||8.53||8.87||1||+0.01|
|United States of America||8.66||8.22||8.44||9||-0.11|
|Aotearoa New Zealand||1||1||99||`4|
|United States of America||2||2||83||62|
|Aotearoa New Zealand||10.04||8|
|United States of America||23.93||44|
Reporters Without Borders also classify the US as an Enemy of the Internet due to high level of surveillance carried out by the authorities. Currently 20 nations are listed as enemies of the internet, so the US is in good company with China, North Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
|United States |
|Aotearoa New Zealand||1||1||1||1||1|
|United States of America||25||15||20||20||24|
I freely accept that there are some criticisms of how the data is collected and rated for each of the indexes used above, but overall I think we can be confident that they provide a reasonable comparison of the two nations. I think it is safe to make the claim than Aotearoa New Zealand does not have fewer freedoms than the United States of America.
Several comments referred to the New Zealand population and made the observation that with such a small size the population should be able to be vaccinated in just a few months. Now think for a moment. If our population is one sixtieth the size of the US, it would stand to reason that the number of workers capable of giving a jab would also be one sixtieth of the numbers in the US. And given that a smaller percentage of the NZ workforce is employed in the health services than in the US, all things being equal it would actually take a little longer.
The fact that only 18% of the population is currently fully vaccinated also gave rise to the assumption the Kiwis are reluctant to be vaccinated. Wrong again. On many occasions over recent months we’ve learnt that there is only one or two day’s supply of vaccine available in the country. The problem isn’t on the demand side, it’s on the supply side.
None of the vaccine manufacturers have manufacturing facilities in this country, so all vaccines need to be imported. Given that practically every other nation is in a worse position than us, and that a number of countries have ruled that manufacturers must satisfy domestic requirements before they are permitted to export, is it any wonder that this country faces a number of hurdles in maintaining a regular supply of vaccine. The Government has also provided vaccines to our small Pacific neighbours as they are in a more vulnerable position and less able to cope with the pandemic if it arrives on their shores.
For there to be a high vaccination rate so that everyone can be vaccinated by the end of the year, there there needs to be a big increase in the number of people who perform the procedure competently. This is more than simply knowing how to jab a needle in someone’s arm, but also all the recordkeeping, safety protocols, etc that the vaccination rollout requires. Training has been underway for some time.
However the vaccination rollout is now in full swing. Anyone over the age of thirty is now eligible to be vaccinated, and currently 78% of those eligible have received at least one shot or have booked their first shot. From the beginning of September, everyone over the age of 12 will be eligible, and it is expected that everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of the year. Currently the vaccination rate running slightly ahead of plan. Only then will the government look at other processes for managing covid.
Of course a number of comments brought up the mythical confiscation of guns in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings. This has been interpreted in two different ways by commenters.
Obviously both theories can’t be correct. The simple fact is that there was an estimated 1.5 million guns that were in legal ownership before the shootings. That estimate today has not changed. The government buy back was for a specific type of weapon that, following a law change, could not be owned on a Category A gun holder’s licence. As firearms are not licensed here, the number of weapons affected by the change was unknown. Various estimates of the number of weapons affected ranged from 25,000 to 60,000. In the end the buyback resulted in 34,000 guns being handed in. While gun ownership here is estimated to be around a quarter of that in the US, we are still ranked in the top 20 nations for gun ownership.
A claim by many commenters that the New Zealand economy has collapsed or is rapidly heading that way due the the elimination strategy. Again, the evidence is very different. GDP in Aotearoa New Zealand is now above pre covid levels.
|GDP Growth 2021||Unemployment|
|Govt dept as|
% of GDP
|Aotearoa New Zealand||+1%||4.6%||4.1%||41.3|
|United States of America||-3.5%||8.1%||3.7%||127.1|
Given that international tourism and international students accounted for a significant portion of this nation’s revenue, GDP and employment, and have all but disappeared since the arrival of covid, I think that a positive grown in our GDP vindicates this nation’s elimination strategy.
A common misconception among many commenters was that the US could not close its borders because their immigration rate is too high and that no one immigrates to NZ. If so, how can they explain the fact that one in four Kiwis are immigrants while a mere one in seven Americans are? The simple answer is that Aotearoa New Zealand has a relatively high immigration rate.
Comment was often made of New Zealand’s low population density, and if the population was spread evenly over the whole country, the low density would indeed be a significant factor. However 77% of New Zealand’s population live in the smaller of the two major islands, and 35% of our nation’s entire population lives in the vicinity of the city of Auckland. The population density of the North Island is 80 people per square mile. This is comparable to states such West Virginia (76) and Missouri (88). One third of the entire population of Aotearoa New Zealand lives in a region where the population density is approximately 3,100 per square mile.
And there are a lot of them:
There are more, but Fox News being such a toxic site, I’ve had enough.
by Barry 5 Comments
I don’t normally include lengthy video clips on this blog, but today I’ll make an exception. The clip is of the daily briefing given by senior government politicians and public servants to the news media. Today’s briefing was conducted by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay. Most of it was (as could be expected) was about the current covid-19 lockdown, but other topics such as Afghanistan are briefly touched on as well.
For any who might be interested in observing how our leaders conduct such a briefing:
For anyone interested in knowing how the current outbreak of covid is playing out in this nation (instead of guessing or listening to the likes of Fox News), I can’t do better than to point you to the official covid-19 website. There is a vast array of information available there, all based on solid science, not political posturing.
I, like most (but certainly not all) kiwis approve of this lockdown. As we have already proved, an elimination strategy can work. While it’s most likely an impractical strategy in the long term, it does buy us time to learn more about not only how this pandemic woks, but also other pandemics that are guaranteed to arise in the future. If the rest of the world had followed a similar strategy, then perhaps the world would be in a less chaotic situation that it is currently, and perhaps world economies would not have taken the hits that they have. The New Zealand economy is now above pre-covid conditions.
At this point, we cannot put the covid genie back in its bottle, and while I see much criticism of the route taken by New Zealand (especially from the American Right), isn’t it possible that the “New Zealand experiment” might provide some clues on how to better manage the next pandemic? I just want to remind our critics that the elimination strategy has never been thought of as a “final solution”. It’s a stop gap measure until a better way of handling this pandemic (and the next) is understood. It buys us time, something that most nations didn’t consider. As yet, science is has still much to learn about covid
To all those who say that covid will be with us forever, and it’s pointless to fight it, you might well be right. But what if you’re wrong? Once you’ve thrown in the towel, there’s no going back. Currently the jury is out on the best methods the world might be able to use to lessen the harm caused by pandemics. To those who claim we’re a bunch of scaredy cats, all I’m going to say on the matter is we’re not a bunch of quitters who gave up the moment the fight became difficult. To borrow from a popular commercial, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
I like to be reasonably informed on a large range of topics, and in light of our lockdown, I’ve been curious how people beyond our borders view our handling of not only our current lockdown but how we have handled the pandemic in its entirety. And to ensure I cover all bases I make a point of looking in, from time to time, on sources that express values contrary to my own. Afterall, there’s definitely a limit on how much you can learn by only listening to those who don’t challenge your current perspectives and prejudices. So I do make a foray into sources such as Fox News from time to time.
What strikes me about much online discussion, especially as it applies to Fox, is that as well has having those who are well enough informed to reach rational conclusions (even though they may reach a conclusion that is diametrically opposed to my own), there is a significant number who are, for the want of a better term, too ill informed to participate in meaningful discussion. And New Zealand’s handling of the pandemic is no exception.
Take a look at the discussion that follows the “Tucker Carlson Tonight” August 23, 2021. Although only a portion of the show was dedicated to the NZ lockdown, the discussion following is almost exclusively about that topic. I really couldn’t care less what Carlson’s politics are, but he really does need to learn that a sentence taken in isolation, out of context, and in a different cultural setting than the one he is immersed in does not necessarily convey the meaning understood by the conveyer or the receiver of the entire message.
Carlson makes a point of highlighting a sentence spoken by the Prime Minister, and failing to understand the context in which it was uttered makes the assumption that it must be understood in isolation from everything else she said at that news briefing, and everything else she has said since the pandemic first became a concern at the end of 2019. That sentence was “Don’t talk to your neighbours”.
Please Tucker, think for a moment. Since the beginning of the pandemic the Prime Minister has made a point of emphasising the necessity of being kind; checking on neighbours, friends and family; to help out whenever there is a need, including shopping for others who are unable to do so; to keep communications open with each other. How do you think that would be possible if we didn’t talk to our neighbour? The answer: it wouldn’t be possible. Period. Kiwis do understand the implied meaning of that short sentence, and while I don’t expect you to implicitly understand it’s context, I do expect someone in you position to at least discover the context in which it was uttered.
Just for your benefit, Mr Carlson, here is an expanded version of that sentence as every Kiwi will have understood it: “Don’t talk to your neighbors if it means breaking your bubble”. I really don’t want to go too deeply into what a bubble means to us in this context, but bubbles vary depending on the Covert-19 Alert Level. At Level 1, the entire nation is a single bubble, which means there are no restrictions with our borders, while at Level 4, each household is a seperate bubble. And I would like to remind you that for seventeen of the last nineteen months we have been at Alert Level 1. Can you say the same for the US? If you want to argue covid restrictions, first check out the COVID-19: Stringency Index.
I do find the discussion on that page rather interesting. If I ignore all the conspiracy theorists that seem to be attracted Fox News, there are still several categories that I can divide the comments in to: those who have made an attempt, to understand the NZ strategy for managing the pandemic; those who realise they lack sufficient knowledge and seek to understand it; those who do not realise they lack sufficient knowledge and make assumptions based on incomplete or false information; and those who are absolutely, and without a doubt, convinced that they have a better grip on the situation than the entire science community that advises the New Zealand government and policy makers.
It’s a complete waste of time trying to discuss the NZ strategy with the conspiracy theorists and those who are convinced they understand all there is to know about pandemics and how to manage them and refuse to even listen to the experts in that field. They are the willfully ignorant. Those who are the uninformed and the ill informed – the ignorant, but not willfully so – are a different matter. I don’t feel it a waste of time or effort in providing them with some resources that they can use to become better informed. I intend to do just that in the next blog post The aim isn’t to persuade them to agree with my perspective, but to provide them with some resources that will allow them to make their own informed conclusions.
by Barry 7 Comments
To all those who have been so absolutely certain that this nation has gone mad because we went into lockdown less than 24 hours after a single covid-19 infection was discovered in the community, here’s why.
We’re in day five of the lockdown, and that one case has now grown to 72 cases, and there are now 8,667 close contacts who are required to isolate at home. There’s also 280 places of interest – places visited by individuals while they were infectious. These include potential superspreader locations such as a church, a gym, a lecture theatre, a public hospital, and six schools.
Waste water testing, which covers over 70% of the population has detected the Delta variant in a locality where there is currently no known covid case. It’s unlikely to be a recovered case still shedding RNA fragments as Delta is a very recent arrival in this country. If lockdown had been delayed for even a day, I’m sure that the number of contacts would be at least an order of magnitude larger than it is. If the authorities had delayed for several days, it would have been too late to put the covid genie back in the bottle.
Aotearoa New Zealand has a highly efficient and effective track and trace system, and genome sequencing has been carried out on every covid infection since the pandemic first arrived on these shores. To date, this has served us well and for most of the time we have had the freedom to move about and congregate in the same manner as before Covid arrived. Delta is a gamechanger.
What has become apparent is that with the Delta variant, a person can become infectious less than 24 hours after first being infected, and before becoming symptomatic. What this means is that if I were to catch delta right now, I’d be capable of transmitting it to someone else before this time tomorrow. But it could be another day or so before I recognise flu like symptoms and seek a test. In this country, most of those who are infected with the Delta variant are younger (typically in their 20s), more gregarious and socially mobile. This allows Delta to spread so much more rapidly than other variants, and has the potential to overwhelm the track and trace system, not to mention the entire health system.
All premises and places open to the public are required to display a Covid QR code for anyone to scan as they enter. I’ve been scrupulous in scanning in everywhere I go, but I’m an exception. As I’ve commented elsewhere on this blog, I estimate less than 10% of the public actually bother to scan. Due to Delta, this is about to change.
Locations where mask wearing isn’t always practical such as restaurants, cafes, churches, bars, etc, and events and locations that are potential superspreaders, will be required to enforce QR scanning. Personally I’d like to see it extended to include all retail outlets and places of business. But I understand placing the onus on the retailer to enforce compliance might be problematic.
On the other hand, I see scanning as a social responsibility, and I see no reason why the onus to do so shouldn’t be on me rather than the owner of the premises or event. As a member of society, I have responsibilities to do or not do certain activities, and I don’t see why this shouldn’t include scanning QR codes as well.
As new information comes to hand – the covid website is now being updated regularly, every two hours, with statistics and places of interest – I’m certain that an extension to the lockdown will be announced tomorrow. For how long, and how we’ll step back down from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 1, I’m not sure as my crystal ball seems rather cloudy at the moment. I’d like to think that regions outside of those where known covid cases exist will be relaxed by the end of the month, but as this is all unknown territory – no other nation has eliminated the Delta variant – time will eventually reveal how this will all play out. Being forever optimistic, and having been through it once before, I expect it will be “business as usual” by the end of September. But just in case, I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed.
To all those who claim that covid is not potentially dangerous, and often quote deaths per 100,000 of the general population to support their argument, case fatalities tell a very different story, depending on where you happen to reside. For example, if you live in the Yemen and catch covid, you have a one in five chance of dying. In Peru you have a one in ten chance of dying and in Mexico, a one in 12 chance. In the UK it’s one in fifty and the US one in sixty. They are not odds I’m prepared to gamble with. In NZ the odds of dying are around one in 110.
Given that the fatality rate for the Delta variant is similar to other variants even though it affects more younger people, it seems logical to assume the odds of a person in my age bracket dying from the Delta variant will be many times greater than the average – perhaps as much as ten times greater. That would increase the odds of me dying to somewhere in the vicinity of one in ten if I’m unlucky enough to catch covid. If you consider your “right” to spread a potentially fatal illness surpasses my right not to be isolated for the rest of my natural life, then you deserve everything society throws a you. Hopefully it’ll be a ton of bricks.
The good news is that this country no longer needs to ration covid vaccinations as supplies are now meeting demand. Vaccinations are now ramping up and as from the end of August, everyone over the age of twelve will be able to book their shots. Supplies are now guaranteed to ensure everyone will be able to be be fully vaccinated by year’s end.
by Barry 5 Comments
At time of writing there are now 2362 known contacts related to the current delta outbreak that started with a single covid case identified on Tuesday. Of those contacts, 31 are known to be infected with covid, three outside of Auckland, and more than 300 of the contacts are dispersed throughout the country, including the South Island. This is precisely what I predicted in yesterday’s blog post. In just three days, a single known infection has snowballed to almost two and a half thousand contacts.
We’ve also learnt that we will not be coming out of lockdown tonight (I didn’t think we would, but I was hopeful we might). The nation will remain in lockdown until at least midnight on Tuesday. The three infected individuals outside of Auckland were there over the weekend, one group returning to Wellington by air, the other by car, stopping at four petrol stations and a similar number of cafes on the way. This will give rise to considerably more contacts needing to be traced, and given the number of places these three travellers passed through I can see the number swelling by several hundred at least. And of course any new infections discovered between now and Tuesday are also likely to result in dozens of addition contacts.
Thankfully, by Monday, if everyone has been following the rules, new contacts should have dropped off to near zero, barring the possibility that an essential worker is infected but has escaped detection. I doubt we’ll immediately drop from alert level 4 back to alert level 1 (near normal but with closed border) on Tuesday, but my guess we’ll drop to alert level 3 (a less restrictive lockdown) for a week or perhaps two then to alert level 2 (restrictions on large gatherings) for a similar period before returning to alert level 1. Unlike most of the rest of the world, we’ve been been living near to a normal life since May 2020 – well as normal is possible given that the rest of the world continues to flounder hopelessly in a sea rising infections. and I expect we’ll return to normality in a few weeks from now.
Today, I read the comments on a few Youtube clips pertaining to the lockdown. I wish I hadn’t. As well as the usual range of conspiracy theorists, there were those that have no understanding of what exponential means or how it plays out, those who judge nations on the gender and/or sexual orientation of the leaders (the Prime Minister is a woman and the Deputy Prime Minister is gay), those who judge a nation on the physical appearance of the leaders, and those who find it implausible for a nation to consider their leaders trustworthy.
What I find surprising, but perhaps I shouldn’t, is that so many Youtube conversation threads degenerate into two camps: one camp being mostly Kiwis supporting New Zealand’s elimination stance, and in the other camp consisting mostly of non-Kiwis being anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, covid hoaxers, and conspiracy theorists, most of whom believe this nation is under the control of a fascist or communist (take your pick) authoritarian dictatorship fighting a losing battle with covid. Any references to world freedom indexes, be they from a left wing think tank or a right wing think tank, ranking Aotearoa New Zealand the most free nation on the planet are written off as irrelevant. The vitriol (spouted from both sides) reminds me why I chose WordPress as my platform for expression instead of Youtube.
Even in regards to restrictions specifically related to covid, this country has much less stringent than most other nations, but our detractors don’t seem to be able to follow a simple chart. The detractors refuse to accept the evidence that even their “ideal” model of covid freedom, Sweden, is more restrictive than Aotearoa New Zealand:
by Barry 4 Comments
There is one New Zealand blog I follow where I disagree with almost everything that is posted. I follow it to remind myself that there are locals who have a radically different world view from mine. My opinions of their postings range from ignorant claptrap to idiotic nonsense, although very occasionally (and I emphasis very occasionally) I find a post that I can almost agree with.
My impression of those who comment on the blog is that most are anti-vaxxers, covid deniers, conspiracy theorists of various types, and mostly right wing (by NZ standards). In a post today, the writer lamented the fact that they had to cancel a restaurant booking due to the yesterday’s lockdown notice. Let me quote part of the article:
Call me simple and definitely cynical if you like but I fail to see any value to any of our group, the restaurant and its staff and the New Zealand Covid extinction by locking down anywhere south of about Hamilton and locking down the South Island is surely over kill.
Ok, I call you simple. It’s not about you.
In my view the blogger has a ludicrously overly simplistic understanding of how covid is transmitted. We know: the Delta variant is highly contagious – even a fleeting contact such as one person walking past another in a park; the case identified yesterday had been infectious in the community for many days and had visited at least 25 locations over that period, some hundreds of kilometres apart; the source of the infection is unknown; Kiwis are a highly mobile lot and I guess there’s been many tens of thousands of us who have travelled in and out of the Auckland and Coromandel regions from all around NZ over the past week. I can guarantee there have been hundreds, if not thousands of individuals who will have travelled between the poster’s home town and Auckland or Coromandel during the period in question.
While it’s highly unlikely that the writer or their dining friends will come into contact with an infectious person, the odds are very high that someone in their hometown who will be either a primary or secondary contact of the yesterday’s case or one of the six related cases identified so far today. Likewise, there’s probably thousands who have travelled between Auckland and the South Island in the week prior to lockdown. Sure, it’s highly unlikely that a specific person (the blogger in this case) will be a person of interest, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s at least one person in his hometown and the South Island who will be.
I think the blogger fails to understand the exponential rate of transmission of the Delta variant. It has an R0 factor of between 5 and 8. This means that a single person, on average, will infect between 5 and 8 other persons. In a best case scenario, one person will infect 5 who will infect 25 who will infect 125 who will infect 625 who will infect 3125. that’s a total of 3906 people in just five iterations. In a worse case scenario, and ignoring any superspreading event, the same number of iterations will result in a total of 37,449 infections.
Two independent modelling exercises indicate that with the immediate level 4 lockdown as of last night, the single reported case is likely to rise to somewhere between 50 and 130 before it’s squashed. It’s already at seven, and as yet we do not know the source of the current outbreak, the modelling may greatly underestimate what the final figure will be.
At the start of the pandemic, our government had intended to follow the same course that most other nations did – flatten the curve to prevent the outbreak from overwhelming the health system. However even the most optimistic modelling projections showed that the NZ health system would be totally overwhelmed in very short time. Hence the change to an elimination strategy shortly after covid arrived here. Given that this is the first lockdown we’ve had outside of Auckland apart from the initial 6-week lockdown in March last year, I am firmly convinced that it has been the correct path to follow.
We do know that this particular outbreak is related to the New South Wales, Australia strain of the Delta variant, so now there is a scramble to trace exactly how it arrived in this country. Genome sequencing can estimate how many intermediaries there have been between a known case and a newly discovered case, and due to the strictly controlled nature of entry into Aotearoa New Zealand, I think that there’s a good chance of tracking its path from NSW to NZ.
Update: As of 7 pm, today, the total number of cases has risen to ten. One case is a teacher at a high school, another is a fully vaccinated nurse in a public hospital, and another is a student who attended a lecture yesterday along with 80 others. These three instances are possible super spreading events that could seriously skew modelling estimates. One case is now known to have a connection with the border. Similar to the situation elsewhere most of the delta infections are in younger adults – here, mostly in their 20s.
by Barry 2 Comments
For the first time in 169 days a case of covid-19 has been found in the community. It’s never been a case of if it returned but a case of when. At time of writing, no link to the border or managed isolation has been found. The result of genome sequencing will be available by the morning and that should identify the variant, if it is related to any known border contact or managed isolation source, and if so how many degrees of separation between that source and the single known community case.
As there is currently no identified source and in recent months most cases arriving at the border have been the Delta variant, and having seen the outcome in Australia where lockdowns have been too little too late, the authorities here have decided to go early and hard.
I’m sure in many in other parts of the world people will find it difficult to fathom why a whole nation should go into a total lockdown on the day that a single covid case is discovered in the community, especially as many nations are gradually coming out of various states of long term lockdowns or restrictions on social gatherings. Apart from the initial six week lockdown at the start of the pandemic, this country has been mostly in a state of “business as usual”, international tourism being the only exception.
However we only need to look across the ditch to Australia to see that by imposing minimum restrictions and then ramping up as they prove inadequate is not particularly effective. I don’t think they’ve reached the point of no return yet, but it must be getting closer by the day. In the other parts of the world, even where the rates of vaccination are high, hospitals are again experiencing overloads, and younger age groups are being affected compared to previous variants.
So for the first time since April 2020, Aotearoa New Zealand is going into a nationwide lockdown: one week for Auckland and the Coromandel, and 3 days for the rest of the country, starting a one minute before midnight tonight. Apart from essential services such as dairies (small convenience stores), supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, and medical and emergency services the nation will shut down. Movement outside our household bubbles will be restricted to accessing essential services or exercising in our neighbourhoods.
Masks have not been mandated here apart from on public transport, and it’s still rare to see them being worn in other public places. That might change in the next 24 hours. The Prime Minister has hinted that there may be some changes and they have been discussed in Cabinet, but until the regulations have been draughted and gone through the necessary legal processes, she will not speculate on what might change. I expect we will need to wear masks when going to the supermarket for the duration of the lockdown, perhaps a little longer.
This country is some way behind many other OECD nations when it comes to the rollout of the COVID vaccination. The prime reason is due to supply, but everyone over the age of sixteen will have the opportunity to be vaccinated before the end of the year. However, some ethnic groups – Māori and Pacifica in particular have relatively young populations. Even if everyone within those groups who are legible get a jab, it still leaves 30% of their population vulnerable. That’s not enough to provide herd immunity. It looks like those above twelve might soon be able to be protected, and I understand research is being undertaken on the safety and effectiveness of vaccinating those as young as 12 months.
Our borders are not going to open until herd immunity has been achieved. When that will be achieved is still open to speculation. I suspect that most Kiwis would prefer restrictions remain at the border rather than within it, and there is little appetite to open up to a covid ravaged world. For that reason I expect the any temporary restrictions imposed here will be be accepted with little opposition as it’s not much to pay for the freedoms we have enjoyed while the rest of the world has gone mad.
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