New Zealands successful Covid policies hid inequality the government cant ignore it this year – The Guardian

March 2020 seems like an age ago. And also like it was yesterday. The month begun more or less like any other March in New Zealand. The weather was typically warm and dry, most people were back in the office or on site, and parliament was sitting after its generous summer recess. In most respects you could mistake March 2020 for March 2019. Except, on 4 March, the country recorded its second coronavirus case after a woman returning from northern Italy, where this strange virus had taken hold, presented with the infection at the border. The number of infections increased again and again as the month unfolded with 647 come 1 April.

In the early days of March, government advisers and prime minister Jacinda Ardern were aiming, like the rest of the world, for either herd immunity or flattening the curve. But when the governments chief science adviser presented advice on precisely what this meant for the health system a quick collapse, essentially Ardern went for the approach her advisers at the universities of Otago and Auckland were advocating: elimination. On 25 March the prime minister made her way to parliaments debating chamber and in a historic speech announced a national state of emergency and a move to an alert level 4 lockdown. The speech helped generate unprecedented national solidarity.

More importantly, the lockdown announced didnt just flatten the curve. It absolutely smashed it.

But in 2022, as Omicron threatens to wreak as much, if not more, damage than any previous Covid-19 variant ever could have, the lockdown course of action is probably off the table. That seems counterintuitive. But 2022 is (obviously) a different year. Shortsighted business owners in Auckland are unlikely to tolerate another round of restricted trading or slightly slower supply chains. Pathetic anti-vaxxer activists are more organised than ever before, corralling the tiny rump of unvaccinated New Zealanders in a way that makes them appear more significant than their numbers justify. And some segments of the media continue to platform anti-science, anti-lockdown views.

With the lockdown option probably off the table, New Zealand is likely to catch up with the rest of the world. When the Omicron outbreak happens, the health system will begin buckling under the pressure of Covid-19 admissions and politics will become increasingly polarised after two years of near consensus. When the first lockdown happened, activists and political commentators were arguing that things couldnt go back to how they were. The prime minister had implemented a successful wage subsidy, helping keep thousands of people in work, a freeze on rent increases was implemented, and the government brought forward millions in infrastructure investment. This was a social democratic programme that many people wanted to stay.

Why? Because it worked. New Zealand enjoyed exceptional GDP growth, historically low unemployment levels, and a year like any other. Schools and businesses were open, concerts and mass gatherings were happening, and people were generally happy with their lot. But underneath this apparent success story were the same inequalities as before. House prices were still through the roof, defying policies aimed at slowing their growth. The house market is now worth far more than the countrys annual GDP with that wealth accumulating overwhelmingly in the hands of baby boomers. Uncharacteristically high inflation is also eating away at the purchasing power (and the already minimal savings) of the working and middle classes.

This brings us to perhaps the good news for 2022. The government can no longer ignore the inequality crisis. The prime minister, who in one of her historic mistakes, ruled out a capital gains tax in 2019, must now implement other policies to arrest house price rises. The central bank must grab inflation by the neck. And historically low unemployment must translate to wage growth, perhaps with the assistance of the governments Fair Pay Agreement (FPA) legislation. Under FPAs, an industry-wide floor will be set for wages and conditions meaning, for example, that supermarket or security workers must be paid at a minimum level.

When this legislation passes in late 2022 it will have wide reaching effects, including making housing more affordable for previously underpaid workers and helping offset some of the worst impacts of relatively high inflation. And so in a social and political sense, 2022 has much to commend it. But in a health sense it is, of course, scary. Its difficult to predict what an Omicron outbreak might bring. But we can take some comfort in that the government and New Zealanders have eliminated outbreaks before. Were tantalisingly close to eliminating the recent Delta outbreak. And because of this, were more cognisant of the inequalities each outbreak exposes. Now, we must tackle those inequalities before Omicron makes them any worse.

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New Zealands successful Covid policies hid inequality the government cant ignore it this year - The Guardian

Government needs to work with businesses – Otago Daily Times

When we look back at 2022, it should be remembered as the year that business took the reins of the Covid-19 response.

In March, it is the virus second birthday and this year marks the third year of the response in New Zealand.

The first year, 2020, was the emergency response.

Working out how to deal with the immediate impacts on the health system, and then once it was eliminated, keep it at bay.

Last year was the year of learning to live with it, getting vaccinated and trying to reduce the spread of Delta in the community.

This year, 2022, should be the year the Government sits at the table with the business sector to hear what it has to offer.

There is a real opportunity for businesses, especially Otagos technology and science companies, to take advantage of the next step in the fight against Covid-19.

Testing options and dropping the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system for self-isolation are big holes in the Governments response. That is where business steps in.

But for that to happen it will have to be a two-way street.

Businesses will have to want to step up to the mark and the Government will have to want to sit down and genuinely listen to the solutions and technology on offer.

Dunedins Sir Ian Taylor was a big advocate for that last year.

He flew to the United States and undertook his own self-isolation trial in Auckland using New Zealand-designed tools.

He wrote many open letters to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern before, during and after his trip highlighting valid issues with the broken MIQ system and how New Zealands business sector could help fix that.

But at the time he wrote those, the Government was dealing with New Zealands largest Covid-19 outbreak, peaking around 200.

Ms Ardern had a pretty good excuse for not getting back to him.

Now that Aucklands borders have reopened and New Zealands average daily cases are in the double digits, meaning the outbreak is largely under control, its time for her and members of the Cabinet to listen.

And it needs to happen before there is an outbreak of Omicron.

Admittedly, Sir Ian did get a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson just before Christmas, but that was only one.

Those need to continue.

A Dunedin academic has already designed a simple-to-use and fast saliva Covid-19 test.

The system, called Spitfire6830, has been designed by a University of Otago professor and United States-headquartered MicroGEM, at its Princes St lab.

Those are the types of tools the Government needs to pick up and utilise to its advantage.

Because if it does not, what message and incentive does it give those sorts of companies looking to set up in New Zealand, and even Dunedin?


While it is up to the Government to listen, some responsibility does fall on the business sector to encourage the Government to the table.

The sector will have to send a positive signal to Ms Ardern and the Cabinet that it knows how to go about responding to the economic impacts of Covid-19.

Business NZ, and its associated regional members like Business South, will have to start highlighting the MicroGEMs in their patches to show the public how they could be of real benefit to not only the Covid response, but also the wider economy.

The sector did not do that last year, but much like the Government, it was busy dealing with a Delta outbreak.

Its priority this year should be highlighting businesses throughout the country that can take New Zealand into a post-Covid environment.

All of this comes down to trust.

The Government and the Ministry of Health, have to step back and trust that the business sector knows what it is talking about and is going to get the job done.

And businesses need to trust that the Government is going to listen to them and take it all on board.

But if they are not going to trust each other, there seems little point in trying.

Originally posted here:

Government needs to work with businesses - Otago Daily Times

It’s Dangerous to Allow Politicians and Officials to Decide What Constitutes ‘Truth’ – Reason

It's no secret that governments worldwide are increasingly hostile to scrutiny of their conduct. But, at a moment when too many media outlets see their role as working with the state to reinforce official narratives, one advocate of press freedom reminds us that the struggle isn't over the "disinformation" and "misinformation" called out by opportunistic politicians, it's over control of information. Will people be free in the future to decide for themselves what's truth and what's BS? Or will we be spoon-fed whatever the powers-that-be endorse?

"Governments realize that they are in an existential battle over who controls information, who controls the narrative, and they are waging a frontal assault against independent journalism around the world," Joel Simon, the exiting head of the Committee to Protects Journalists (CPJ), told CNN's Brian Stelter.

"This is the information age, and we are in a kind of millennial battle over who controls information," he added. "Who controls it? That's the power struggle. And so, governments recognizerepressive governments, but even democratic governmentsthat this is an essential tool that they need to maintain power and journalists are their adversaries."

Simon spoke after the release of a CPJ report warning of escalating attacks on journalists, demonstrating that the stakes for those who offend government officials are very high. The report found 293 reporters jailed for their work around the world, and at least 24 killed because of their efforts.

CPJ isn't the only organization recognizing that independent sources of information are under attack. Last October, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their coverage of government conduct in the Philippines and Russia "in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions."

"Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda," the committee added.

Unfortunately, the award illustrated the extent to which journalists can be co-opted as gatekeepers. Ressa sniffed in 2019 that "the wholesale dumping of Wikileaks actually isn't journalism," distinguishing her efforts from those of the organization's founder, Julian Assange, who languishes in prison, awaiting his fate after exposing abuse of power, lies, and war propaganda by the U.S. government. Too many journalists are open to cultivation by politicians as a separate class from purveyors of alleged "misinformation," disinformation," or "extremism" depending on what's convenient at the moment.

Before the pandemic, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined with French President Emmanuel Macron to develop the Christchurch Call targeting "extremist content" online. Since then, New Zealand in particular has moved to emphasize "freedom from misinformation" especially with regard to efforts against COVID-19.

Similarly, the British government commissioned a 2021 report from RAND Europe promoting practices by "civil society, government, media and social-media-company actors in terms of reducing the spread of false information and building societal resilience" with regard to "hateful extremism within society during COVID-19." The report highlights Germany's notorious NetzDG Act as an example that "levying large fines on tech companies that do not remove false information and hateful extremist content in a timely way can increase companies' responsiveness in removing this content from their platforms."

Despite robust First Amendment protections for free speech rights, the U.S. is not immune to powerful people's desire to control information.

"We're going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so that you can't just spew disinformation and misinformation," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) insisted last year.

In July, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called on social media companies to act as government proxies by removing what the administration flags as "narratives dangerous to public health."

Interestingly, CPJ's Joel Simon predicted the pandemic would empower efforts to control information.

"[W]e must be mindful that when we get to the other side of the pandemic, we may be left with a narrative, being written by China, that government control over information was essential to combating the crisis," he warned in March 2020. "That would be a devastating blow to the global information system, one that could endure even as the memories of the terrible pandemic we are currently facing slowly fade."

Since then, he's been proven painfully prescient as politicians' concerns have morphed from fighting "extremism" to suppressing "disinformation" to a weird amalgam of the two, unified by the alleged need to control what the public says, reads, and shares.

That's not to say, by the way, that material tagged as extremism isn't extreme, or that posts called out as disinformation aren't false. To open a web browser is to encounter a wide world of bigotry, bogus concerns about vaccine safety, nonsensical charges about election integrity, and fact-free arguments over whether or not COVID-19 even exists. But bullshit isn't a recent invention.

Free societies recognize that it's a lot more dangerous to let government officials designate what constitutes capital-T Truth than it is to respect people's rights to decide for themselves. When officialdom makes the call, legitimate news outlets get called "fake," as former President Trump often smeared his critics, extremists get conflated with opponents of school policies, as the Justice Department did last fall, and claims that COVID-19 originated in a lab leak in China are suppressed as conspiracy theories before later earning respectful treatment.

Truthful information doesn't require a government seal of approval because government officials are as flawed and biased as anybody else. They're prone to declaring debates over for convenient reasons of their own even as new evidence emerges and disagreements remain unresolved not necessarily because of rejection of facts, but often over fundamental differences in values and preferences. Powerful figures are in no position to save us from bad information because they're a major source of the stuff themselves and, if allowed, can use force to impose their versions of reality on dissenters.

We really are in an existential battle over who controls information, just as Joel Simon warned. It's not a battle over what constitutes truth, which remains as hard as ever to determine. Instead, this battle over control of information is a struggle over our freedom to decide for ourselves without having other people's decisions crammed down our throats.


It's Dangerous to Allow Politicians and Officials to Decide What Constitutes 'Truth' - Reason

COVID-19: No reason to cancel Christmas over Omicron variant – Jacinda Ardern – Newshub

Omicron, or B.1.1.529, has more mutations than the highly transmissible Delta variant - the strain that's been circulating in New Zealand since August and prompted months of lockdown in Auckland. It's prompted countries around the world to slap travel restrictions on southern African nations.

Ardern's Government on Saturday announced South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique would be listed as "very high risk" - meaning only New Zealand citizens can travel from those countries and must spend a full two weeks in managed isolation.

It comes after the Government last week said it would reopen the border to fully vaccinated international travellers in April - though people will still need to self-isolate for a week.

New Zealanders in Australia will be able to enter the country from next month.

When asked on Monday if that reopening could still go ahead with Omicron, Ardern said New Zealand has "always made decisions based on the evidence we have".

"Let's get the evidence in before we make calls on that either way."

Ardern also noted the South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect the new coronavirus strain among patients has said symptoms of the Omicron variant were so far mild and could be treated at home.

"We need to be prepared for it either to be possibly more severe, possibly milder - we just don't know yet and so I'm confident we will get that information well in advance of any wider adjustments at our border," Ardern said.

"As always, we will be cautious because that has served us well and it's serving us well now."

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COVID-19: No reason to cancel Christmas over Omicron variant - Jacinda Ardern - Newshub

Covid 19 Delta outbreak: PM Jacinda Ardern on Covid, visit to Auckland, and National Party turmoil – New Zealand Herald

November 25 2021PM Jacinda Ardern said Auckland will start at the red traffic light setting next week to make sure restrictions were eased in a careful way so case numbers don't balloon.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is back in Auckland to meet members of the business and social sector communities as well as to visit Western Springs College in the city's inner west.

Speaking with media, Ardern said Auckland will start at the red traffic light setting next week to make sure restrictions were eased in a careful way so case numbers don't balloon.

Once restrictions had been eased, the situation could be reassessed. "We do want to ease carefully so we will see the impact of those changes," she said.

Ardern said she understood the pandemic made the ability for businesses to plan difficult, but the Government wanted to get the domestic settings right so there wasn't an increase in cases and a further escalation of restrictions.

On the issue of rushing the traffic light system legislation through parliament, Ardern said while the Government was moving quickly there was still scrutiny.

"Had we not done what we have done, Auckland would face ongoing restrictions, and I don't think anyone would agree with that," she added.

The Government wouldn't make the change to the traffic light framework if it wasn't safe to do, Ardern said. The new system would offer better protection for the public and the country's high vaccination coverage offered the ability to manage Covid from a good position.

"Aucklanders have made all the difference. They've stayed home; they've got vaccinated; they have literally saved lives," she said.

Questioned on the turmoil ensnaring the National Party, Ardern said the country was in the middle of pandemic and she was not concentrating on issues relating to the opposition.

"The most important thing is ... to focus on the issues important to the New Zealand people, and that is the pandemic," she said. "I see this as a matter for the National Party."

24 Nov, 2021 06:02 PMQuick Read

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On rapid antigen testing, Ardern said the cost was still to be determined but it was "a lot cheaper".

She said the tests were between $30 to $60 each. The Government would still use PCR testing in its response.

Ardern's visit comes as a raft of new Covid announcements have been made in recent days and weeks.

Auckland hairdressers today opened for the first time in more than three months while the rest of the country is now about a week away from moving into the new traffic light system to manage Covid.

Kiwis have also recently found out that from next year they will be able to return to the country and complete seven days isolation at home rather than in a managed isolation facility, provided they have been fully vaccinated and recently tested negative for the virus.

Her visit also comes as Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins today revealed New Zealand would revert to the alert level system if a new vaccine-resistant variant overwhelmed the country and the traffic light framework couldn't contain it.

Speaking to The AM Show, Hipkins said while the Government was absolutely committed to the traffic light system, a back-up plan would be reinstating the alert level system which is set to be dismantled next week.

The Government would have to revert to the alert level plan if it had a variant of the virus that was resistant to the vaccine, he said.

It was a possibility, but it's not what they thought would happen, he added.

Hipkins also said tens of thousands of people would be coming across the border each week when it reopened to Australia in January.

He said it was difficult to model how many positive cases would come into New Zealand from international travellers.

"We have to accept the reality that the risk of Covid-19 around international travel is going to be progressively increasing over the next three to four months."

It was possible Australia would see surges as it reopened its borders internally. Hipkins said the fact they were double vaccinated didn't mean they couldn't be carrying Covid-19.

The Government had been looking at other highly vaccinated countries and some were still experiencing a lot of difficulty at the moment. "We want to try and do this in a way that's sustainable."

The Government's decision to finally set the dates when fully vaccinated Kiwis can fly home from overseas without entering MIQ was as much about a "groaning" administrative system as it was health risk, says one expert.

From January 17, fully vaccinated New Zealanders can travel from Australia without traversing MIQ, Hipkins announced at yesterday's 1pm Beehive briefing.

Fully vaccinated Kiwis from all other countries can arrive and bypass MIQ as of February 14.

These fully vaccinated international arrivals will still need to self-isolate for seven days at home in New Zealand, register a negative Covid-19 test on arrival and another before entering the community.

And all fully vaccinated foreign nationals can start arriving from April 30. But Hipkins said that date might change, or the overseas influx could be tailored by visa category.

Hipkins said the plan balanced the demands of multiple groups with the need to prevent a Covid-19 surge.

But the complexity and challenge of managing pandemic prevention systems explained much of the decision, public health expert Professor Michael Baker said.

"It's a mixture of a genuine desire to protect New Zealand from the ravages of the pandemic, and an element of administrative capacity."

It was logistically impossible to open up New Zealand before Christmas, Baker said, with recent challenges showing multiple systems under strain.

He said the pandemic prevention systems were "groaning" with the volume of demands, including on MIQ and vaccine passes.

All overseas arrivals not required to go into MIQ will need a negative pre-departure test, proof of full vaccination, and passenger declaration about travel history.

Opposition parties blasted the three-step travel announcement.

"This timetable to open New Zealand to the world is truly pathetic," National's Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop said.

He said Hipkins had already admitted no fully vaccinated travellers from Australia for months tested positive for Covid, so there was no reason the transtasman bubble should not reopen now.

Act said Labour was "the Grinch who stole Christmas for no reason", depriving Kiwis overseas of a chance to come home.

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Covid 19 Delta outbreak: PM Jacinda Ardern on Covid, visit to Auckland, and National Party turmoil - New Zealand Herald

PM Jacinda Ardern: ‘Throughout this pandemic one of the hardest things to do has been to plan’ – RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the focus now is on getting New Zealand's new Covid protection settings right domestically.

Watch it here:

Ardern confirmed that Auckland will start at the red light of the new traffic light alert level system on 3 December. Future changes to that level will depend on the rest of the country's status, she said.

"It will matter for Auckland what is happening with the outbreak and the impact of eased restrictions on the outbreak's growth."

The impact on health systems will also be important in determining alert level changes under the traffic lights.

"Now that we're easing restrictions we do need to see what impact that has on the growth of the outbreak."

Ardern did not want to weigh in on the leadership changes in the National Party today.

"I see this as an issue for the National Party."

She said her focus is on the pandemic.

"The most important lesson I've had in politics is on focusing on what's best for the New Zealand people," she said.

"I don't see this as a matter for Parliament. I see this as a matter for the National Party Caucus to deal with. I'll be continuing to focus on the pandemic and they can manage any leadership issues they have."

The government has announced todaythat rapid antigen testing will be rolled out widely soon.

Ardern said rapid antigen testing is a lot cheaper than the current PCR testing that is being used for clinics.

"They are very low cost relative to what we've been using. We will still use PCR testing as a tool in our response, in addition to rapid antigen testing."

Pricing and so forth will be determined by pharmacies and the Ministry of Health.

With the gradual end of MIQ announced and the opening of New Zealand's borders in 2022, Ardern said the focus is on giving NZ citizens abroad certainty, as they will be the first to return home without quarantine.

Those in Australia can return in mid-January and in most other countries in mid-February.

"We do want to ease carefully though," she said and New Zealand will see the impact made by those changes and take into account as the border opens.

"Throughout this pandemic one of the hardest things to do has been to plan," Ardern said.

"Our focus now is on getting the settings right domestically."

Hospitality opens on 3 December, and early openings by hairdressers and others using the new vaccine pass will make it easier for them to be rolled out in more places.

With the Auckland border, she says the strict requirements for transit have kept case numbers from being worse than they could have.

Legislation that will replace the current alert levels with the traffic light system passed its final reading in the House, with opposition parties criticising it as divisive and unduly rushed.

Ardern defended that passage and said the legislation still has checks and balances.

"We are still making sure that whilst we need to move quickly, we still have scrutiny as well."

"The orders still go through Parliamentary Select Committee. They are scrutinized by the opposition and we still maintain debate in the New Zealand Parliament on all these changes."

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PM Jacinda Ardern: 'Throughout this pandemic one of the hardest things to do has been to plan' - RNZ

New Zealand PM Ardern backs Five Eyes, open to other alliances – Reuters

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses supporters at a Labour Party event in Wellington, New Zealand, October 11, 2020. REUTERS/Praveen Menon/File Photo


Nov 26 (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed support on Friday for its Five Eyes alliance with Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, but said her country would also consider other economic alliances in the Pacific region.

New Zealand has faced increasing pressure from some elements among Western allies over its reluctance to use the Five Eyes intelligence and security alliance to criticise its top trading partner, China.

"We do have important alliances we are part of and we consider fit for purpose and we consider need to be used for the functions for which they were originally established," Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.


"Beyond that, we consider that there's benefit to seeing a range of other actors in our region showing greater interest, not just in the strategic environment but the economic architecture for example of our region," she added.

"We welcome other countries becoming more closely aligned through multilateral trade agreements, through bilateral trade agreements."

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta raised eyebrows earlier this year when she said she was uncomfortable about expanding the role of Five Eyes beyond a security and intelligence framework.

Mahuta also said New Zealand needed to maintain and respect China's "particular customs, traditions and values."

China, which takes almost one-third of New Zealand's exports, has accused Five Eyes of ganging up on it by issuing statements on Hong Kong and the treatment of ethnic Muslim Uyhgurs in Xinjiang.

Ardern, who earlier this year said that differences with China were "becoming harder to reconcile", said on Friday there was "no question that China's posture has changed in many ways."

"Over the last decade, I do think that we've seen a different dynamic, and a different range of leaders with a strategic interest in our region and that does pose challenges," she said.

"New Zealand, though, has been utterly consistent. We've always jealously guarded our foreign policy independent positions and continue to do so."

To watch the Reuters Next conference please register here https://reutersevents.com/events/next/


Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by William Mallard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


New Zealand PM Ardern backs Five Eyes, open to other alliances - Reuters

Leadership in the time of Covid is a thankless job, in politics and in sport – Stuff.co.nz

OPINION: Assuming you have the required skills, would you want to be Prime Minister or All Black rugby coach? Really?

Its a wonder they can find anyone to do either job, given leadership means abuse, insinuations, and accusations. Opposition leader is said to be even worse.

PM Jacinda Ardern and Ian Foster must wonder what they were thinking when they stuck their heads above the parapet; two Waikato kids now being widely compared with a by-product from the back end of cows.

Neither will be having a great time, both are likely to be cursing Covid. OK, Ardern had Whakaari/White Island and the mosque shootings to deal with as well, but for two years Covid has stalked their every move.

READ MORE:* New political puppets unveiled at Wellington's Backbencher pub* Which prime ministers oversaw the biggest house price increases?* Limited travel bubble gives All Blacks extra hope to be home by Christmas but one massive hurdle remains


All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, dejected after losing to France.

Public doubts are rising. Ardern is maintaining her smile as she slips in the polls, and a potpourri of disaffected Kiwis protest in the streets.

Foster has never won a popularity poll, even before consecutive losses to Ireland and France. You wouldnt rule out an anti-Fozzie march, the way things are going in Aotearoa.

Why lump Ardern and Foster together, you ask? Stints as a Press Gallery and sports reporter have revealed they have more parallels, than differences.

In Australia, its said the cricket captain is the second-most important person, after prime minister. Former PM John Howard even put it the other way around.

Rachael Kelly/Stuff

Werner Marx and Phil Gerritson of Tapanui were at Groundswell's Mother Of All Protests in Gore.

And so it is in Godzone, where rugby is the national game and politics has five sides on the Parliamentary pitch at the same time.

A PM must manage the unmanageable, whether the country or her own MPs, as does the All Blacks coach, harnessing an array of talents and mindsets into a cohesive whole.

After an election, one political team is given the ball, while the others complain about how they want it, how unfair the rules are, and what they would do if they only had the ball (always much better).

And just like Super Rugby, political parties have fans who will go nowhere else, or even see any merit in their rivals. A small percent of voters might switch, but only to the next-door party on the political spectrum.

No-one is going from the Greens to ACT, or vice versa, that would be like a Crusaders fan switching to the Blues. A decade after Foster left the Chiefs, there are still accusations of bias, with every selection seen through a Chiefs filter.

When the All Blacks get rucked over, the coach is a target of frustrated fans, powerless to vote him out, and with employer New Zealand Rugby usually as supportive as an international front-row forward.

My point is (yes, I know it has been a long wait) no normal person could handle either job, and both Ardern and Foster are more talented than normal people; which is not to say they are flawless, or even the best.

Yes, there is the money - the prime minister gets $471,049 and annual allowances for travel and lodging, and a lifetime annuity.


John Key was one prime minister who got to choose the timing of his own exit.

For that, prime ministers work endlessly, irrespective of the colour of their rosettes. I say this as someone who has been phoned by a PM after 11pm, and before 7.30am. Exhausting.

Fosters salary is a state secret. Top All Blacks earn more than a million.

So there is the money, but when did money ever make you less tired, or less stressed? Your body doesnt know how much youre being paid. It just knows it is exhausted, and youre not looking after it. The same goes for your brain.

And at the end of it all it can (and usually does) end in tears; Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley, Laurie Mains, John Hart, Grizz Wyllie, Bill English, John Mitchell, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore - did any stop being top gun on their own terms?

Or maybe they did. Maybe they (and their families) were simply relieved the war was over.

Whod blame them?

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Leadership in the time of Covid is a thankless job, in politics and in sport - Stuff.co.nz

Time for the National Party to embrace kindness – Stuff.co.nz

OPINION: I know some people would be rolling their eyes at the thought of the National Party embracing the kindness brand.

These are the same people who continually and openly mock Jacinda Ardern for her advocacy for kindness, seeing it as virtue-signalling and a coy attempt at garnering domestic and international popularity.

I dont buy these criticisms because they are simply not consistent with the inner character and behaviour of the prime minister, whose propensity for empathy seems as natural as Donald Trumps propensity for self-adulation.


Donna Miles says interim National Party leader Shane Reti is an obvious permanent choice as a leader who displays, communicates and prioritises the values of decency and kindness, rather than domination and power.

But there are other criticisms of Labours kindness brand worth mentioning. It is said that Kiwis living in poor neighbourhoods of South Auckland, with large Mori and Pasifika populations, whose problems have been exacerbated by Covid and lockdowns, have not felt much kindness.

READ MORE:* Populism from the Brexit and Trump playbooks enters the New Zealand election campaign but its a risky strategy* Boochani and Collins raise unsettling questions about refugees* Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani granted refugee status in NZ* We are lucky Behrouz Boochani is here to tell his story * Celebrated author Behrouz Boochani, detained on Manus Island for six years, arrives in New Zealand

The housing crisis, child poverty and rising inequality have also left many New Zealanders feeling neglected and uncared for.

But these are not arguments against kindness - if anything, these are good reasons for thinking deeper about what a kind New Zealand should really look like, and how a healthy, empathetic society can ensure no-one is left behind.

People who belittle kindness as a value in politics and business often do so to justify their own selfishness and cruelty. But times are changing and even businesses are thinking and committing to kindness, wanting it to become an everyday thought and a consistent part of their mindset and communication.

It all makes sense. Kindness, its argued, is highly recognisable, especially when it happens directly to us - and all of us, bar sociopaths, are capable of exhibiting kindness.

To my Iranian mum, whose English is not good enough to follow New Zealand politics in great detail, the kindness of Jacinda Ardern has always been too obvious to miss. It is in her mannerism and countenance, Mum says of the way the PM conducts and carries herself.


Donna Miles: Even I cannot help but like our PM for her decorum and decency.

She also openly says that she loves Jacinda Ardern. I firmly believe political leaders should not be idolised in any way, lest they be exempt from scrutiny and accountability, but even I cannot help but like our PM for her decorum and decency. I think it is a human condition to be more forgiving of people that we like, and to be overly critical of people we don't like.

This brings me to the National Partys current leadership crisis. As I write this, there is no clear indication of whom the future leader of the party will be.

But I do hope that this new change will bring with it a discontinuation of past practices and a departure from the party's current image. From dirty politics to wanting to appear tough on important issues such as crime and asylum response to these issues should be guided by evidence, not fleeting populism the National Partys anti-kindness approach has not only been detrimental to ordinary Kiwis, it clearly has also led to continual division and spite within the party.

I will never forget how the National Party behaved after high-profile Kurdish refugee author Behrouz Boochani was granted asylum in New Zealand. When Boochani arrived in Christchurch for a speaking engagement at the Word festival, he called the Christchurch welcome a reminder of kindness.

joseph johnson/Stuff

Donna Miles says she will never forget the National Partys treatment of Kurdish-Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani after his arrival in New Zealand last year.

But soon after he was granted asylum, the National Party suggested political interference because, they said, the author had connections in the Greens and the Labour Party. All of it was untrue, of course, and the allegations seemed to many, including some National supporters, entirely pointless and mean-spirited.

National, having underestimated Boochanis support, quietly changed tack. If National had kindness as its guiding principle, it would have not made those allegations without any evidence, or consideration of their impact on Boochani, who had already suffered prolonged cruelty in Australian offshore detention centres on Manus Island.

Almost all modern crises faced by humanity require a departure from a selfish approach, which prioritises the individual, to an approach which considers the collective interest as paramount.


Donna Miles: Almost all modern crises faced by humanity require a departure from a selfish approach, which prioritises the individual ...

The hard reality is that without a great deal of altruism and self-sacrifice, serious issues such as the climate change crisis, housing crisis, refugee crisis, inequality crisis and even the pandemic will not be resolved. But there is another just as urgent reason for more politicians to embrace the kindness brand and that is the growing mental health crisis.

Constant nastiness and bickering in politics is disengaging for voters and detrimental to everyones mental wellbeing, including the politicians themselves.

National now has a chance to appoint a leader who displays, communicates and prioritises the values of decency and kindness, rather than domination and power.

There is an obvious choice in Dr Shane Reti. The question is, will the National Party take it?

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Time for the National Party to embrace kindness - Stuff.co.nz

Everyday activities won’t be available to the unvaccinated – Jacinda Ardern – RNZ

If you are not vaccinated, there will be everyday things you will miss out on, the prime minister says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the framework will provide people with greater clarity moving forward. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

A new Covid-19 response framework is being finalised and will be released on Friday, providing people with greater clarity, Jacinda Ardern said.

"It will become very clear to people that if you are not vaccinated there will be things that you miss out on, everyday things that you will miss out on," Ardern told Morning Report.

"It's about both rewarding people who have gone out and done the right thing but also keeping away people who are less safe."

She said by the time the framework is ready to move to, the government is confident vaccine certificates will be ready.

It's like an alert level system, she said.

"We've always said once we're vaccinated it will be different, so we need to therefore design what that looks like."

Ardern said the government is drawing some distinctions though, they don't want an environment where people can't access necessary goods and services to maintain their lives.

"We can't say someone can't get health services, medical needs, pharmacies, food."

The government is supporting providers who are providing incentives for people to get vaccinated, she said.

"Anything that they identify will work for their community has our backing."

Ardern said domestic travel is being looked at separately from the framework to be announced Friday, and work is being down to see if there is a way to safely allow movement.

"But that would have a number of checks around it - is there a way that we can use vaccine certificates but also acknowledge that even if you're vaccinated it is still possible for you to have asymptotic Covid."

The border is putting a lot of strain on Auckland the more time is it needed, she said.

"At the same time, the rest of New Zealand wants to remain... Covid free or be in the position to extinguish Covid cases as they arrive. So we've got to balance those two needs."

Epidemiologist Rod Jackson told Morning Report the government needs to go hard on those who just haven't yet got around to getting a vaccine - "With no jab, no job, no fun".

The second group of people who aren't vaccinated however, don't trust the system, he said.

"And for those we have to find the people that they trust.

"The only game in town is to buy time until we get everyone vaccinated."

The government has signalled a vaccination target will be part of the soon to be announced framework.

Jackson says if 95 percent of the population is vaccinated, there will be death, disease and hospitalisations for the last five percent.

"Those were the 5 percent who were the first to get Covid in Europe last year, those are where most of the deaths are, those are where most of the hospitalisations are...For the rest of us, we're all going to get Covid again.

He said people don't realise that.

"There's two ways to get vaccinated. You either get vaccinated by the virus, and that's brutal, one in 10 hospitalisations in this latest outbreak. If you get Covid after you've been vaccinated it will happen slowly because the vaccine is fantastic for dealing with severe disease but it only slows down infection."

Slowing down infection is the key problem a vaccinated population faces, he said.

"Because Covid spreads so rapidly, even if the vaccine has reduced your risk of going to hospital from one in 10 to one in 100. That is still one in 100 of a lot of people if Covid is spreading rapidly."

A flexible approach is needed, he said.

Go here to read the rest:

Everyday activities won't be available to the unvaccinated - Jacinda Ardern - RNZ

Why Jacinda Arderns clumsy leadership response to Delta could still be the right approach – The Conversation AU

Leading people through the pandemic is clearly no easy task. But does the criticism currently directed at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveal a major misstep on her part, or something deeper about the nature of leadership itself?

Ardern has previously won widespread praise for her COVID-19 response and crisis communication, topping Fortune magazines worlds greatest leaders list in 2021.

Focused on minimising harm to both lives and livelihoods, her pandemic leadership has comprised three main strands: reliance on expert advice, mobilising collective effort and cushioning the pandemics disruptive effects.

These built the trust needed to secure high levels of voluntary compliance for measures designed to limit the spread of the virus.

Then came the Delta outbreak in mid-August, which sees Auckland still under lockdown measures nearly eight weeks later. Despite the efforts of many, elimination proved elusive a daunting reality that Ardern and her cabinet colleagues appear to have accepted.

This shift by Ardern, who engages deeply with the scientific evidence, has confused and angered many, even those who normally support her.

With vaccination rates climbing, in early October, Ardern announced the beginning of a gradual transition away from the established zero COVID strategy in favour of suppression of inevitable outbreaks.

Read more: Three reasons why Jacinda Ardern's coronavirus response has been a masterclass in crisis leadership

This included a three-step roadmap to guide Auckland carefully towards reduced restrictions. What criteria will be used to trigger movement through those steps, however, have not been specified.

Both the strategic shift and the roadmaps ambiguity have become the source of heated debate. But beyond merely choosing sides, how can we make sense of Arderns leadership at this point?

The pandemic presents a particular type of problem for political leaders, described as wicked or adaptive by leadership experts Keith Grint and Ronald Heifetz, respectively.

Basically, wicked or adaptive problems have complex and contentious causes, generating equally complex and contentious responses.

Their wickedness isnt fundamentally a question of morality, although they do typically entail making values-based choices. Rather, it refers to how difficult they are to contend with. Poverty, the housing crisis and climate change are other good examples of these kinds of problems.

Wicked/adaptive problems dont have clear boundaries, nor are they static. They have multiple dynamic dimensions. Their effects typically spill out into many parts of our lives and organisations, creating confusion, harmful consequences and disruption to established routines.

To make matters worse, there simply arent tried and trusted solutions that can resolve or dissolve such problems. Instead, they require leaders to accustom people to uncomfortable and disruptive changes to established ways of thinking and acting.

Unsurprisingly, many leaders avoid facing up to such difficulties, requiring as it does the cobbling together of a range of imperfect responses to ever-changing circumstances. It requires constant engagement, mobilising people to help craft a way forward.

Read more: Anniversary of a landslide: new research reveals what really swung New Zealand's 2020 'COVID election'

Leaders cant and dont have all the answers to such problems. Whatever answers they do have likely need to keep changing as things unfold. The best possible scenario is what Grint calls a clumsy solution a patchwork of adaptive initiatives that blunt the problems worst effects.

Only genuinely transformative change can truly overcome these wicked or adaptive problems in the long run.

In the meantime, clumsy leadership will typically trigger conflict between leaders and citizens (or employees in a work setting), and among those people too. There will be blame, recrimination, avoidance, denial, grief, what ifs and if onlys, as people struggle to deal with the changes needed.

Indeed, all these very normal responses have characterised much of the commentary about the Ardern governments decision to change tack.

That criticism, however, doesnt mean she has failed in her leadership responsibilities. Instead, she has required the population to face up to an adaptive challenge. Its unavoidably contentious and painful.

Read more: Phased border reopening, faster vaccination, be ready for Delta: Jacinda Ardern lays out NZ's COVID roadmap

For all that we can debate whether different decisions could or should have been made, the difficulties involved in facing the new reality are unavoidable.

To help people navigate this, Ardern is seeking to regulate distress, as Heifetz recommends. She has repeatedly assured people a cautious approach remains in place and has appeared not to have been distracted by the criticism.

Instead, she has stayed focused on mobilising the individual and collective effort to follow the rules and get vaccinated.

Read more: The COVID-zero strategy may be past its use-by date, but New Zealand still has a vaccination advantage

Wicked/adaptive problems are not amenable to resolution by way of quick, easy or elegant answers. They arent fixed by recourse to command and control, although some top-down decisions are needed.

They entail ambiguity and uncertainty, a constant piecing together of efforts to outflank, mitigate or adapt, giving rise to inevitably imperfect or clumsy solutions.

Asking people to adjust to efforts to achieve the least-worst outcome possible from a range of unpalatable options may not be the easiest path to political popularity. But it is arguably what responsible leaders do.

See the rest here:

Why Jacinda Arderns clumsy leadership response to Delta could still be the right approach - The Conversation AU

When will Aucklanders turn on Jacinda Ardern? – MacroBusiness

Like Australia, New Zealands COVID vaccination efforts have been spectacular.

As shown in the table below, 85% of the eligible (16+) population has received at least one vaccine dose, with 66% full vaccinated:

This has moved New Zealand from global vaccination laggard towards leader:

Auckland New Zealands largest city of 1.7 million people has been in lockdown for 63 days despite having only 1,736 community cases and Auckland being more highly vaccinated than New Zealand as a whole. 89% of the Greater Aucklands eligible population has received one vaccine dose and 70% are fully vaccinated.

Yet, despite the low active case numbers and Aucklands high vaccination rate, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced that Auckland would remain in lockdown for another two weeks:

Ardern has not yet announced a specific point in vaccination levels where restrictions will be loosened, but has previously ruled out dropping public health measures before the country reaches 90%. She said on Monday afternoon that restrictions would be needed for a while longer to avoid a spike in cases

If we get this right, if we keep case numbers low while we vaccinate people then it makes it easier for us to keep control of Covid, while we ease restrictions in the future, and that is everyones goal, she said. The question for cabinet today has been how do we avoid a spike in case numbers, and hospitalisations, and protect vulnerable communities as much as possible in the coming weeks, while we keep lifting vaccination numbers.

There has only been two deaths in this outbreak out of more than 1700 cases. At what point will Aucklanders say enough is, enough and revolt against Jacinda Arderns draconian lockdown?

Residents of Auckland must be looking across the pond at Sydney and Melbourne and wondering what the hell is going on?

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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When will Aucklanders turn on Jacinda Ardern? - MacroBusiness

New Zealand increases climate aid ahead of UN summit – The Indian Express

New Zealand is making a four-fold increase in foreign aid spending on countries most vulnerable to climate change, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

The announcement comes in the run-up to a landmark UN climate conference in Glasgow.How much climate funding is New Zealand planning?

Ardern said Wellington would boost its climate aid budget to NZ$1.3 billion ($920 million; 790 million) over four years.

New Zealand will do its fair share in the global race to tackle climate change by providing $1.3 billion to assist lower-income countries to protect lives, livelihoods and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change, she said in a statement.

At least half of the funding will go to Pacific island nations as they tackle the climate emergency, the statement said.

We need to continue to step up our support for our Pacific family and neighbours who are on the front line of climate change and need our support most, Ardern said.

The prime minister said the money would help Wellington in supporting clean energy projects in developing nations.

She added that the investment would help communities withstand damaging storms and rising sea levels.

How does that compare with other nations?

Monitoring website Climate Action Tracker rates New Zealands existing climate aid budget as critically insufficient and the nations overall response to global warming as highly insufficient.

With the increased commitment from 2022-25, New Zealands per capita contribution to global climate finance would match that of Britains.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said it was the duty of comparatively wealthy nations like New Zealand to help at-risk nations prepare for climate change.

Our history over the last 30 years has been woefully inadequate when it comes to the scale of the challenge, Shaw told Radio New Zealand.

What thats left us with now is only a few years remaining to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere, he added.

Go here to see the original:

New Zealand increases climate aid ahead of UN summit - The Indian Express

Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Scathing feedback from experts on Jacinda Ardern’s traffic light system to replace alert levels – New Zealand Herald


15 Oct, 2021 04:00 PM4 minutes to read

Watch: Kiwis have smashed the government's 'Super Saturday' goal of 100,000 vaccine doses today - and Auckland should hit the 90 per cent first-dose target in the next five days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office has been sent some heavily critical feedback on the Government's draft traffic light system, which is meant to replace alert levels when the population is highly vaccinated.

"Not fit for purpose" and "no consultation" were strong sentiments among the expert feedback for a new system that Ardern will reveal next week.

During a visit to Taranaki yesterday, she said the new system was about incorporating vaccination certificates into a framework of restrictions based on risk.

"How can we use vaccination as a way to give greater access to some of the things that have been high risk in the past?

"There has been consultation on it over the last couple of weeks."

That included a Zoom meeting on Thursday co-chaired by Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, chief science adviser to the Prime Minister, and Professor Ian Town, chief science adviser at the Ministry of Health.

It included dozens of health experts including microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles, developmental paediatrician Dr Jin Russell, GP Rawiri Jansen, Auckland University Associate Professor Collin Tukuitonga, Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy, and epidemiologists Sir David Skegg, Professor Michael Baker, and Dr Rod Jackson.

The traffic light system aligns the level of risk to red, amber and green.

In the draft proposal, green is similar to level 1 settings but with mandatory vaccination requirements for large events - which Ardern has already said will be needed for summer festivals.

Amber is similar to level 2, where the virus is increasing in circulation and restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing would be used. There would also potentially be a requirement for vaccinations at retail and hospitality businesses.

15 Oct, 2021 12:07 AMQuick Read

15 Oct, 2021 04:32 AMQuick Read

14 Oct, 2021 09:56 PMQuick Read

15 Oct, 2021 12:53 AMQuick Read

Ardern has said the Government is yet to decide on whether to make vaccinations mandatory for the hospitality sector.

Red is similar to level 2.5, with some limits on gatherings and possibly further vaccination requirements for businesses.

Several people familiar with the Zoom call told the Weekend Herald that the general feedback was that the new system wasn't fit for purpose, and its usefulness was for a time when enough of the population was fully vaccinated - which could be months away.

That is considered to be the only scenario when lockdown restrictions, which were notably absent in the red settings, would no longer be needed.

It would then be premature to reveal it to the public if it wasn't going to be implemented for some time, the Weekend Herald was told, and if it was going to come into force sooner, then that would be risky.

Concerns were also raised around how flexible the system would be, and why it would be better to move to a system than was less nuanced that the current one, and which was also already well understood.

There were also questions around who had developed it.

Level 3 and 4 settings were mooted as still being a necessary part of the toolbox, given the possibility that a new variant might emerge that was resistant to vaccines.

The latest data shows 83 per cent of the eligible population across the country with a single dose, and 62 per cent fully vaccinated (and for Mori, 41 per cent) - well below what those figures need to be to safely jettison lockdown restrictions.

Ardern has previously talked about the ability to avoid level 3 restrictions if 90-plus per cent of the population were fully vaccinated.

The Government is understood to have sought independent expert advice on the public health strategies that should be pursued for a highly vaccinated population.

Cabinet will discuss the traffic light system on Monday, including when the right time would be to transition to the new system, and what the triggers would be to move between the different settings.

The new threshold for lockdown-type restrictions will also be discussed, given the increasingly vaccinated population.

Gerrard, who posted a photo of the Zoom meeting on Twitter, said that minutes for the meeting would be publicly available within a month.


Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Scathing feedback from experts on Jacinda Ardern's traffic light system to replace alert levels - New Zealand Herald

Covid 19: No change likely for Auckland, Waikato but alert levels now on borrowed time – Stuff.co.nz

ANALYSIS: This week, and probably for a few more after, we will see the last gasp of alert level decisions.

Hopefully by the end of the first quarter of next year, the memory of alert levels will be receding from sight as life gets back to more normal and there is a general acceptance of Covid-19 in the community.

However, on Monday afternoon at 4pm there will be decisions being made on Auckland, Northland and Waikato.

Northland seems a no-brainer. It looks like it should go back to alert level 2. There haven't been any extra cases pop up there for a few days.

Waikato, similarly, seems like a no-brainer except in the other direction. There were another four reported cases in Waikato on Sunday. Clearly Covid-19 is still floating around Waikato not least in the wastewater and not all the sources of it are known yet.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Lower Hutt on Saturday.

READ MORE:* Covid-19 Australia: Quarantine-free travel to NSW starts November 1 for double-jabbed* Covid-19: Australia on track for 90 per cent vaccination rate* Covid-19: Pressure on Government for weeks ahead as Northland locks down and vaccine campaign takes centre stage* PM Jacinda Ardern warns lockdowns will continue without more vaccination

In a way, getting the case numbers down in Waikato is of more immediate importance to the Government than Auckland. Because of its relatively porous border, chances of the virus getting out once entrenched are greater than in Auckland.

That matters because the Government is still effectively running an elimination strategy outside of Auckland, while doing suppression inside, and it doesn't want to have to lock down other parts of the country while getting vaccination rates up.

In Auckland, the question facing the Government will be whether to move the city to the next step of fewer restrictions: this would involve the reopening of retail, public places such as zoos, libraries and museums, and increased limits to weddings and funerals of 25 people.

On the face of it, it seems highly unlikely that this will occur. Clearly Covid is in Auckland to stay and the trend line of cases is rising. But until full vaccination rates are higher, it is unlikely more restrictions will be eased.


Music, dancing, food stalls and a visit from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought crowds down to the youth-led vaccination festival 'Do it 4 the East' in Cannons Creek, Porirua.

The big vaxathon on Saturday clearly helped Auckland is now almost up at 90 per cent first doses, but it's the full course that is of the most public health interest.

According to the Ministry of Healths figures 85 per cent of the population nationally has had one jab of vaccine, while 65 per cent have had two doses. In Auckland, however, first doses are 89 per cent while second doses are at 71 per cent.

Second dose figures in Auckland are starting to really rise now, but it is unlikely to be enough for the Government to ease up immediately. It has consistently said that it wants everyone eligible to have the chance to get vaccinated this year. While clearly everyone has had the chance, thats a lot of people still waiting on their second jab.

For that reason, more liberalising in Auckland looks unlikely.

It is difficult seeing these sorts of alert level decisions last more than a few weeks, and the Government is expected to announce a raft of changes to how it manages Covid-19 this week. Monday will most likely focus on the alert levels, but the PM may give a taster of what is to come later in the week.

Behind closed doors the Government stresses that the plan will still, more or less, be what was broadly signalled in its Reconnecting New Zealand work in mid- August, just prior to the lockdown although Delta has sped it up dramatically.

On Friday, the Australian state of New South Wales announced that, come November 1, it would be allowing all fully vaccinated travellers to NSW be they residents, tourists, or anyone else to come to the state without quarantine or even self-isolation. (Scott Morrison and the Australian Government quickly scotched that suggestion for non-Australians for a bunch of pretty weak reasons, not least of which is the frenemy-style relationship between Morrison and new NSW premier and fellow Liberal Dominic Perrottet).

Quarantine-free travel to Australia from the South Island will now be restarted for the fully vaccinated.

But the point is, at an 80 per cent vaccination rate, NSW is only a few weeks ahead of New Zealand.

But NSW, with its population of 8-odd million has gone through its big Covid wave, it is now down to about 300 cases per day and falling. New Zealand's reopening or even further spread of Covid-19 in Auckland beforehand will take place with a far more vaccinated population than in NSW or Victoria at similar stages of their outbreaks.

But that wont give much succour to desperate business and residents of Auckland destined to be looking at the same four walls for another week or few. A firm plan of what will happen when, dished up this week, might.

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Covid 19: No change likely for Auckland, Waikato but alert levels now on borrowed time - Stuff.co.nz

Anniversary of a landslide: new research reveals what really swung New Zealand’s 2020 ‘COVID election’ – The Conversation AU

Nine months out from the 2020 election, opinion polls suggested it would be a close race between Labour and National. But that all changed with the arrival of the global pandemic.

COVID came to dominate the policy and political agenda from March 2020, ensuring Labour focused its re-election campaign firmly on its pandemic response. As Jacinda Ardern said at the campaign launch, When people ask, is this a COVID election, my answer is yes, it is.

The result was resounding. On October 17, Labour won an unprecedented victory, forming the first single-party majority government of the MMP era. It was the largest ever swing to an incumbent in the history of New Zealand politics.

So what does this result tell us about electoral politics in the context of a global crisis, and the role of incumbency, leadership, trust?

When it comes to analysing an election result, changes in party vote or seats give us an overall picture. But to understand why the electorate votes the way it does we need to consider the choices made by individuals.

The New Zealand Election Study (NZES) allows us to look at a random sample of individuals drawn from the electoral roll, and to test some of the factors we know influence voting behaviour.

Read more: New Zealand's new parliament turns red: final 2020 election results at a glance

The NZES has been conducted after every general election since 1990. In 2020, we surveyed 3,731 participants whose views and votes provide us with a unique insight into the complex interplay of variables that might determine an election result.

Here we highlight some of the topline numbers from our analysis of the 2020 NZES to cast light on what led to the historical election outcome 12 months ago.

The data reveal that 2020 was indeed a COVID election. For instance, we asked people to say what they thought was the most important issue of the election. As our word cloud below shows, COVID was clearly the most mentioned issue, and ranked above many issues traditionally seen as important during election campaigns.

Moreover, the public overwhelmingly supported the governments response to COVID, with 84% of people approving or strongly approving, while only 6% disapproved.

Of those who approved or strongly approved of the response, 57% reported casting a vote for Labour (9% voted Green, 3% New Zealand First and 1% Mori Party), while only 19% voted for National.

The majority (50%) of people who disapproved of the governments COVID response voted for National, and a further 19% for ACT, while only 8% voted for Labour.

Nationals loss and Labours win sparked a number of speculative explanations. For example, Labours gains in provincial electorates were claimed to be a result of strategic voting by farmers anxious about Green Party policies and water reform.

Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury president David Clark argued that plenty of farmers have voted Labour so they can govern alone rather than having a Labour-Greens government.

Read more: Labour's single-party majority is not a failure of MMP, it is a sign NZ's electoral system is working

But our analysis of the NZES data reveals only a small change in the farming vote between parties. A majority (57%) of those in farming occupations voted for National and 21% voted for Labour. These numbers contrast with 2017 when National received 67% of the farming vote and Labour just 8%.

On the other hand, ACTs share of the farming vote increased from 2% to 16%, while the NZ First vote collapsed from 13% to less than 1%.

While these observations are based on a very small sample size of farmers, and should be interpreted with caution, our findings indicate the combined National-ACT vote was relatively unchanged making the anti-Green argument a little far-fetched.

Looking at the responses of all voters in our study, we find that of those who switched from National in 2017 to Labour in 2020, 46% placed themselves at the centre of the political spectrum, compared with 25% of voters who voted for National in both the last two elections.

This suggests these centre voters may have always been open to switching from National to Labour, casting further doubt on the strategic voting claim.

Read more: Her cabinet appointed, Jacinda Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen

The popularity of Jacinda Ardern and the lack of popularity of Judith Collins is also highly likely to have contributed to Labours success. Of our NZES respondents, 65% said they most wanted Ardern to be prime minister on election day, compared to only 17% supporting Collins (no one else received over 2% support).

When asked to rate leaders from 0 (strongly dislike) to 10 (strongly like), 33% of people gave Ardern 10, and 69% gave her a 7 or above. In contrast, only 22% of people gave Collins a 7 or above, and 23% gave her 0.

We found, unsurprisingly, that likeability and trust are highly correlated, but we also found trust in Ardern as leader was statistically significant in explaining the shift to Labour, even after controlling for how much people liked or disliked her, their prior vote, and their left-right positions.

This supports assessments from around the world that decisive and rapid responses to COVID-19, combined with clear communication, can lead to increased trust in political leaders.

Read more: Can New Zealand's most diverse ever cabinet improve representation of women and minorities in general?

We also know Labour won nearly half a million new voters compared to 2017. Where did this support come from? Around 16% of 2020 Labour voters reported voting for National in 2017, while 13% stated they did not vote in the previous election.

Of the new Labour voters, the majority (55.5%) were women and just over half (51%) were under the age of 40, with 33% Millennials and 18% Gen Z. When asked which party best represented their views, 58% chose Labour and just 11% chose National.

However, when asked if there was a party they usually felt close to, only 29% reported feeling close to Labour, while 53% did not feel close to any party.

Our NZES data clearly show the 2020 New Zealand general election can indeed be thought of as a COVID election. Support for the governments rapid public health and economic policy responses, and the popularity of Ardern, go a long way to explaining the outcome.

However, as the word cloud suggests, there are a number of policy issues that remain of concern to voters, including housing, health and the economy. These were issues that featured in 2017 and may continue to matter through to the 2023 election.

Our preliminary analysis, then, is a reminder that Labour cannot take its new voters for granted.

The rest is here:

Anniversary of a landslide: new research reveals what really swung New Zealand's 2020 'COVID election' - The Conversation AU

Why Jacinda Ardern giving up on eliminating COVID-19 is a political gamble for the popular PM – ABC News

For 18 months, New Zealand has enjoyed the reputation as the little island that could.

The so-called "team of 5 million" has lived under the threatof strict and sharp lockdowns in exchange for the comfort of knowing it would not have to live with COVID-19 in the community.

And for a while, there was a sense of pride and unity over that approach.

However, things have now changed.

On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was time the country transitioned away from the elimination strategy a huge departure from the approach much of the countryhad bought into a long time ago.

"Elimination was important because we didn't have vaccines.Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things," she said.

"We need to continue to contain and control the virus as much as possible while we make our transition from a place where we only use heavy restrictions to a place where we use vaccines and everyday public health measures.

"This is a change in approach we were always going to make over time. Our Delta outbreak has accelerated that transition."

One commentatorsaid the change "felt like a form of whiplash".

Another said it was a political and policy tipping point for the Prime Minister.

AP: Mark Baker

Ms Ardern was re-elected in a landslide victory in October, with Labor securing 50 per cent of the vote and enough seats to form government on its own.

It was a huge endorsement of the Prime Minister and her approach to managing the pandemic to that point.

"Her victory last year was almost entirely a function of the popularity of the elimination strategy, and also the success of it," professor of politics at Massey UniversityRichard Shawtold the ABC.

"People felt safe within fortress New Zealand.

"There's long been a sense in New Zealandthat if there are problems in the outside world, we can throw up the barriers and go bush, which is what we did last year, so Ardern was picking up people who would have been lifelong National Party voters, but who appreciated the strategy and the clarity of messaging,and now that's all gone."

Professor Shaw said the moveaway from elimination and the confusion around the current messaging was a political risk for Ms Ardern.

"It's too soon yet to know what kind of impact it would have on her personal popularity, or the government in general, but it is quite a significant moment in contemporary New Zealand politics," he said.

"The risk plays out in various ways.

"The obvious risk is that the disease gets out of control and all of the goodwill that Ardern and her government have accrued over the last 18 months will very rapidly dribble away into the sand."

Reuters:Fiona Goodall

Despite the popularity of Ms Ardern's initial approach, New Zealand has not been immune to anti-lockdown sentiment and protests.

There have also been calls from New Zealanders stranded overseas and from businesses that rely on seasonal workersfor the borders to open.

Recently, former prime minister and National Party leader Sir John Key penned an opinion piece calling for a new strategy, one that would see the "smug hermit kingdom" of New Zealandrejoin the global community.

"Some people might like to continue the North Korean option. I am not one of them," he wrote.

The most recent outbreak, which began in August, kept Auckland residents under alert level 4 restrictions for five weeks.

These are some of the strictest lockdown conditions in the world, prohibiting takeaway food and coffee, and closing all businesses not considered essential effectively placing everyone under quarantine conditions.

For the country's most populous city, it wasa serious blow to the economy and one that has not let up.

Auckland then moved to alert level 3. Thecity is now under settings that sit somewhere between level 3 and level 2, but the number of cases is still increasing, and the infections arebeing found outside of Auckland.

The Waikato region is under alert level 3 restrictions.

Supplied:General Council of the Samoan Assemblies of God in New Zealand

In August, just one case of COVID-19, which had not yet been confirmed as the Delta variant, plunged the whole of the country into a level 4 lockdown.

Yesterday, there were 29 new cases of community transmission, while no regions of the country were under the strictest lockdown.

And today, that number climbed again, with another 44 cases of COVID-19 found in the community.

"For many New Zealanders, the reality of needing to shift from a strict elimination strategy to a differently calibrated strategy due to the change in the nature of the virus is going to take some time to adapt to because we've had 18 months of one story, which is, 'We can eliminate it,'" Professor Shaw said.

Maori and Pacific people have lower rates of vaccination and higher rates of health complications. Pacific people representednearly 60 per cent of all cases COVID-19 in the August outbreak.

Auckland councillor and Samoan community representative Efeso Collins said his community was not ready to move away from the elimination strategy.

"We're worried. There is still a high level of weariness in South Auckland because we know the outbreaks have happened here, and because we present with co-morbidities, we know we're going to be the most affected in any outbreak," he said.

"As opposed to the other sides of Auckland, which are keen to get out of about and connect with people. It's a difficult balancing act when you've got essentially a tale of two cities."

Instagram: Efoso Collins

Mr Collins said he feared it would be vulnerable communities shouldering the increased risk that came with livingwith the virus.

"I think this is a real measure of our humanity," he said.

"We're pandering a little bit to the wealthier, middle class of Auckland.They haven't experienced the level of loss and anguish that we have in South Auckland so they don't know what we're going through."

Supplied: South Seas Healthcare

As the Prime Minister announced the transition towards the new approach, she pointed squarely to the reliance on vaccines.

"At the beginning of this outbreak, we said we were adopting an approach of elimination while we vaccinated that was the right choice and the only choice," she said.

Ms Ardern said at that time only 25 per cent of Aucklanders were fully vaccinated, but that figure was now up to 52 per cent.

Yesterday, the New Zealand Ministry of Health also announced 50 per cent of the entire country's eligible population was now fully vaccinated.

Experts called for clarity around the strategy going forward, saying immunity was not yet high enough to prevent widespread community transmission.

"The change in tack signalled by the government means it is really a matter of time before COVID finds its way to all corners of New Zealand," University of Canterbury COVID-19 modeller Michael Plank said.

"As we transition from an elimination to a suppression strategy, the government will have to tread a very narrow path to avoid overwhelming our hospitals.

"As vaccination rates increase, restrictions can be progressively eased, but if we relax too much, there is a risk the number of hospitalisations could start to spiral out of control."

One leading intensive care doctor has said New Zealand didnot have enough ICU beds for business as usual.

Reuters:Loren Elliott

While New Zealand enters a new phase of its pandemic response, Australia is planning to open its borders.

From late April until the end of July this year, so-called "green zone" flights flew between Australia and New Zealand in a travel bubble, with those on board walking off the plane and into the community, bypassing hotel quarantine.

But a month into the Delta outbreak in New South Wales, Ms Ardern said the risk had become too great and the bubble would be suspended.

A spokesperson from the New Zealand Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said a review of the suspension would take place in mid-to-late November.

"This will give New Zealand time to ensure our vaccination rates climb higher," they said.

"Quarantine free travel was established on the basis that there was little to no community transmission occurring in both countries."

Currently, people can only enter New Zealand from Australia on "red zone" flights before heading into hotel quarantine. Soon, some of those travellers will face further conditions.

"Full vaccination will become a requirement for non-New Zealand citizens aged 17 and over arriving into the country from November 1," the department spokesperson said.

While New Zealanders lookfor clarity around what next, and Ms Ardern seeks to reassure them, Professor Shaw says there is also "an opportunity".

"One thing we know about Ardern is she is very, very good in moments of risk.She knows how to narrate a crisis point," he said.

"This is the highest-risk moment of the last 18 months for her, but I wouldn't underestimate her capacity to communicate her way through this and to take a significant wedge of public support with her."

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Why Jacinda Ardern giving up on eliminating COVID-19 is a political gamble for the popular PM - ABC News

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern admits nation can’t get rid of coronavirus | TheHill – The Hill

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday acknowledged thatthe country cant completely get rid of COVID-19,The Associated Press reported.

Ardern made the remark while announcing plans to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, allowingresidents to be able to meet up with loved ones from one other household and go to the beach starting Tuesday. Early childhood education centers will also reopen.

For this outbreak, its clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases, Ardern said. But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didnt have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things.

Since the beginning of the global pandemic, New Zealand pushed a zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus by implementing strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.

While slowly returning back to normal life, the country experienced a new COVID-19 outbreak in August.

Ardern said that the seven-week lockdown in Auckland helped control the current situation, the AP reported.

The recent outbreak has led to more than 1,300 cases, with 29 new infections being detected on Monday.

Sixty-five percent of New Zealanders have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 40 percent of citizensnow fully vaccinated.Vaccination rates have slowed after initially rising in response to the current outbreak, the AP noted.

See the rest here:

New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern admits nation can't get rid of coronavirus | TheHill - The Hill

Covid-19: ‘Prepare for the inevitability of community transmission’ – Stuff.co.nz

The Government's new suppression strategy risks overwhelming the health system if the virus gets into under-vaccinated communities or if overworked public health officials can't keep up, Marc Daalder reports.

ANALYSIS: The Government has called time on elimination, 18 months and four days after Ashley Bloomfield embraced the strategy at a select committee hearing held under level 4 lockdown conditions.

As she announced a roadmap for Auckland's path out of lockdown on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Covid-19 cases would be present in the community but kept to low levels.

What I'm indicating is that in spite of not having reached zero, that doesn't mean that we are not able to successfully continue our work to keep people safe in the long-term and take an aggressive approach to Covid, she said.

Pool/Getty Images

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a three-step road map for Aucklands path out of lockdown.

READ MORE:* Covid 19: Elimination may be dead but Auckland's lockdown is very much alive - and lingering* Covid-19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kills the elimination strategy, but the restrictions won't end * Auckland's long and winding Covid-19 road with no clear end in sight* Covid-19: Concern for vulnerable communities as Govt announces lockdown exit strategy

Vaccinations will help us. Our contact tracing will continue to play a role. We'll still isolate every case. And in the future, public health measures will still be part of the mix as well.

Experts say New Zealanders should prepare for the presence of Covid-19 in the community under the new approach, even if the Government is striving to keep cases down and the health system from being overwhelmed.

This relaxing of restrictions will see more spread and more Covid cases in the community over the coming weeks, Te Pnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy said.

This isn't just the case in Auckland, either. Hendy's fellow modeller, University of Canterbury mathematics professor Michael Plank, said we should expect to see the virus outside of the city.

The Auckland boundary will remain in place for now. But if, as is likely, case numbers continue to grow, it will become progressively harder to keep the outbreak contained to Auckland, he said.

The rest of New Zealand should prepare for the inevitability of community transmission. Regions that experience outbreaks may need to be put under restrictions like those in Auckland.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Te Pnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy. (File photo)

Abandoning elimination does not mean the Government will wave the white flag and surrender to the virus. Auckland is still at level 3 and the initial step in loosening restrictions will add relatively little risk of onward transmission.

Ardern was at pains to emphasise that the strategy won't look that different from elimination. We will still rely on contact tracing, testing, masking and other public health measures, as well as tougher restrictions like lockdowns while vaccination rates remain low, to keep transmission low.

But the mere fact that the end goal is different that the Government is now satisfied with low levels of community transmission rather than none at all raises new and potent risks.

Experts have previously said a suppression strategy like that adopted by the Government on Monday would see restrictions in place for weeks to months. University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker highlighted that again on Monday evening.

Step 1 is pretty much Level 3 and Steps 2 and 3 are versions of level 2, he said.

When could Auckland move to those Level 2-style restrictions?

You need to see that case numbers are not increasing. I don't think you could ever expect that we'd be moving out of Step 1 anytime soon. Just from what we know of the experience of Victoria and New South Wales and what we've seen here.

Auckland's exit strategy is now vaccination rates, with Ardern targeting 90 per cent of the eligible population double dosed. But only 84 per cent have had their first dose thus far. Even if the remaining 6 per cent (around 86,000 people) went out and got jabbed today, it would still be six weeks before their second dose and another two weeks before they're considered fully protected. Clearly, suppression means Auckland is in lockdown for the long haul.

In the meantime, the Government's goal is to keep transmission low enough that the health system isn't overwhelmed. While successful elimination looked like reaching zero cases and returning to the freedoms of level 1, successful suppression sets a much lower bar of ensuring our hospitals are not overflowing with Covid-19 patients although the consequences of failing to achieve that bar are much more serious with suppression than with elimination.

There are three major and interconnected risks to the Government's ability to keep the health system standing.

The first is the outbreak taking off in under-vaccinated populations. Schools are tentatively slated to reopen from October 18, but children under 12 aren't eligible to be vaccinated. While children pose relatively little threat to one another, they're more likely to be infected by their adult teachers and other school staff members. Currently, however, teachers aren't required to be vaccinated, masks aren't mandated for students in schools and New Zealand's schools have notoriously poor ventilation.

We need to immediately take steps to ensure that schools open in the safest way possible, Jin Russell, a developmental paediatrician at the University of Auckland, said.

One of the best ways we can protect children and re-open schools safely is to aim for 100 per cent of teachers and staff, and 100 per cent of eligible students, to be vaccinated. Overseas experience also shows that by implementing a suite of measures including improving ventilation, taking activities outside, masking, and other measures, schools can drive the risk of Covid-19 transmission to very low levels.

Children aren't the only under-vaccinated group, however. Mori and Pasifika vaccination rates have lagged behind those of the general population. In Auckland, fewer than a quarter of Mori were fully vaccinated by last Tuesday.

As of Sunday, nationwide, just 56.7 per cent of Mori and 73 per cent of Pasifika had received a first dose of vaccine, compared with 80.3 per cent of white New Zealanders.

Unvaccinated people are also likely to be clustered into the same communities, raising the risk of an outbreak. All of the 11 district and city council areas with the greatest proportion of Mori residents are also among the 15 least vaccinated council areas. More than a third of the eligible population in 11 council areas is unvaccinated and populations in nine of these 11 are more than 16 per cent Mori.

These communities are exposed to outbreaks of the virus. If suppression slips up in ptiki district for example, where the population is 44 per cent Mori and where 38.3 per cent of the eligible population is unvaccinated, the outcomes could be grievous.

Jin Russell/Supplied

Jin Russell, a developmental paediatrician at the University of Auckland. (File photo)

That brings up the second risk to the success of the suppression strategy: The capacity in our public health system to ensure suppression doesn't slip up.

New Zealand's public health officials have spent 18 months testing for Covid-19, tracing the contacts of new cases and planning for new outbreaks, all while chronically underfunded and unable to carry out their non-Covid-19-related public health work.

While they were already gearing up to manage a greater burden of new cases after the country reopens next year, an expected period of rest and preparation has now been overrun by the current Delta outbreak. It took the Government six days at the start of the outbreak to start re-tasking other public servants with contact tracing, at which stage less than two thirds of more than 20,000 known contacts had even received a phone call from tracers.

Despite four critical reviews urging the Government to resource the contact tracing system to be able to deal with the contacts of up to 1000 cases a day, the Ministry of Health never did so. Now, it is not impossible that we do see case numbers in the hundreds, even though that could overwhelm our current tracers.

New Zealand would struggle to maintain high system performance of contact tracing for a prolonged period with 100-200 cases per day, one such review, commissioned by the Government, warned after the February outbreak. And this didn't account for the transmissibility of the Delta variant which we are now dealing with.

If contact tracing collapses, then suppression at our current vaccination rates without harsh lockdowns becomes almost impossible. The response is now contingent on the most crucial part of our public health system which has been consistently ignored and under-resourced over the course of the pandemic.

The third risk is that we might not know our contact tracing has failed and the health system is threatened until it is too late.

The suppression strategy is the result of a March 2020 modelling paper from the Imperial College London, which found that mitigating the virus (flattening the curve) would see hundreds of thousands of deaths in places like the United Kingdom or United States because hospitals would be unable to care for all of the grievously ill patients.

Suppression involved stamping the virus to extremely low levels and then progressively loosening restrictions. Inevitably, the virus would resurge and when that renewed outbreak began to threaten the capacity of the health system, new restrictions would be imposed.

In the United Kingdom, the trigger for a new lockdown was to be 100 cases in ICU in a week. The UK's health system had significantly more capacity, but these new cases in ICU would be the result of infections that happened weeks ago. Even after locking down, the modelling showed, ICU admissions would continue to rise, perhaps doubling or tripling above the 100-patient threshold, but not overwhelming the hospital system.

A similar concept may be used with the new roadmap for Auckland, which is set to be reviewed on a weekly basis to discern how the virus situation has responded to each loosening of restrictions. The problem for New Zealand is that we have so little capacity in our health system that we will hit our trigger point with just a handful of ICU cases. By the time an obvious trend starts to emerge, it could be too late to stop ICU capacity from being exceeded.

We'll have to really look at the trend very carefully and if we see signs it's going up, we may have to revisit what we do with these levels or stages, Baker said.

That's backed up by the view of Te Pnaha Matatini researcher Dion O'Neale.

One of the factors that makes outbreaks so difficult to control is the fact that often by the time we know we are on a trajectory of sharply growing case numbers we may already be past the point where interventions like contact tracing or quarantine facilities are able to catch up, he said.

This is because there is a delay between when people become infected or infectious and when we are likely to become aware of them.

In other words, once cases in ICU start to rise, we must immediately respond.

That could even include strengthening the restrictions in place in Auckland or wherever else the virus ends up, both Baker and Plank said.

It will be crucial to remain adaptable and responsive to changes in the number of cases and the healthcare demand they will generate. It may yet be necessary to adjust or tighten restrictions to prevent cases spiralling out of control, Plank said.

The Australian state of Victoria has gone from around 20 cases per day to 1500 in just 6 weeks, and there are currently 96 Covid patients in ICU. This could happen here and it would put immense pressure on our hospitals.

Up until now, New Zealand has enjoyed the benefits of no widespread community transmission of Covid-19 something nearly unique in the world. While that may never have been sustainable in the long-term once the borders reopened, the opportunity to cleanly end elimination has been taken out of our hands. Instead, we are messily transitioning to a suppression strategy while vaccination rates remain too low to, on their own, prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.

When speaking to Newsroom about the Imperial College London paper in March 2020, Baker issued a prescient warning about the burden of the suppression strategy.

Its one thing to hear about it and see it happening at a distance. Its like watching a Netflix series from overseas, but actually, that will be us if we dont contain it, he said at the time.

Its a new way of living thats pretty foreign. Its pretty obvious that no one alive today has seen a pandemic like this.

After 18 months of keeping it at bay, that new way of living has now arrived on New Zealand's shores at last.

Originally posted here:

Covid-19: 'Prepare for the inevitability of community transmission' - Stuff.co.nz

Will Jacinda Ardern Suffer Churchills Fate Once The (Covid) War Is Over? – Forbes

Humanity is at war with a virus. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealands Prime Minister and possibly the globes most successful Covid general, is this week leading another battle. Ardern placed the entire country into lockdown on Tuesday after the discovery of a single Delta variant infection in Auckland. Her goal is the same now as its been since the pandemic began - identify, isolate and eliminate Covid from day-to-day New Zealand life.

Ive been witnessing this firsthand from my wifes hometown of Ohope, in New Zealands Bay of Plenty, where weve lived since January after moving from California. Watching Ardern perform in daily press conferences this week I couldnt help thinking about Winston Churchill. I know, I know - older white guys always seem to think of Churchill. But loan me three more minutes of your time and you may glimpse a surprising future.

Comparing the two prime ministers fascinates me because, despite being almost unimaginably different people - Churchill was a round, aristocratic conservative with a deep belief in the British Empire while Ardern is a fresh-faced former youth socialist who still gets a packed lunch from her Mum - both have been very effective wartime leaders. And, perhaps strangely, their messages are ultimately very similar.

Churchills speeches used vivid imagery and waves of sound to tap into patriotism and an absolute refusal to quit. Ardern asks Kiwis to be kind and talks of a team of five million in a manner that manages to be both friendly and assertive. Their metaphors and styles reflect very different times and messengers, yet share the same core idea- togetherness and resilience will prevail.

But could these two leaders also share a less triumphant fate?

Just two months after leading Britain to victory over Nazi Germany, Churchill was swept out of office. His Conservative party lost the popular vote for the first time in four decades and suffered its worst vote swing since 1800. The decisive leader and inspiring communicator who helped save his country from an existential threat was gone. Why?

18th June 1945: William Waldorf Astor (1907 - 1966), later 3rd Viscount Astor, with his first wife, ... [+] Sarah Norton and a poster of Winston Churchill during the general election campaign, in which he stood as a Conservative candidate. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

After the horror, trauma and destruction of the War, Britain was looking to the future. Its priorities were domestic and largely focused on creating a more equal and fair economy. Churchill had proven wildly ineffective in dealing with those problems in the 1920s and so he was sent packing.

New Zealands Covid war is far from over, but so far Arderns strategy has been successful- only 25 deaths and a better economic growth rate than the U.S., despite the lockdowns. Do New Zealanders recognize this?

Yes. My experience has been that most people here are supportive of her strategy and grateful for its success. I played in a local tennis tournament on Sunday and before the first match someone marched up to me and said, What a great day to be a Kiwi, eh mate!. Noticing my slight pause, he added, Wait, youre not Aussie are you?. When I confessed to being American, he said, Ah, sorry. ..bet youre happy to be here. I really was.

And yet. Over the last eight months as Ive quietly listened to (eavesdropped on?) conversations, read the press and chatted to people here I sense the potential for Ardern to experience a post-pandemic moment similar to Churchill. New Zealand has a lot going for it, but it has important problems too. These problems are being subordinated to the Covid war now, but they could very rapidly lead to dissatisfaction once that battle is seen as over.

Foremost among these is the least affordable housing market in the developed world. It baffles and frustrates Kiwis that a country with vast amounts of open land and massive timber resources should have a housing shortage, but it does. My sister-in-law Sharon Brettkelly, whose podcast The Detail is one of New Zealands most popular, has done a series of fascinating shows looking at both causes and possible solutions. My take - this problem will not be solved soon. Electorates and people being who they are, Id expect Ardern to take a lot of the blame for this, even though the problem has deep roots.

Then there is China, where New Zealand must navigate an exquisitely complicated relationship. China consumes about 30% of New Zealands exports and is the largest destination for its ultra-profitable SunGold kiwi fruit. But of course its not shy about exercising power. For example, Chinese growers ignored New Zealands patent on the SunGold varietal and may now be growing 10,000 acres of the fruit domestically. Does New Zealand challenge this and risk killing the goose that laid the golden kiwi fruit? Or does it look the other way? Similar quandaries exist in both timber and dairy markets. Layer in human rights concerns that matter a lot to Arderns progressive base and one can easily see her falling off this narrow and wobbly policy tightrope.

Finally, like all modern leaders, Ardern faces criticism about immigration. Her strict border controls have kept Covid out but created a huge issue for agricultural and construction industries that depend on labor from the Pacific Islands. Meanwhile, while in opposition Arderns party was outraged about billionaires like Peter Thiel purchasing citizenship, but last year it essentially sold residency to Google co-founder Larry Page. Storm in a tea cup perhaps, but values-centric politicians like Ardern can find these emotive issues difficult to shake.

Ardern has two years until she must face the electorate again. Can she use this time to win final victory against Covid and turn her skills to these other difficult battles? You can be sure she will run a much better campaign than Churchill in 1945 who, out of touch with his people, lamented at one point I have no message for them. But its not assured that in 2023 post-war New Zealand, like Britain two generations ago, wont look for a fresh start.

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Will Jacinda Ardern Suffer Churchills Fate Once The (Covid) War Is Over? - Forbes