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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Jacinda Ardern
Posted: September 1, 2021 at 12:21 am
According to New Zealand health officials, a woman died after she was administered the Pfizer-BioNTechcoronavirus vaccine.
The country's health ministry said an independent COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring board had concluded that the womans death was due to myocarditis which is a rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine.
The health ministry said: "This is the first case in New Zealand where a death in the days following vaccination has been linked to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine."
The age of the woman wasn't released by the health ministry.
The health ministry however added that the cause of death has not yet been determined while asserting that, "the benefits of vaccination with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continue to greatly outweigh the risk of both COVID-19 infection and vaccine side effects, including myocarditis."
The board however added that there were other medical issues occurring at the same time that may have influenced the outcome after the woman took the vaccine.
Pfizer is the only vaccine which has been approved by health officials for public rollout in the country. The authorities have given provisional approval to Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.
New Zealand has been battling the virus with the Delta variant spreadingrapidly in the country. On Monday the country reported 53 new coronavirus cases taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 562.
The government had announced a nationwide lockdown earlier this month after a virus case was detected in Auckland which has emerged as the epicentre of the virus.
On Sunday the country had reported 83 locally transmitted cases as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that tougher measures would be announced on Monday.
(With inputs from Agencies)
View original post here:
Posted: at 12:21 am
Public health experts and COVID-19 modelers are urging the New Zealand government to tighten its lockdown settings to avoid losing hard-won gains in the fight against the Delta variant.
On Wednesday, health officials reported 75 cases in New Zealand, up from 49 on Tuesday and 53 on Monday, but still below a peak of 83 on Sunday.
Prior to announcing the figure, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield predicted that cases would continue to fall but some "bouncing around" would be likely, as occurred during New Zealand's last outbreak.
Of the new cases, 74 are from Auckland and one, likely to be a historical case, is from Wellington.
The new cases take the overall outbreak to 687.
Hospitalisations remain stead at 32, with eight in intensive care units and three requiring ventilating.
Dr Bloomfield told television station Three "it does look like we hit the peak a few days ago" when cases reached 83 on Sunday.
"People shouldn't worry if it does go up again. The key thing is we're on our way down," he said.
Experts share Dr Bloomfield's optimism - but caution against weak spots among New Zealand's current settings.
Nick Wilson, a professor of public health at the University of Otago, called recent drops "encouraging", noting the lower proportion of transmission in the community.
However, he notes with concern recent reports of three infections at an Auckland chicken-processing factory.
"The Delta variant is very infectious and so you could have a problem with an essential worker, causing infection in a workplace, so we could still have a super spreading event," he told AAP.
"We've seen very big outbreaks in meat processing plants in the US with atmospheric conditions in these factories and people being in close proximity."
He recommends an upgrading of workplace mask-wearing rules.
On the weekend, Ms Ardern also foreshadowed a tightening of workplace restrictions, but on Wednesday COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said the government was happy with its current settings.
"We review information every day ... we haven't made further decisions on that yet," he said.
Dr Wilson cautioned against complacency.
"The government has been very slow on masks and it hasn't still hasn't mandated at the alert level four for masks in factories and office workers who are essential workers. That is one of its biggest mistakes, unfortunately," he said.
Among Dr Wilson's other suggestions are prioritising vaccination of essential workers and reducing worker numbers at businesses allowed to operated.
Respected COVID-19 modeler Shaun Hendy, a physics professor at the University of Auckland said he was pleased to finally see a downwards trend in this outbreak, predicting "ups and downs" in case numbers this week.
Dr Hendy agreed workplaces could be New Zealand's achilles heel.
"Workplaces remain a risk. It's where people are routinely in close contact and it poses the most risk. Compliance at level four could still be an issue," he told AAP.
Also on Wednesday, Ms Ardern's government reduced restrictions for many New Zealanders.
After a fortnight at level four lockdown, Jacinda Ardern's government lowered all places south of Auckland to level three, allowing most Kiwis the luxury of takeaway food.
Health officials also confirmed another bumper day of vaccinations, with 84,971 doses administered - around 1.6 per cent of the population.
Read the rest here:
Posted: at 12:21 am
There had been a steady rise in cases since lockdown. This caused particular angst on Saturday as the numbers were expected to peak by then. But Sunday came along and 83 cases were announced, pretty much the same as the day before. Keith Lynch looks at what is going on.
We are in a strict lockdown and the reason is simple: it is all about pushing down the R number of Covid-19. This is the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.
If this number is above 1, the virus is spreading, if it is below 1 the virus is dying out. On Sunday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said models suggested the R number might now be about 0.8.
READ MORE:* Covid-19 NZ: Explaining why level 2 could be the new normal in the age of Delta* Covid-19: Daily case numbers are increasing quickly. This simple mathematical concept gives us reason for optimism* Explaining the variable that has a Covid-19 modeller most worried
Michael Plank, a professor at the school of mathematics and statistics at the University of Canterbury, and principal investigator at Te Pnaha Matatini, told Stuff last week he believed the R number for Delta was about 6 or more. For some context, the first Covid-19 variant to emerge had an R value of about 3.
There is something else about the R number that is worth going back to. It defines whether the virus is growing exponentially or not. On Wednesday, Bloomfield struck an optimistic note, stating Covid-19 case numbers were not increasing exponentially.
It is important to note that there are degrees of exponential growth. As my colleague Charlie Mitchell points out, if the R number is above 1, the spread is exponential.
Say there are 10 cases of Covid-19 and the R number is 1.2. Now get out your calculator and multiply 10 by 1.2. You will get 12. Now multiply 12 by 1.2. Keep multiplying the result by 1.2 and after enough cycles you will see more dramatic increases. This is technically still exponential growth.
Nowhere near as dramatic however as when there are 10 cases of Covid-19 and the R number is 6. Multiply 10 by six. Multiply 60 by six and continue. After a few cycles, you will see staggering numbers.
There are two groups of people that will define the outcome of this outbreak.
The R number in these two groupings is, and was, very clearly different.
The good news (and that term is very relative here) is that 70 of Saturdays 82 cases were linked to the largest cluster. And it appears most cases are now within the households of infected people.
If cases remain almost all within Group 1, that would be great. It would mean the lockdown is working keeping the rest of us walled off. It would lead to case numbers plateauing off over time, simply because there would not be anyone else within Group 1 to pass the virus on to.
On Saturday night, Plank posted on social media pointing out: there is a downward trend in the per cent change in average daily cases. This could suggest the R number within Group 1 could well be falling.
This trend continued on Sunday. But it is important to add a caveat, as Plank did: you should not read too much into one or two days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand is not running out of vaccines.
Some believe the case numbers in Group 1 may have already peaked, essentially knocking its R number under 1. This may be because of a lag in reporting of positive test results, particularly in those who caught the disease just before lockdown.
It would be very bad if the R number was above 1 in Group 2.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there had been transmission of Covid-19 among staff in four essential workplaces. This is clearly worrying and something to keep a close eye on.
If the virus is spreading, or starts spreading, among essential workers or those not adhering to the lockdown, then we have a real problem. It means the lockdown moat protecting the rest of the population has been breached.
(Obviously the more people in Group 1 that catch the virus, the more chance there is of a leak into Group 2.)
This is why University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy, another Covid-19 modeller, suggested that if this is the case the Government may need to take another look at what businesses are allowed to open at level 4 if the case numbers continue to rise. It is why Ardern suggested on Sunday that her Government may need to tighten level 4 up even further.
If the daily case numbers continue to shoot up this week, it may be that basically all of Group 1 has been infected and the virus has leaked into Group 2. If they plateau, that is a positive.
A few important things to finish: we should not read too much into one days numbers Saturdays or Sundays. We will learn a lot more in the next seven days.
Posted: at 12:21 am
BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope says its on the government if businesses are confused about whether they should be operating at level 4.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 25 people had exposure events outside their household and four workplaces had transmission of Covid-19 within staff.
These are generally essential worksites and tend not to be customer facing sites, she said.
Weve asked for further analysis as to the nature of these workplaces so we can assess whether our level 4 rules on who is operating is being adhered to and whether our public health protocols for those businesses that are operating are fit for purpose."
READ MORE:* Manawat businesses struggle to navigate lockdown guidelines* Employee says his role is not essential but he still has to work* Covid-19: 'Highest possible price' paid again by hospitality sector
She said, if the Government needed to tighten restrictions further, it would.
What we want to do is make sure were being dynamic. That if we're getting information that shows us we have workplaces are operating that we believe are outside what they should be at level 4 we need to respond to that.
At this stage Ive had nothing to suggest its anything other than essential food services, packaging services, logistics.
Workers have spread Covid-19 between them at four sites, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Its not a matter of business as usual, if youre operating, businesses have rules. We want to cast our eyes over that with a delta lens.
Do we need to change that up to a certain degree, ask businesses to do more outside the factory floor?
Weve got four sites at the moment where we know theres been transmission between workers. If we get evidence we need to tighten things up we will. Some will just be the protocols adapting to delta. Some of it may be us saying we think there are too many businesses operating outside of already the rules that are there.
Ardern said businesses should only be providing services that allow people to continue to look after themselves in their homes, or continue their work in their homes.
We want to make sure people arent operating around the fringes of that in a way we wouldnt expect.
There have been reports of workers surprised to be called in to work when they did not think they were providing essential services.
Hope said if businesses were operating when they were not essential, that was due to a lack of clarity in the rules.
Theyve had 18 months to get this right. Its on the government to make sure its providing much, much clearer advice around what youre able to do and what youre not able to under level 4. The obligation is on them to communicate much more clearly.
He said the rules had changed slightly due to the delta variant.
But its arrival in the community was not a surprise and the Government should have clarified the rules beforehand, not once the country had gone into level 4, he said.
It really lacks clarity.
Hansells Masterton executive chairman Alan Stewart says any further restrictions on operations would be "impossible."
"There is no reason why an essential business cannot operate safely provided they observe the rules. Hansells has safely operated under previous lockdown and is doing so again this time.
"The food supply chain would be interrupted if supplies did not go to supermarkets and companies such as ours need to continue producing not only to supply supermarkets while in lockdown but also when we come out as there would be huge out of stocks after business comes back to normal."
EMA chief executive Brett ORiley said if it was clear what was required in terms of PPE and social distancing there should not be a reason for businesses not to open.
That are a lot of businesses that are closed in level 4 that could be safer than some that are allowed to open.
He said his organisation was working through the rules with the Government to determine how the rules would work when businesses in level 3 needed support and supplies from businesses in Auckland that were meant to be closed under level 4.
The rest is here:
Posted: at 12:21 am
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAN -- By early next week, New Zealanders should know if their government's strict new lockdown is working to stamp out its first coronavirus outbreak in six months.
A successful effort could again make the nation's virus response the envy of the world. A failure could expose flaws in its health system, including a shortage of hospital beds and a slow vaccine rollout.
The high-stakes campaign hinges on whether new infections, which have risen for the past 10 days, begin to drop.
Last week, the government put the nation into the full lockdown after only a single community case was detected in the city of Auckland.
"It's counterintuitive," said epidemiologist Michael Baker. "When there's a threat, you usually increase the response as it gets more dangerous. Here, we're doing the opposite, with the maximum response when the threat is tiny."
It's a strategy that has worked incredibly well for New Zealand but faces its biggest test against a tougher enemy: the highly contagious delta variant of the virus. Baker, a professor at the University of Otago, said the strategy was the best approach and he was optimistic it would succeed again.
Since the pandemic began, New Zealand has reported only 26 deaths from the virus in a population of 5 million. The death rate per capita in Britain and the U.S. is about 400 times higher. Remarkably, life expectancy for New Zealanders actually rose in 2020 as virus measures helped reduce other seasonal ailments like the flu.
The U.S. is in the grip of a wave of infection powered by the delta variant, which has sent cases, deaths and hospitalizations soaring again, wiping out months of progress.
New Zealanders lived virus-free in the six months leading up to the latest outbreak, going to workplaces, stores and sports stadiums without needing to wear masks, while children attended school.
Then a traveler returning from Sydney brought the delta variant and it somehow escaped from a quarantine hotel. The outbreak has grown to about 350 known cases and is straining New Zealand's contact-tracing system as workers try to track down 30,000 other people who might have been exposed.
New Zealand has a large diaspora of Pacific Island people. The outbreak has hit this community particularly hard after spreading at a Samoan church event that drew hundreds. That led to some racist attacks on social media.
"This is disappointing and, frankly, gutless," said Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of public health. "I'm asking everyone in the country to be kind."
The lockdown prevents most people from leaving home other than to exercise, or to buy groceries or medicine. Retail stores are closed, as are restaurants -- including takeout -- schools and most businesses.
While much of the world is learning to live with the virus and has moved away from hard lockdowns, most New Zealanders still embrace them.
"Fortunately, there's a great team spirit," said Lesley Gray, a public health specialist at the University of Otago. "It's quite obvious to me that the country would rather keep this out. We want to stamp it out, keep it out."
Among the handful of other places that have successfully pursued virus elimination strategies are China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
Nearby Australia stamped out previous outbreaks but leaders say they can't get rid of the delta variant, which has continued to spread in Sydney despite a two-month lockdown. New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she'll ease restrictions for vaccinated adults next month, despite record infection numbers reaching more than 1,000 a day.
George Williams, a constitutional law expert at the University of New South Wales, said that while he supports the Sydney lockdown, he also sees risks in the government getting too comfortable in using its extraordinary powers.
"They're pretty draconian, quite authoritarian measures, which would be unthinkable outside a pandemic," he said, noting that unlike in many democracies, Australians aren't protected by a Bill of Rights.
Some Australians also are tiring of lockdowns. Hundreds have been arrested and given heavy fines this month for defying health orders at protests.
In New Zealand, where the lockdown is even stricter, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said about 70 protesters and other rule-breakers have been arrested since it began, but he's happy with the overall level of compliance.
With little else to do, many New Zealanders watch daily news conferences held by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and others. Like a slow-moving forensic drama, the briefings outline the latest infections, places those people visited and genome-sequencing results.
There have been moments of levity, such as when COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins misspoke about exercising outdoors, saying people could go "spread their legs" -- a comment quickly mocked on social media.
But there will be serious consequences if the lockdown fails.
New Zealand's vaccine rollout has been the slowest of any developed nation, with only 39% of people having gotten at least one shot and 22% fully vaccinated. The country chose to use only the Pfizer vaccine and didn't approve its use until two months after U.S. regulators first approved it for emergency use.
The government blames the initial slowness of the rollout on Pfizer's delivery schedule.
But opposition lawmaker Chris Bishop said the government's "negligent execution of the rollout has left New Zealand a sitting duck for the delta variant."
Vaccinations have sped up rapidly since the outbreak began, with health workers now giving doses to nearly 2% of the population every day.
Another challenge is a lack of intensive-care hospital beds. A recent report by a group of experts noted that at the pandemic's start, New Zealand had fewer than one-third the number than the average in developed nations, and little had changed since then.
"The New Zealand health system is still poorly resourced to deal with any large outbreak of a disease such as COVID-19," the report found.
Many New Zealanders are desperate to visit relatives abroad and want to know when the lockdowns will end and the borders will reopen. Ardern, the prime minister, has promised a cautious reopening early next year but has given few specifics.
"For now, while we vaccinate, elimination is the goal," she said. "And we can do it."
Read more from the original source:
If the Government is making the right decisions on Covid-19, it will withstand scrutiny – Stuff.co.nz
Posted: at 12:21 am
OPINION: And so lockdown drags on.
Empty streets, shuttered businesses, and people physically avoiding each other are bleak reminders that our normal way of living is now fragile.
That, and the us vs them group think mentality.
Us being the team of five million and them anyone who dares criticise the Governments approach.
READ MORE:* Where's the kindness fellow Kiwis?* Thanks for bringing us closer together, ScoMo! * Robust scrutiny by epidemic response committee needed
The 1pm briefings skew the discourse in favour of the Government, at the expense of Opposition voices, which are already weakened, writes Andrea Vance. Pictured: Prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
On the advice of experts, most of us accept that the policing of the population is the only way to stop the deadly Covid-19 virus spreading further, or to a level that our hospitals can handle.
We are complying with restrictions on movement, gatherings, and even trading.
But that does not mean we gave up on freedom of expression.
Government supporters aggressively insist critics should shut up and trust the experts. That anyone questioning the prevailing approach is recklessly anti-science, undermining the response or indifferent to a higher death toll.
This is too crude. It is perfectly logical to accept the need for current restrictions, while criticising the Government for how we got here and the failings that led to it, not least in the vaccination roll-out.
Delta got in there should be hard questions about why so that the gaps are plugged. People are being denied the right to come home its only fair they get to question the managed isolation procedures keeping them out.
It is right that the decisions coming from the Beehive are informed by complex scientific evidence.
But that does not mean that only those with expertise have the right to an opinion.
No political decisions are based solely on pure science. If that were true, wed have solved the climate crisis 20 years ago, our fresh waterways would run clear, and homes would be affordable.
Political decisions always involve trade-offs, moral values and priorities.
Why shouldnt we hear from Scott Morrison? Hes dealing with the same pandemic, his experiences, and more importantly his mistakes, make him more than qualified to comment. Likewise, public policy experts in other countries add value were in uncharted waters, theres nothing to lose from hearing their views.
Its not defeatism, just debate. We can reject that which does not work or apply.
Its fantastic that the tight circle of academic experts advising the Government make themselves readily available to explain the modelling and the science.
In the pandemic, medical experts (the virologists, epidemiologists, statisticians and modellers) have become our modern-day talisman. Its a refreshing change from the tendency to devalue expertise seen in recent years.
But it would be unhealthy to hear from just them.
Expert knowledge reflects the assumptions and blind spots of the giver. Scientists disagree, evidence shifts (last year masks were ineffective, this year they are essential. Mandatory scanning couldnt be implemented at a meaningful level, now it can. All advice is, and should be, challengeable).
Obviously, there are caveats. Misinformation, especially when it is harmful, should be vigorously challenged.
The need for debate is vital.The normal checks and balances of our democracy are suspended at a time when they are most needed.
The 1pm briefings skew the discourse in favour of the Government, at the expense of Opposition voices, which are already weakened.
Wellington streets are quiet in alert level 4.
Parliament is not sitting and the Government has refused to reconvene the Epidemic Response Committee. Regular select committees are controlled by Labour MPs and thus are not as robust as they should be.
Sweeping decisions on fundamental rights are being made on a daily basis without any kind of scrutiny. They might be right and justified, but that doesnt mean they shouldnt be examined and debated.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given a spirited defence of her Governments decisions. Shes more than up to handling the criticism.
Of course, she must exude confidence in the strategy and maintain consistent and clear messaging. But its troubling when she says she doesn't want a debate.
And that makes it even more crucial to have robust scrutiny from outside her inner circle.
Because if they are the right decisions, then they remain the right decisions. Questions and alternative viewpoints wont change that, and we can be more confident were on the right course.
We shouldnt run from transparent and open debate scrutiny can only improve the decision-making.
Posted: August 26, 2021 at 3:24 am
The former prime minister of Samoa has accused Jacinda Ardern of being behind the recent political crisis in Samoa, suggesting she had wanted to install a female prime minister.
I am starting to get suspicious maybe New Zealand is behind all of this, said Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, during an interview with TV1 on Sunday night.
Tuilaepa was prime minister of the Pacific nation for more than 22 years at the time of the April election, the second-longest serving prime minister in the world before being ousted in a shock election upset earlier this year.
He was beaten by his former deputy leader, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, who last year defected from the Human Rights Protection party (HRPP), which had ruled Samoa for 39 years and became Samoas first female prime minister at the end of July.
Tuilaepa refused to accept Fiames victory for several months after the election, questioning the courts decisions and accusing her and her MPs of treason. The interview is the latest example of the former prime minister attempting to cast doubt on the victory of his successor, which has been ruled legal and constitutional by Samoas courts and recognised by other world leaders as legitimate.
The government [of New Zealand] has been heavily involved, he alleged, according to a translation of the interview by the Samoa Observer. It looks like the New Zealand prime minister wanted Samoa to have a female prime minister, which has blinded her [Ardern] from seeing if its something that is in line with our constitution. But like that English proverb says: the end justifies the means.
Samoa endured a protracted electoral crisis following the national election in April, which saw legal challenges and Fiame and other MPs from her party locked out of the parliament building on the day they were due to be sworn in to parliament.
At the end of July, the Samoan court of appeal ruled the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party was the official winner of the national election in April and that Fiame was the countrys prime minister. She took office in late July and was recognised as Samoas leader by other leaders of Pacific nations at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting the next week.
Ardern was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Fiame on her election to the office of prime minister after the court ruled her victory was legitimate, which was seen as a key moment in the global community accepting her victory.
Tuilaepa said her prompt congratulations was proof that the New Zealand government had planned this all along.
The proof is, as soon as the [court] decision was handed down, the prime minister of New Zealand immediately sent her congratulatory message The fact that she quickly sent Fiame her well wishes makes me think that they had planned all of this.
A spokesperson for Ardern rejected the allegations saying they are unfounded.
New Zealand is Samoas closest ally, with many Samoans living in New Zealand.
Fiame is only the second woman to lead a Pacific Island country, after Hilda Heine, former president of the Marshall Islands.
The Pacific has the lowest rate of female representation in politics anywhere in the world, with just 6% of all MPs being women regionally. Three countries in the world have no women in parliament. All of them Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia are in the Pacific.
Fiames office was contacted for comment.
Posted: at 3:24 am
In February, as the housing market was spiralling out of control, Ardern had a recommendation for property investors: "What we want them to think about is: 'How can you contribute to the productive economy in New Zealand?' By going into an overheated housing market, it makes it so much worse for others and you won't necessarily get the long-term benefits that we'd like you to get."
Only a politician detached from worldly reality would imagine this advice might help deter an investor from buying another dwelling in a sizzling market.
The same month, she was quizzed in Parliament by Act leader David Seymour about why the police programme to combat gangs was labelled "Operation Tauwhiro". He pointed out "tauwhiro" means "to tend or care for" and asked the Prime Minister if she actually believed "that violent criminals who sell P need to be tended and cared for".
Ardern replied: "If we want to make a difference to the young people who join gangs in New Zealand we have to demonstrate that there are alternatives for them that they can find a place to grow their potential without joining criminal organisations."
These responses reflect a belief in redemption that often appears hopelessly naive in a politician. Ardern sees the potential for good in everyone - which is no doubt a large part of her appeal - but the flipside is a reluctance to acknowledge the worst in people.
Consequently, she seemed surprised by public outrage at her personally approving $2.75 million for a drugs programme run by Mongrel Mob members.
Her unrealpolitik caught the eye of the Spectator, which mocked Ardern for offering one of the "Nine Worst Responses to Afghanistan's Fall" from around the world after the Taliban's victory:
"New Zealand's Prime Minister has 'implored' Taliban leaders to uphold human rights, telling a press conference: 'What we want to see is women and girls being able to access work and education' - which she insightfully noted 'are things that have traditionally not been available to them where there has been governance by the Taliban.'"
The writer added: "The Taliban's response is as yet unknown."
As another wag put it: "Ardern asks water to stop being wet."
Another unmistakable sign of her otherworldliness can be detected in her dismissing opponents' criticisms as "politicking" or "playing politics" over issues such as Maori co-governance or the management of Covid. This is an extraordinary stance for a politician to take towards other politicians debating policy but Ardern positions herself as floating above the cut-and-thrust of politics.
Consequently, she is very keen not to be seen to be beset by common human frailties such as dishonesty, arrogance or vanity.
When asked during one of the leaders' debates in 2017, "Is it possible to survive in politics without lying?", she not only said it was but claimed she'd "never told a lie in politics".
Only someone determined to convince people she is preternaturally saintly would have so outrageously denied political reality - and human nature. Bill English, a devout Catholic who wasn't nearly as ready to bend the truth out of shape as she was, couldn't in all honesty agree.
Humility is also essential to "brand Jacinda". In May last year, a memo from her office suggested ministers need not agree to be interviewed given how popular the government's Covid measures had been. John Campbell, who interviewed the Prime Minister, said he at first thought it could be a sign of "arrogance" but decided it was more likely that she simply didn't have confidence in her ministers.
Ardern's reaction showed she was more sensitive to a suggestion she might be arrogant than a question about her ministers' competence. She made a point of addressing that issue even though Campbell had dismissed it.
"Arrogance is just, I hope, something people would see as not in my nature," she said plaintively.
She mostly keeps her vanity under wraps - not least because she casts herself as a humble servant of the people - but slip-ups are perhaps inevitable for a woman from Morrinsville who has been internationally canonised for her crisis management and lauded as "the world's most effective leader".
Addressing the UN in September 2019, she made the extraordinary admission that she saw herself carrying the nation's burdens on her shoulders single-handedly. In her speech she mentioned a young Muslim boy who asked her to keep him safe after the mosque massacres. "My fear is, that as a leader of a proudly independent nation, this is one thing I cannot achieve alone. Not anymore."
The fact she very capably handles the quotidian tasks of a prime minister - such as explaining vaccination rollout figures - while also wearing the mantle of a secular saint makes her an extremely difficult target for her political opponents to get a fix on.
If she is caught out, she often switches to what she probably imagines is "going high", as Michelle Obama put it, however absurd that might be.
When David Seymour asked Ardern in late June in Parliament if she ever thought she would be reduced to saying "Hey, we're doing better than Africa" in terms of vaccinations, she replied: "When it comes to global health and wellbeing in a global pandemic, how countries like those in Africa are performing is relevant to us. And, as a country who has a stake in the wellbeing of all nations, including developing ones, I imagine that's a consideration most New Zealanders would be proud to take."
See more here:
Posted: at 3:24 am
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.
Posted: at 3:24 am
ANALYSIS: The prime ministers announcement that Parliament would be suspending the House of Representatives sitting for a week has caused consternation within the opposition parties which are determined rightly that the Government be held to account during lockdown.
Initially the Government wanted there to be bipartisan agreement in Parliaments business committee. National and ACT declined, so the prime minister was compelled to use powers under Parliaments standing orders.
In order to get the suspension over the line, Jacinda Ardern had to have official advice from Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, had to consult with the other parties and then effectively recommend the course of action to Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard. Mallard, satisfied with suggested arrangements in place allowing ministers to be subjected to due scrutiny, accepted the recommendation.
What the opposition parties National and ACT in particular wanted was a return of the epidemic response committee, used during last years lockdown, with an opposition chair and majority to ask questions.
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On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the suspension of Parliament for a week.
All parties in Parliament, bar Labour, have signed a letter asking for a standing Covid committee as part of the select committee system. At the very least one that may not sit all the time but kicks into force if there is a level 3 or 4 lockdown.
The Government has so far refused, arguing that Parliaments select committee system is now well set up to meet remotely and will be broadcast. The Government also committed to making ministers and senior officials available to parliamentarians for questioning. It has given opposition MPs two-thirds of the time for questions.
On its first day of operation, both Grant Robertson, as well as Chris Hipkins, Ashley Bloomfield and other health officials appeared to answer questions. They were not in front of the committees for long but it seemed to work well enough.
As a result of the epidemic response committee not being reintroduced, the prime minister had to use standing order 55 to determine that the House would not sit.
Under this order, House sittings can be suspended for up to a month after the date of a scheduled sitting. Parliament was scheduled to sit on Tuesday August 24, so could technically stay out until September 24. Any extension beyond that would require agreement of all parties of Government. At this stage the suspension will last a week. Delta was considered reason enough not to have MPs jetting about the country.
Suspending House sittings is not unusual. The House is often suspended for short periods in time of national emergency or other events. It was suspended during the Pike River disaster and the Christchurch earthquakes. Often it is suspended for a day when a former MP or prime minister dies former prime minister Mike Moore being one of the most recent. It did not sit for two scheduled weeks during the last level 4 lockdown.
At the moment this is a Wellington issue but if the lockdown drags on and there is no parliamentary scrutiny of Labour and the prime minister, it could become a festering sore and give the appearance of Labour not fronting.
But for the meantime, while the rest of us are in lockdown, the idea of politicians jetting around the country, potentially spreading Covid to go to what would have to be a skeleton and socially distanced Parliament anyway, would probably stick in the craw of most people. Everyone else is either having to take leave or work from home with children crawling over them why not the pollies?
But more scrutiny is better than less, and Labour both must be, and be seen to be, constructive on this issue. When you are asking the whole country to forgo basic civil liberties, playing politics with being held to account is not the right thing to do. It will also be grist to the mill of all the Covid conspiracy theorists.
Whether Parliament returns next week will likely be decided after the alert levels announcement expected from the prime minister on Friday.