A perilous week for the Government as the real war begins – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: October 9, 2021 at 7:32 am

OPINION: In May 1943, Allied forces finally squeezed the Germans out of North Africa in a pincer movement, with the help of the Americans. What should have been an easy victory had instead turned into a long, hard battle.

In our current battle, against Covid-19, were less at the end of the beginning, to borrow from Winston Churchills 1942 quote, and more at the beginning of the real war ushered in with a zeitgeist change this week, when it dawned on many that restrictions were going to drag on for the foreseeable future.

In both wars it was the respective leaders strategic decisions that dictated success or failure. Jacinda Arderns latest strategic decision her most important since Covid arrived was an extraordinary omnishambles 4pm Moment of Truth from the Podium of Truth announcement of the end of the elimination strategy.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced a 10-day vaccine drive, culminating in a National Day of Action.

Except, instead of the roadmap transition that she purported it to be, it was more like a long three-stage tunnel without any light at the end and no timeframes, aside from a vague Please get vaccinated.

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Auckland remains steadfastly stuck at level 3 for at least the next four to eight weeks, with the prospect of Covid-19 cases piling up and more deaths seeming more certain, while the rest of the country remains at Delta 2.5. Whats becoming increasingly obvious is that what worked 18 months ago; short, sharp, messaging based on the science, has been replaced with obfuscation and flip-flopping.

Now the Government focus is resolutely on vaccination rates, ironic given it once made a virtue out of being at the back of the queue.

Confirmation of Cabinet and bureaucracys tardiness came this week when a letter from Pfizer, sent in June to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, emerged. It showed that Pfizer pressured the ministry to meet and discuss its vaccine, six weeks before a meeting actually took place.

This criticism is rear-view mirror, woulda-coulda-shoulda thinking. We must prepare for what lies ahead because it is potentially chaotic and traumatic.

With 80 per cent of Kiwis having received their first dose of the vaccine and 50 per cent having had two doses, the push for the vaccine summit of 90 per cent is on.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has, at times this week, looked and sounded panicked and unsure, Janet Wilson writes.

On Wednesday Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a 10-day vaccine drive, culminating in a National Day of Action on October 16 when vaccination stations will be open all day and into the evening. Its a jingoistic call-to-arms that is unlikely to reach the hardiest of the vaccine-hesitant, young Mori and Pasifika, many of whom dont trust official channels, relying instead on social media and their peers for their information.

In the middle of the maelstrom, whats exacerbating frustration is a series of ongoing U-turns. First it was the vaccine passport; in early August Ardern ruled them out, but on Tuesday a Ministry of Health data geek outlined how they will work at the 1pm briefing.

Then theres the Governments decision to go back to shorter wait times between jabs, a screeching U-ey on the advice it gave two months ago. Back then, it was telling Kiwis to wait six weeks and advising that that gave better protection from the virus.

RICKY WILSON/STUFF

Northland Covid-19 vaccination centre sees "massive" rise in visitors following positive case in the region

Now were being told that it should be three weeks because more people could be vaccinated sooner, which would increase community immunity. Say what? Aside from suggesting that the Government cant be trusted to tell us whats true now, it also exposes its current panic.

And when it comes to the final vaccine frontier, the issue of mandates, theres further vacillation, with the Government refusing to impose them. Its easy to see why; its a grey area of law. The Bill of Rights includes the right to refuse medical treatment.

And considering the Governments rapidly weakening social contract with the public, maybe a blanket ban on the unvaccinated would be useless in any event. Its time for businesses to step up, especially those who work with the public. Air New Zealand has already answered the call by imposing a mandate for around 4000 staff, as has the Port of Tauranga, although to show just how difficult this will be to implement, workers have challenged that. They have filed a judicial review, claiming the port has removed their freedom of choice. It will be small businesses, with fewer resources, that will struggle with mandates the most.

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Janet Wilson: Delta has vanquished the triumphs of 2020 and an altogether different battle lies ahead.

In the War on Covid, this week has been marked by indecision, obfuscation, and missteps, which has led to an edgy mood change.

This has been a perilous week for this second-term Labour Government, and especially for the prime minister, who at times has looked and sounded panicked and unsure.

Delta has vanquished the triumphs of 2020 and an altogether different battle lies ahead. Ardern was right to transition away from elimination. It is the way she has done it thats being called into serious question. It will be this battle that decides her fate.

Janet Wilson is a former journalist until recently working in PR, including a stint with the National Party.

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A perilous week for the Government as the real war begins - Stuff.co.nz

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