Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently described having at least 90 percent of the country vaccinated as a “golden ticket,” which would mean no less restrictive lockdowns or lockdowns in the future. Claire Trevett of the NZ Herald sits down to discuss what a vaccination rate of over 90 percent could look like in New Zealand. Video / Mark Mitchell
On April 11, 1970, when Apollo 13 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its mission was to land on the moon, but just on the second day, an explosion on board changed everything.
Suddenly, with the oxygen supply diminished, a frenzied process began to attempt to return the three astronauts to Earth in their damaged spacecraft.
In a crisis, humans can be creative and inventive. With the growing acceptance that Covid-19 and its variants can be with us indefinitely, the New Zealand government and public health officials, such as NASA in 1970, need to quickly change their mindset to adapt to the new challenge.
The goal should no longer be to live in a smug hermit kingdom, but to return to a life where New Zealanders can travel abroad, for whatever reason, knowing that they can return home whenever they want, and where we once again welcome the visitors to this country.
These are not radical goals, yet there has been no coherent plan shared with the public on when or how they could be achieved. The only urgency that we have seen for months is the enthusiasm to blockade our country, lock up our people, and lock up our citizens who are abroad.
Some people would like to continue with the North Korean option. I am not one of them. Public health experts and politicians have done a good job of making the public fear and therefore willing to accept multiple restrictions on their civil liberties that are disproportionate to the risk of them contracting Covid.
Another problem with the hermit kingdom model is that you have to believe that the government can continue to borrow a billion dollars each week to disguise that we are no longer making our way into the world.
Also ignore the deafening voices of tens of thousands of New Zealanders who have their citizenship compromised by being stranded abroad. Very few of them make it back when Wellington’s public servants decide what situation is desperate enough to be rewarded with a golden ticket to MIQ. How is it possible that bureaucrats decide who comes home, while pretending that the rest have been on an extended shopping trip abroad and deserve nothing more than to be left at the mercy of a lottery?
A lottery is not a public policy. It is a national disgrace. Whether you can see your grandson, dying mother, or sister’s wedding depends on whether or not your number is listed. This is a lottery that plays with families and people’s futures.
Meanwhile, brave New Zealanders who have started or bought a small business are worried and sleepless, as are their workers, because closures are an indiscriminate tool that stops trade just as effectively as it stops Covid. The real damage is being hidden by an economy underpinned by loans.
Too often, I hear commentators supporting North Korea’s option because they claim that opening up to the rest of the world will introduce the virus and therefore cost people’s lives.
International evidence does not support that claim. If you are vaccinated, your chances of being hospitalized or dying from Covid are slim.
There is an argument that the government should demand vaccination, but no country has done so, and neither has ours. Every day in New Zealand people die of cancer related to smoking or other conditions that have been influenced by lifestyle. Each of us makes our choices and we live with the consequences.
But here is a plan that might work:
1. Offer Maori and Pacific healthcare providers a financial incentive for each person who gets vaccinated in the next six weeks.
2. Give each person ages 12-29 a $ 25 voucher of their choice if they get vaccinated before December 1.
3. Allow only vaccinated people to enter licensed facilities (and maybe park the Shot Bro bus outside some nightclubs as an incentive).
Four. Let New Zealanders know when the borders will be reopened. It could incentivize more people to take hits.
5. Stop ruling out of fear. Instead, reassure people that it is possible to live with the virus, as long as you are vaccinated. Take positive actions like funding Pharmac to invest in therapies that have been shown to help fight the virus, building the capacity of our hospital and our workforce, using saliva tests for Covid, subsidizing home test kits for Covid, and ordering injections of reinforcement now.
The final part of the plan is to open the borders, soon.
MIQ, as our only quarantine response, is inappropriate. Home quarantine should begin immediately.
The South Australian test already requires those with MIQ at home to leave their phone on 24 hours a day and agree to use facial recognition and GPS technology so they can be monitored.
We could throw in the cheat that if you break the quarantine you will get a $ 20,000 fine and time on the clanger.
Also, as Law Leader David Seymour has been advocating, we need short-term, privately run MIQ facilities specially designed for workers and eventually tourists.
This is by no means a complete list of what is possible. They are just a few ways to encourage vaccination and allow New Zealand to rejoin the world that is opening up without us.
For those who say that it is too difficult or too risky, I ask you this: one day, when most of the budget of the Minister of Finance pays only the interest on the debt that we are accumulating now, and you cannot have the most recent cancer . drugs, or more police, because New Zealand can’t afford them, what will they think?
Do you wish that in 2021 the Government had acted with the urgency and creativity shown by NASA in having to suddenly rethink its approach to the Apollo 13 mission? NASA succeeded. He showed that to get a different result, you need a different strategy.