Friday 24 September 2021

Is This What We Want?

Heavy Hands: Over the past few days, the centre of Melbourne has witnessed some of the worst political violence in a generation. Police officers have been hospitalised. Rubber bullets have been fired. Hundreds have been arrested. And all because the state government of Victoria is insisting that all construction workers present evidence of vaccination before being allowed onto their building sites.

“YOU NEED TO GIVE PEOPLE what they want. Not what you want to give them. Or they’ll get it from someone else.” The whole trick of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic effectively has been to convince a solid majority of the population that they actually want what the experts reckon they should have.

Jacinda Ardern has done this better than any other leader on earth. Her “Team of Five Million” rhetoric galvanising New Zealanders like no other people on earth. She made us believe we were all in this together, and her Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, reassured us that she – and we – were right. New Zealanders had no need to get what they wanted from someone else – they already had it.

This week, however, the formula fell apart. This week Jacinda Ardern and her Cabinet had to choose between what the experts reckoned New Zealanders should have, and what New Zealanders – or, at least, the third of them living in Auckland – actually wanted. Crucially, they had ceased to be the same.

Most of the epidemiologists and “modellers” upon whom New Zealanders have come to rely for reassurance that Jacinda and her Team of Five Million are doing all the right things, would have preferred Auckland to remain in Level 4 Lockdown for at least another week. Politically, however, that had ceased to be a viable proposition. What Aucklanders had been led to expect, and what they really, really wanted, was a move down to Level 3. So, that is what they got.

The epidemiologists and modellers described the Prime Minister’s decision (politely) as a “calculated risk”. Others, with less civility, called it a “gamble”. These doubters looked around the world and noted how little success anybody has had, anywhere, at “stamping out” the Delta Variant of Covid-19. Their intuition told them that the extraordinary success of this country’s “Elimination Strategy” – which, far from turning New Zealand into a “Hermit Kingdom”, had transformed it into a passable imitation of Shangri La – had finally met its match in Delta. The nature of the game is changing.

The Prime Minister is now being called upon to pivot away from her highly successful Elimination Strategy, and convince New Zealanders that what they want now, more than anything, is for 90 percent-plus of the population over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated by Christmas. With upwards of 90 percent of teenage and adult New Zealanders “double-jabbed”, say the rules of this new Covid game, New Zealand will be well-positioned to “live with” the Coronavirus. Managed properly, life in a fully-vaccinated New Zealand could return – almost – to normal.

Which would be fine, if every New Zealander could be relied upon to bring a rational and reasonable frame of mind to the idea of near-universal vaccination being the only way to bring their country safely out from under Covid-19. But, that is a very big ask – quite possibly too big. Polling has revealed upwards of a quarter of the population either seriously hesitant about, or downright resistant to, receiving the Pfizer vaccine. In other words, relying upon the good sense of our fellow citizens might not be enough to get us through the Delta challenge.

Okay, that’s disappointing, but nil desperandum! If too many people are either hesitant or resistant, then the next obvious step is to issue Vaccination Passports to all those who have done their civic duty. Flourish one of these and the world will open to you. Fail to present one, and, sorry, but you can’t come in. No Jab, No Job! Or anything else.

No one’s proposing to strap the anti-vaxxers to a table and stick ‘em with a syringe-full of Pfizer. It’s their right to refuse the jab. But, by the same token, its society’s right to exact a price for that refusal.

Except that’s a dreadfully risky course to take. Over the past few days, the centre of Melbourne has witnessed some of the worst political violence in a generation. Police officers have been hospitalised. Rubber bullets have been fired. Hundreds have been arrested. And all because the state government of Victoria is insisting that all construction workers present evidence of vaccination before being allowed onto their building sites.

Stamping out Covid-19 by stomping on the heads of our fellow citizens? Is that really what New Zealand wants?

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 24 September 2021.


Odysseus said...

No, we must never "stomp on the heads of fellow New Zealanders". Freedom of choice must prevail, especially over something as invasive as vaccination. I made the choice to get vaccinated, reluctantly, but I understand the concerns of those who don't wish to be. I also believe the figures of mass mortality put out by the government's modellers are wildly overstated. They bear little relation to the facts on the ground in comparable countries like Singapore or Denmark. Having said that I also believe the government has seriously dropped the ball when it comes to protecting New Zealanders' health in the medium to long term. Where are the new hospitals and ICU facilities? They don't exist. Instead millions have been frittered away since the election on mainly race-based initiatives such as a new ethnonationalist health authority or marae (private property) do-ups, and, soon to be, the race-based "3 Waters reforms" which will require billions in new borrowing if the government's promises are to be believed. No, the "team of 5 million" facade is cracking and the reckoning is coming.

John Archer said...

Of course, and the Westerns cpitalists' sacred freedom of choice must apply to such things as speed an alcohol limits. Exactly the same result will be achieved. The morgues and intensive care wards will fill not only with the drunken, unvaccinated and speed-freaks, but also with their victims. When other very ill people are taken to hospital, there will be no staff or beds available to care for them.

This is happening in the Southern states of the US where the increase in average death rate is now way higher than the number of those dying of covid.

I'm an 80 year old male. I've had 2 covid vaccinations, but my body's response to them was totally zero. With the Team of Five Million I felt safe for the next five years, but with the JAFAs Must Make Money capitulation I now give myself a five month life expectancy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

So what do we do with those people who have exercised their freedom of choice to not get vaccinated if they infect someone else, and this person gets very ill or dies? This is a question that just about everyone in the antivax camp has avoided answering when I've asked it. Personally I think they should either be sued or tried. And personally I think that private organisations and for that matter government departments and the like have a right not to allow unvaccinated people on their premises. You might have the right not to get vaccinated, I have the right not to associate with you, because you're right to punch stops at the end of my nose – and I don't think that I should have to suffer sanctions because you can't be bothered getting a jab. It's a little bit ironic that most of the Republican antivax people in the US voted for at will employment, yet now some of them are being fired for refusing to be vaccinated they are whining about freedom. Conservatism – where irony goes to die.

John Trezise said...

No one must be forced to be vaccinated; but neither ought anyone be exposed to the danger an unvaccinated person poses, nor society to the economic consequences of an epidemic raging in our community. We must mandate vaccination passports as a condition of entry to workplaces, shopping malls, concert halls, stadiums, restaurants, bars, public transport, and everywhere that an unvaccinated person might come in contact with others.
The negligently unvaccinated are a threat to our health system, and to all who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Vaccinated people still get infected, and still infect others. But the vaccinated are much less likely to end up in hospital, far, far less likely to end up in Intensive Care, and less likely, if they survive, to suffer the debilitation of Long Covid.
Every hospital bed occupied by a Covid sufferer is one no longer available to someone suffering from any of the other illnesses and injuries that afflict us. The more people who remain unvaccinated, the more Covid will render our hospitals unable to cope.
And those with Long Covid may overwhelm our Social Welfare system, an avalanche of invalids unable to work.
We must exclude the unvaccinated from society till they get the message. No jab: no job; no entry; no anything. Fear of exclusion will work wonders for all but the most obdurately vaccine-defiant.

Anonymous said...

The vaccination programme is flagging and it needs a rapid boost in the under represented younger cohorts. Cracking heads is not the answer, but the announcement of a social dividend of $200 tax free for all New Zealanders (total population) double jabbed would galvanize action. It would particularly benefit large families struggling to make ends in the current environment. The direct cost $1 billion, nothing compared to the money spent and lost already under lockdowns. Furthermore, the money would be spent and represent a direct injection of funds to the economy. The benefit of a 90%+ programme is about ring-fencing our society and we should be prepared as a people to recognize each and every individual that sticks their arm out (including our very youngest).

Tom Hunter said...

I'm sure it will be what quite a few New Zealanders will want if they see case numbers (and perhaps even deaths) rise, despite vaccinations, as the country opens up. An Untermenchen will be required for such a failure.

I'm already seeing it on Social Media sites like FaceTwit, and we seen it with the ploy made by President "We're losing patience" Biden and the far more cuddly Justin Trudeau of Canada, so it's not a stretch to imagine both Adern and Judith Collins reaching for the same stick.

The Barron said...

In 1990 I was working in London, one of my colleagues, who I had the odd pint with, was from the Philippines. He was in a professional position and sent much of his income back to his family in Baguio City. Unlike most in the Philippines, he could afford to be conscious about building standards. The house he built for his family was constructed to withstand large earthquakes. In 1990, the 7.7 Baguio quake was huge, but his house held up to the quake. Unfortunately for him, all the houses on the hill above his had not followed any standards and all came crashing down destroying his home.

I am reminded of this as I see the NZ government response to Covid19. Everything done right and to the highest standard. Then we look overseas, and despair at the standard of those houses tittering above . . .

greywarbler said...

Anonymous 11.43 Good idea. When I did a business course years ago there was discussion on how to motivate already well paid staff. In NZ a goodly sum like $200 will draw people. Just think of the group that attended the money scramble from the firm with cunning entrepreneurial aim. NZ govt can deliver real money and should be done quickly, immediately after the vaccs in exchange for a designated person form that people collect for themselves and sign with preferably two signatures.

Wayne Mapp said...

I am reasonably optimistic we will get to 90% of the eligible population. Auckland is already over 80%.
However, Minister Henare has indicated that Maori vaccination rates are well below the general population, at least for those under 65. Given that he also says there will be no opening up until Maori are the same, or at least reasonably close to the general population in terms of vaccination rates, that potentially means trouble.
There will be a huge Maori led and focussed effort to lift the Maori vaccination rate, and I believe the wider population will be accepting that this will take time, say to March 2022. But what if the Maori vaccination rates is still significantly lagging at that point. What happens then?

Glenn Webster said...

The comments, especially that by John Trezise are terrifying.

Tom Hunter said...

I am reminded of this as I see the NZ government response to Covid19. Everything done right and to the highest standard.

There have been multiple, documented, admitted failures over the last eighteen months in testing, the MIQ's, and the lack of ICU capacity (we've had a year to build it up) - and that's before we get to our pitifully slow vaccine strollout.

Combined with his comment the other day about unions being democratic places of debate (why it's almost as if he's never been a member of a union) I think this marks "The Barron" as being beyond the reach of debate.

theotherneil said...

Then I suggest you ask to be isolated somewhere. If that does not work for you then I suggest you take all possible precautions as I am sure you do to avoid the other myriad of things that can kill us all in this life.

The Barron said...

Actually Tom, let's test your credibility. List the Union actions of the last decade which did not carry the mandate of the members.

The Barron said...

"Hello darkness, my old friend..."
What was the name of that song?