Hooton on Covid-19

Matthew Hooton writes:

This week’s NZ Herald-Kantar poll shows a nation united behind our current Covid strategy.

Fully 85 per cent of us agree with Jacinda Ardern, Judith Collins and everyone else who matters that we should stick with the elimination objective — as Ardern puts it — “for now”.

Just 13 per cent of us are ready to start living — and some dying — with the virus today.

Prominent University of Auckland science communicator Siouxsie Wiles says she is relieved by the results, claiming unnamed domestic and international pundits have been “screaming” for New Zealand to drop elimination. She must watch more Fox News and read more obscure blogsites than I do.

Across every party in Parliament and the entire New Zealand media — North Island and South Island, right-leaning and left, populist and more scholarly — there has been universal public support, all things considered, for Ardern’s bold but well-signalled move to put the whole country into level 4 the very day Delta was detected. No one in the New Zealand media disputes that Auckland must remain at level 4 for the time being, and probably for a good couple of weeks of zero community transmission.

I was also puzzled by Wiles claim that pundits have been screaming for NZ to drop elimination at this point in time. I honestly can’t think of a single significant pundit in NZ who has said this.

The more surprising part of the NZ Herald-Kantar poll is that a slim 52 per cent majority believes we should move away from elimination once more than 70 per cent of us are fully vaccinated.

That vaccination rate seems a bit low. Even those most eager to see borders return to normal talk more about 80 per cent, or higher. Vaccinologists seek over 90 per cent.

I don’t think we should set the move away from elimination around a specific vaccination rate, as that gives too much power to the vaccine sceptics. In a recent Patreon post where I laid out my post-lockdown vision, I said:

We should transition out of lockdowns around three months after every New Zealander eligible to receive a vaccine has had a chance to be fully vaccinated.

Let’s say that there is capacity for everyone to have their first vaccine by the end of December. Then second vaccine by end of February, so around May or June 2022, lockdowns should end.

I don’t think the end of lockdowns should be based on what percentage are vaccinated. That gives too much power to those who refuse to be vaccinated. It would punish all of NZ, for them choosing not to be vaccinated. It should be based on everyone having had the opportunity to vaccinate.

Hooton continues:

Criticism of Ardern is not that she again locked down the country on August 17. Everyone accepts she had no choice, given the circumstances. The criticism is why those circumstances prevailed.

The circumstances include inexplicable delays in vaccination procurement, the failure to vaccinate border and other frontline workers, the lack of saliva testing, the absence of Bluetooth tracking and tracing, mishaps at MIQ facilities, the non-expansion of ICU capability, and the brutality of the booking system for New Zealanders abroad needing to get home and towards those dying and their loved ones.

Yep the strategy is good. It is the implementation that is not good.

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