A letter to Simon Bridges from an acquaintance on Labour and CV19
Dear Mr Bridges,
My name is Wayne Collins, a resident of Herne Bay in Auckland and I am writing to share my concern over the Labour Government’s response to the Coronavirus Epidemic and to ask you, as the Leader of the Opposition, why you have been so silent as the country not only heads to economic disaster, but it’s people have lost some of their most important freedoms, particularly recreation of choice, travel, the right to manage our own health and most importantly, the loss of that which we hold so precious, democracy.
Throughout this crisis and the Labour Government’s handling of it my concern has grown on a daily basis to a point where I can not stand idly by while we descend into a police state, as clearly shown by two headlines in today’s NZ Herald: “Police: Get out of the water and “First day on frontline:‘it’s what I signed up for’. Sadly, I don’t think they understand what they’re doing.
Mr Bridges, I ask that you indulge me by giving your attention to the case I will set out below to give you an understanding of why I think the situation is so serious and why you as Leader of the Opposition should be concerned and should try to use your political influence to effect some change in our response to the virus.
Onset of Hysteria
The hysteria around coronavirus was immediate and the propaganda that has followed is seemingly designed to rob the masses of rational and logical thought. For example, from the outset, the Press in New Zealand referred to it as the ‘deadly virus’ with those words implying that anyone who gets the virus will die because it’s deadly. Rational and unemotional people will understand that is not a true description as the virus is only potentially deadly to a very low percentage of our population, if uncontrolled. But when you have that description constantly in the written press and constantly used on Radio and Television, rationality goes out the window, replaced by a level of fear in a lot of people as I believe the Press have designed it to, because of their desire to be at the forefront of ‘sensational reporting’.
Not content with that, the Press went to a new level when they stopped reporting virus deaths as people ‘dying of the virus’ but ‘killed by the virus’. In that context I would opine that the word ‘killed’ has been deliberately chosen to heighten fear among people and to continue this concept of ‘sensational’ reporting. Consider also, the absolute saturation cover on television, radio and newspapers filled with all sorts of stories and dire predictions about the virus that are sensational, often irrelevant and often lack facts.
Now it appears that the Government is getting into the act when each day they release the number of new infections, breaking them into confirmed and unconfirmed; but the next day including the unconfirmed of yesterday into the confirmed of today. Isn’t that a form of double counting and if so, isn’t it deceptive?
Loss of Democracy
In the early days when we first became aware of the virus, the Government weren’t immediate in their response (and perhaps understandably) and the result was the virus was allowed to enter freely and unimpeded into New Zealand. When it did react, the Government introduced and adopted a strategy of ‘flattening the curve’ or slowing down the penetration of the virus, principally in order to reduce the strain and pressure on our emergency services, most notably hospitals.
Firstly, at Level 1, it was in the form of behavioural advice but quickly moving to requests, for mainly travellers, to self isolate but with little practical plan of enforcing such a directive. Then we moved rapidly through levels 2, 3 and 4 at a time when the number of virus infections was in the couple of hundreds. Level 4 of course is a State of Emergency and was declared by the Prime Minister to enforce a lockdown of most of New Zealand citizens. At this stage, the less hysterical and the more rational of us were surprised that the Government was prepared to assume unfettered right to exercise unbridled power but hardly a word from anybody. Any democratic society needs to place checks and balances where it involves a loss of democracy, but not a word from the Press or from you Sir, as the Leader of the Opposition. Not one death and a small amount of infections! Was this situation so dire, that a State of Emergency was required and Parliament dissolved? Is democracy not that important, so that it goes without a whimper of protest?
The Overreaction and the Shortcomings of the Government’s Current Plan
The Government will say that the aim of its draconian powers and rules (no more swimming, hunting, boating or fishing) is focussed on ‘flattening the curve’ in order to alleviate the strain and overload on the emergency services, particularly hospital services. Obviously, it has been a resounding success, because within little more than a week, with less than 1,000 cases of the virus, no more than 13 people admitted to hospital, 2 in ICU and unfortunately 1 death, Dr Bloomfield announces in qualified terms that it appears that infections may have peaked, so the curve is flattening. I guess we’re a small country so the curve must be small, but really is that it? If it is, it just emphasises the scale of the Government’s overreaction and makes a mockery of the latest draconian laws introduced today.
However, the Government has also talked about stopping the virus completely in New Zealand. After the 4 week lockdown, that could be the case in the short term, but what then? How do we stop it coming back? Closed borders and further lockdowns resulting in more damage to the economy? If the Government follows that path, then we will become an economic cot case.
So, is there another answer or alternative to the Government’s Plans
After Lockdown is lifted, it is not clear what the Government intends doing or whether it has even developed a plan to resume service as normal. They will need some plans because it seems certain with the onset of winter, the virus will return. At this stage, it doesn't appear that the Government is focussed on any other solution than eliminating the virus. Certainly, I have not heard any discussion about developing community immunity as happens in every influenza season.
So, as a long term solution, the locking down of 100% of the population to protect 20% of the population from serious effects of the virus and less than 0.1% of the population from dying is seriously flawed and has a needless catastrophic effect on our economy. Further, continuing to follow that strategy will only serve to further affect the economy with some of those effects irretrievable for many years. Companies are and will continue to go under , more people will suffer unemployment, young people may lose their homes, less tourists will come to New Zealand and the Government’s tax take will reduce, resulting in significantly higher levels of Government borrowing to meet required spending.
In my mind, there is no doubt that another plan is needed to get us through this as quickly as possible. My plan is simple; don’t lock down a lot to fix a few:
- protect only those at risk, not the whole population;
- continue to isolate those people who live in retirement villages and rest homes but allow family visits on a sensible and controlled basis;
- advise those people over 70 to either stay in lockdown or consider a limited variation of lockdown that does not expose them to the virus;
- offer alternative accommodation or other living services to elderly people living on their own;
- advise those people with any form of current illness to stay in lockdown;
- let the rest of us get back to work and enjoy our normal activities while keeping our social distance and sanitising and washing our hands.
PROTECT THOSE AT RISK
BUILD COMMUNITY IMMUNITY
GET OUR ECONOMY BACK ON TRACK
As you can guess, I’m tired of the hysteria, the unnecessary fear and emotion, the loss of democracy and of following a fatally flawed plan led by a Prime Minister who proudly announces that she will never put the economy before lives! No one has asked her to do that, but doesn’t she realise that the two are not mutually exclusive and economic health and personal health often go hand in hand and it’s her job as Prime Minister to look after both and not one at the exclusion of the other. It’s no wonder the Government has followed a fatally flawed and over reactive plan when that sort of ill thought out platitude is offered as justification.
Let’s get some common sense back and become determined to attack this problem in the most efficient way (from all perspectives). Focussing on protecting only those at risk will cost a fraction of the $12 billion promised to be spent by the Labour Government while still allowing allow gold plated protection for those at risk. No more of this nonsense of the police arresting people for swimming or thinking they’re on the ‘frontline’.
Mr Bridges, I ask you to rally the National Party Opposition and stop Labour needlessly destroying the country when other more efficient strategies are available. Thank you for taking the time to consider my views.