COMMENT: So, not just "lockdown" - we now move to "lock-in" - at level 3, in a week from now, we will focus on consolidating the gains we have made.
True to form, the Prime Minister has told it how it is. We have done well, but it's too early to take the foot off the pedal just yet. We would risk losing those gains if we did so. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. There will still be, at level 3, restrictions on social engagement, but business will have greater freedom to prepare for a re-start.
For most of us, it is hard to grasp the scale of the coronavirus pandemic. The whole world it seems is now in lockdown; but we are aware of this only when it impacts on us in a direct and personal way.
We can easily lose sight of the wider picture. We have of course all suffered consequences from the lockdown of one kind or another, even if it is only the sense that we have lost control of our own lives, and that we are denied contact with our families, friends and neighbours, and the ability to do things we normally like doing.
The impact is, of course, more serious, if we find that it is our livelihoods - our jobs and businesses - that are at stake, and when - despite the commendable steps taken by government to help tide us over this difficult patch - the prospect of longer-term damage to the economy can be discerned.
It is then that we hear the siren voices raised, from politicians and commentators, to the effect that we have "over-reacted" - that the economic damage is too great to be justified by the prospect of a "few deaths" - deaths, it is said, that are "just" among the frail and elderly.
We hardly need a clearer illustration of the mindset that "the economy" is always paramount and must take precedence over all other considerations - that is the mindset that has led to grievous errors, not just, as in this case, in respect of the lives and premature deaths of our fellow-citizens, but also in respect of global warming, or the pollution of air and water, or the failure to protect a safe living environment for other creatures. Nothing, it seems, must stop the economic process.
Fortunately for us, here in New Zealand, we are spared the disgraceful calculations of a Donald Trump who, for fear that a slowing economy will harm his chances of re-election, encourages his own people, at great risk to their own health and in the midst of a rapidly rising death toll, to defy the lockdown and who is ready, in his search for a scapegoat for his own failures, to hamstring the efforts of the World Health Organisation to restrain the virus.
We are entitled to be scornful of those would-be Trumps in our own midst who seem to believe that we must choose between grappling with and overcoming the virus on the one hand, and saving the economy on the other. They cannot seem to grasp that no such choice presents itself.
The only way to save the economy is to defeat the virus. If we allow the virus to continue unchecked, or to re-establish itself by relaxing our efforts too soon, we will not only condemn ourselves to the pain and suffering of the continued loss of our loved ones, but we will ensure that the economic consequences of the pandemic are even more painful and long-lasting, and will persist without any end in sight. And, we would be left with the uncomfortable sense that we had, as a country, failed the test and had abandoned and let down our fellow-citizens, and had squandered the huge efforts made by our frontline health workers.
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As our leaders tell us, now is the time to stay strong - kia kaha. This is not the time to weaken and reduce our commitment to defeat this plague. Our economy will recover well when we - as individuals and as a society - are well. "First things first" must be the watchword.