I submitted this article three hours before the news of a Covid community case. I called it "Covid is coming, ready or not".
I am not a prophet. I read the reports of Sir David Skeggs' Covid Advisory Group to the Government. The advisors told the government that it is a certainty that Covid outbreaks will occur.
The reports and the Government's response gave us a glimpse into the decision making on Covid. There has never been a Government that produces so much publicity and so little information.
By keeping the reports secret until ready with its response allowed the Government to control the narrative.
The questions ministers asked and did not ask the Skeggs Group are very revealing.
The first question was: "Is an elimination strategy still viable as international travel resumes"?
The answer was to continue with elimination until the costs outweigh the benefits. No guidance was given on how to make that calculation.
The advisors pointed out in their reports that having an elimination strategy does not mean no Covid: "Because of the certainty that more clusters and outbreaks of Covid-19 will occur."
The committee suggested giving the strategy a "new name in Te Reo Māori". Now that really would clarify things.
Questions that Associate Minister of Health (Public Health) Dr Ayesha Verrall put to her advisors shows she is focused on next year's issues and not "the certainty that more clusters and outbreaks of Covid-19 will occur".
The delta virus has changed the pandemic. The new strain is many times more infectious and much more tricky. Over time we are all going to get Covid antibodies. Our only choice is whether it is by vaccination or by being infected.
What worked last year may not work against Delta.
The question "Is a target for the percentage of population vaccinated helpful" reveals the government's strategy is waiting for everyone to be vaccinated. It is not going to happen.
The committee's response: "Clearly a small minority of people will refuse the vaccine, and there is misinformation that threatens some people's confidence in vaccination".
Yet only two-thirds of those polled say they will "definitely" get the vaccine.
The Skegg's report is correct "that some people who decline vaccination ... will seek it later ... [when] outbreaks of Covid-19 start occurring".
Hopefully, this latest community case will result in better vaccination coverage.
Although vaccination is the strategy ministers continue to procrastinate on. More children are coming down with Covid-19 thanks to the highly contagious delta variant. MedSafe approved the vaccine for 12-15-year-olds back in June. Cabinet is yet to approve.
Somewhere in the archives is the plan for the polio vaccine. At my primary school we were lined up in the school hall and vaccinated in a morning.
MedSafe has approved AstraZeneca. Cabinet is yet to make a decision. Using different vaccines for the second jab is just as effective.
The manufacturer has recommended booster shots. No decision has been made. If Cabinet had ordered the vaccine earlier we would by now all have been able to be vaccinated. Repeating mistakes is unforgivable.
What does the Minister mean by "when the vaccine rollout is complete"? If it is when we are fully vaccinated then that is never. If it is when we have all had an opportunity to be vaccinated then the gradual re-opening of the border can start from January 1, 2022.
Better begin re-opening in summer than in winter, coinciding with the flu epidemic that is overdue.
Ministers' attention should be focused on the certainty there will be outbreaks.
The country has no choice but to lockdown. It is important we all follow the rules.
The reports to the minister reveal no understanding of the economic cost of lockdowns.
Last year's lockdowns were financed by the Reserve Bank printing $40 billion. It is a trick we cannot repeat. The Bank was expected by the market to increase interest rates today.
The government has blown 30 years of fiscal prudence. As the biggest borrower, the government cannot continue to spend us out of lockdowns.
What Ministers should have been getting advice on is how to fix the MIQ system.
Take health. The county's ICU units struggled to handle the RSV outbreak. The Minister of Health is puzzled as to why the nurses are striking. Twelve-hour shifts, understaffed wards and emergency departments are unsustainable.
Our MIQ system keeps out health professionals but doctors and nurses are still leaving.
Four-thousand MIQ places are not enough. If travellers were sorted by risk and whether they are vaccinated we could safely expand MIQ places. We have empty hotels.
We do not need to have families broken up, industries unable to get the skilled workers or to watch our hospitals failing.
What we need is ministers focused on today's problems, getting more vaccine, covering children, a tracing app that works, universal Bluetooth Covid cards, safely expanding MIQ places, making available rapid DIY Covid testing kits and a track and trace system that can keep up with the delta variant.
- Richard Prebble is a former leader of the Act Party and former member of the Labour Party.