Full marks to Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson for the level-headed way they are handling the long curveball dealt them by the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak which has put the world on edge.
It's all about buying time. And the Government has had the fortitude to do just that.
There is a great deal of hyped-up hysteria about the travel ban that the Government has applied to foreigners who have been present in, or transited through, Mainland China within 14 days prior to them leaving for New Zealand.
Ardern is leading diplomatic efforts to explain New Zealand's priorities to China – especially to Chinese Ambassador Wu Xi who has protested the travel ban.
But this Government has not been part of some naive US-led stratagem to "contain China" as has been suggested in some quarters. Nor does the Government's stance pave the way for economic retaliation from China – again as more hyperbolic commentators suggest.
There is a difference of view here which is coloured and informed by quite different perspectives.
In truth, China has helped other nations to buy time to advance their own preparedness to cope with this virus through the quarantines it has imposed in Wuhan, which was the epicentre of the outbreak in China and parts of Zheijiang.
China's own isolation of many of its people also has a selfless aspect to it. But China is also painfully aware through the earlier Sars outbreak that coronaviruses are virulent and hard to stamp out.
This Covid-19 virus is a tricky beast and it is now not entirely clear that even the 14-day period of self-isolation – as is recommended for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning here within 14 days of being in Mainland China – is sufficient for all potential infection to be become detectable.
There is much that is yet to be understood.
The fact is that some 60 countries have imposed various restrictions to try to prevent or contain the spread of the virus to their populations. Among them are some key trading partners of both New Zealand and China such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. Other Asian countries to impose restrictions include Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam. Many small South Pacific nations have also put shutters up.
Europe hasn't. Nor has Latin America.
There is force for the Government's actions.
The reality is that as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said "this new virus represents a tremendous public health threat. We don't yet have a vaccine for this novel virus, nor do we have a medication to treat it specifically".
That is precisely where New Zealand sits.
Ardern's well-chosen words at her Monday post-Cabinet press conference in essence laid out the framework for action that the Government is implementing through the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan.
This plan was originally devised in 2002 and was subsequently revised to deal with evolving threats from H5N1 influenza and the influenza A (H1N1) 2009 pandemic and updated in 2017 to reflect new legislation and population calculations. While the plan focuses on pandemic influenza, it says it could reasonably apply to other respiratory-type pandemics (such as severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS – CoV-2). Both Sars – CoV-2 and Covid-19 are coronaviruses.
At this stage the World Health Organisation is saying there is no evidence of "uncontained global spread," but "Covid-19 absolutely has the potential to become a pandemic".
On Monday the Prime Minister danced through the actions the Government has already taken. Much of it is preparing the health sector to cope with a major outbreak of Covid-19 here. Unsaid was just how intrusive those future actions may be. The Government – as elsewhere – does have powers it could utilise to impose quarantines, close schools and so forth to contain a pandemic.
There is a question over whether the current restrictions go far enough.
In Singapore, which had 89 cases as of February 23 – including 51 who had recovered and discharged from hospital – a new Stay-Home Notice (SHN) for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning to Singapore within a 14-day period of travelling to Mainland China has been imposed.
As part of the notice requirements, such travellers have to remain in their homes at all times during the 14-day leave period.
This is far stricter than what is imposed here.
This is also where the New Zealand universities need to get real.
There are still some 6500 Chinese students stuck in China and the universities are pressuring the Government to open the door to some of them.
The universities have argued that returning Chinese students should be treated no differently to returning New Zealand citizens and simply agree to self-isolation.
Ardern has said the Government would need to be assured any health issues could be practically managed, and that the universities can ensure they have credible self-isolation and accommodation plans in place.
Those plans should include "stay at home" notices.
Finally, if a Chinese student really feels aggrieved there is a loophole they could apply.
Simply fly to a country which does not have a travel ban with China. Stay there a fortnight. Get a test to say they are virus-free. Then fly here.