Businesswoman Cecilia Robinson, founder and co-chief executive of healthcare start-up Tend, talks about the challenge ahead: rolling out Covid-19 vaccines.
How would you describe 2020 for your business?
For Tend, it has been a year of opportunity and change. While Covid-19 has disrupted many businesses, for us it has crystallised our purpose and sharpened our focus. We didn't start Tend as a response to Covid, we were working on it for almost a year beforehand, but Covid has emphasised the importance of online medical care. I am mindful that this is not the same for a lot of businesses and I have huge compassion for those I know working in the tourism and retail sectors.
How do you think the Government has handled the Covid-19 crisis?
Incredibly well overall. Since the early days I've been supportive of the elimination/isolation strategy as it has been clear that our health system couldn't cope with a major Covid breakout. This view is shared by most people close to the health sector.
I've been interested in watching strategies employed in other countries, particularly Sweden who have been forced to enter lockdown after effectively exhausting their ICU capacity. Things are so bad there that neighbouring Finland and Norway are offering to help treat Sweden's patients. They have a fatigued healthcare workforce with some 50 people dying each day.
I think we as New Zealanders need to take note of this and understand that we could have been in the same situation. For context, if we followed Sweden's model, there would have been 4000 not here for Christmas, we would have an exhausted healthcare workforce and a healthcare system that was unable to treat many of other illnesses Kiwis would have experienced since the start of the pandemic.
What are two key things the Government should do for economic recovery?
1. Ensure a successful roll-out of the vaccination programme in 2021/2022.
2. Establishing a transtasman travel bubble.
I think that the upcoming vaccination programme will not only be our biggest opportunity but also our biggest risk in the new year.
How is your business planning to tackle 2021?
With a healthy dose of enthusiasm and realism. We're looking forward to the new year and have some exciting projects in the making.
What will be the major challenges and/or opportunities for your industry?
For Tend, it is clear we need to support a successful immunisation programme as vaccines start to be rolled out. In fact, for anyone working in primary healthcare, this will become the biggest priority in 2021.
What was the most interesting non-Covid story of 2020?
The US election, the good v the evil and winning! Having the first female US Vice-President was my absolute highlight of 2020. However, I am very concerned about January 20 and hope that there is an orderly transition for the nations and all its people.
Where are you holidaying this summer?
We're going to be on Waiheke and plan on supporting our favourite restaurants and tourism operators!
What are your predictions for 2021?
My gut feel tells me that the roll out of the vaccination is going to be longer and harder than many believe. Realistically, we are likely to continue with firm border restrictions in place for a large portion of 2021 and into 2022, but I hope I'm wrong on that one.