The Prime Minister had no choice but to maintain the lockdown until next Tuesday.
The initial lockdown has imposed enormous social, economic, health and education costs on all New Zealanders, especially Gen-X, Millennials, Gen-Covid and those to be born through this decade. Having accepted those costs, the most catastrophic outcome would be Jacinda Ardern lifting the lockdown too early, requiring an even more draconian version down the track.
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With four of Monday's new cases not linked to existing clusters, a five-day extension became inevitable.
Still, even had Monday's health information been more favourable – or Ardern wanted to take a risk – it was clear the bureaucracy simply wasn't ready for a move to level 3 this Wednesday night anyway.
Since the Prime Minister announced it last week, the bureaucracy's hastily stitched-together plan for level 3 has had to be rushed back to emergency surgery.
As leader of the nation, Ardern is unparalleled. But her performance as leader of the government is less flash. Just four months ago, she was being humiliated over the failure of her "year of delivery", with polls suggesting the hapless National opposition was on track to govern alone.
This is not entirely her fault.
Like all prime ministers, Ardern relies on the same mediocre and incestuous Wellington bureaucracy that delivered her the KiwiBuild fiasco, worsening child poverty and last year's comedic Budget "hack".
Ministry of Health boss Ashley Bloomfield has been praised for his handling of Covid-19. But, last year, even his ministry was responsible for the measles vaccine crisis, seemed unable to competently allocate the $1.9 billion in mental health funding from last year's budget, and has now been unable to tell a believable story on the availability of PPE to frontline health staff.
Now – despite having over a month to get organised – his ministry has failed to implement the testing and tracking systems necessary for a move to level 3. Talk of a contact-tracing app remains just that. The Beehive even claims it had to push the health authorities to conduct the random population testing required to see how widespread asymptomatic and undiagnosed Covid-19 is in the community.
Sexism among senior officials may explain some of Ardern's inability to achieve purchase over the bureaucracy, although the iron-hold Helen Clark had over Wellington suggests otherwise. Ageism is probably a bigger factor. Whatever their departmental "values statements", too many mandarins aren't happy taking orders from 30-somethings of any gender.
The day the lockdown was announced, Ardern promised that the definition of "essential services" would be available by close of business so parents would know whether they should send their children to school the next day. Despite the Prime Minister signing off the list before the 6pm TV news, MBIE bureaucrats held up its release until closer to midnight.
Inexplicably, no one in the bureaucracy was fired for making a fool of the Prime Minister in an emergency.
Similarly, Ardern's announcement of the details of level 3 last Thursday was necessary to give organisations time to prepare, despite its negative effect on compliance.
But important rules Ardern announced quickly turned out to be wrong or unimplementable.
Schools will not reopen for students on a voluntary basis at the start of level 3 but only – as now – on a much more limited basis. Despite the Prime Minister's announcement on Thursday, many early childhood centres will not reopen at all.
Primary schools and early childhood centres are essential institutions for economic activity to recommence. It is to the teacher unions' credit they have not used that for industrial leverage, but to the Ministry of Education's discredit it appears not to have recognised that risk by keeping them in the loop.
In health, hospitals and other providers have not yet received promised information on what medical procedures will be allowed under level 3.
There is no clarity on how the courts are meant to reopen under level 3.
Other major sectors have only just received the rules for what level 3 means for their operations, with no time to digest them.
Hunters haven't been told what rules were meant to start applying from Thursday morning.
With such uncertainty, the country would have faced a fiasco had it moved to level 3 this week.
The delay until next Tuesday allows the Prime Minister to demand the bureaucracy fix the confusion around level 3 it created. She must make clear to the most senior mandarins that jobs should be on the line if they do not.
Disclosure: Matthew Hooton is an Auckland-based PR consultant and lobbyist. He has a range of clients working on issues associated with Covid-19. These views are his own.