Jacinda Ardern has yet to provide New Zealanders with detailed assurances that officials have prepared the intensive tracking, tracing and testing regime necessary to ensure that in the event of a Covid-19 virus flare-up at alert level 1 it can be stamped out quickly.
This is the essential point that was missing from Ardern's meandering comments on news media yesterday — although further details on alert level 1 may come later today.
Skilful politician as she undoubtedly is, the Prime Minister managed to slide off the hook she earlier fashioned for herself with her intransigence towards moving off alert level 2, with the convenient suggestion that after speaking with Ashley Bloomfield over Queen's Birthday weekend the observation was the country was exceeding expectations and could move to level 1 on June 10 "as long as we keep seeing the results we're seeing now".
Nothing to do of course with the 4000 New Zealanders who performed a clear act of civil disobedience by exceeding the level 2 ban on gatherings of 100 in attending the Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity in Auckland.
For a politician whose communication skills and leadership in the Covid-19 era have been lauded worldwide it was bizarre that Ardern chose not to make a public appeal to the marchers to stay home and obey the level 2 dictates. Was she afraid they would not take a blind bit of notice? Or, in her heart, would she have wanted to be alongside them in their moral march?
Irrespective — and there is possibly truth in both those questions — the rank unfairness to other New Zealanders who had obeyed the rules and kept gatherings such as funerals to the stipulated numbers was obvious.
Ardern later went on to say this was an operational matter and it was up to the police — rather than herself — if other actions were required to contain protesters. In various interviews she said she understood the sense of urgency and strength of feeling of the marchers — but it was her job to look after the country's health as well.
So, she said nothing until after the event.
This does leave Ardern in a weakened position if New Zealand does experience future breakouts — remember there is still a global pandemic out there — and she does need to appeal to New Zealanders to again constrain their activities.
Ardern has been quite vague when asked about the Government's own preparedness for the country moving to alert level 1.
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Details on what the level means do not appear to have been publicly updated on the Government's website covid19.govt.nz.
But a spreadsheet outlining details for all four alert levels was published by Ardern just days before she announced Cabinet had agreed to put NZ into the alert 4 lockdown.
Alert level 1 — as outlined on this spreadsheet — presumes a high degree of preparedness.
It is by no means open slather.
It implies citizens will still practise physical distancing; that schools and workplaces will remain open and operate safely; that people will stay home if they are sick and report flu-like symptoms; that the hygienic practices will be followed — washing hands, coughing into elbows, not touching faces and so forth.
The upside of level 1 is that there will be no restrictions on gatherings nor on domestic transport.
The most critical precautions, however, are border entry measures to minimise the risk of importing Covid-19; intensive testing for Covid-19 and rapid contact tracing of any positive case then isolating the infected party.
Teams working alongside the Government have been developing Bluetooth cards. But the Prime Minister was vague on where all this is at. She had some concerns also over the time it took for contact tracing.
This really all needs to be ironed out so businesses have the confidence to fully open their doors and get going again knowing the backstop is there.
If the Government needs to fund this it should not be afraid to dip further into its $20.2 billion fund.