This is part of an ongoing series in which Sir Ian Taylor provides updates on his travel trial.
It appears that today could be my final day in self-isolation, which comes as a bit of a surprise given that as little as six days ago I was informed that the official Self-Isolation Trial would remain at 14 days, despite the fact that halfway through my self-isolation period people in MIQ would be released after 10 days with a further 3 days in home isolation.
I checked that a couple of times to make certain because, despite the official letter telling me that the trial was set for 14 days, the package I received at the airport when I landed gave me instructions on what I needed to do over my 10 days in isolation. It was a series of pretty pictures, I guess in case I couldn't read.
But this Monday, day 7 of my trial, I got an email from someone (I have no idea anymore where these come from) telling me that I would be receiving a QR card on Wednesday that I was to take with me when I was picked up by a driver who would take me to an official testing centre for my final PCR test. If I prove negative, I will be free to go.
I am not holding my breath because my release is dependent on the Government's one and only approved nasal PCR test that so far has not delivered a result in under two days. At least that now puts me back in the 10-day period which I was told did not apply to me.
As an aside, I received one of those bar codes a couple of days ago out of the blue. Above it was a message advising me that I was to go and have a swab test and to "Show this QR code when you get to the front of the queue." The testing time was: 15/11/2021 at precisely 02:08 am!!!
I ignored it for a couple of reasons – the first was obviously the hour of the morning, but the second was that the message gave me no instructions on where I was meant to go or how I was to get there. I waited for clarification, but none came.
That was not the case for another person on the 150 trial who got the same QR card randomly sent to him. He lives in Auckland, so he knew where a testing station was, and he duly went down at the advised time to have his test. The following day he got an email telling him that he had breached the conditions of the self-isolation trial by leaving his premises and that the MOH would be exploring the legal avenues for this breach of the trial conditions!
Also worth noting, this person came in from Europe where he was a member of a sailing team that tested for Covid regularly as part of their Covid protocols. He flew into the country with two teammates who had MIQ slots. Imagine his surprise to find that, while he was being threatened with legal action after following instructions from the MOH to go and get tested, his two teammates had been released early and allowed to fly to Queenstown, from Auckland, where they can take their final test. Nothing makes sense, and the MOH wonders why people are starting to tire of the rules.
The answer is simple. To be effective rules need to make sense. After a good start, where we lead the world with our response, our Covid Response Strategy has lost its way and we are now at the back of the pack.
Today's announcement of the launch of the Vaccination Passport is a clear example of that.
I know of two companies that approached the MOH months ago warning them that whilst making a Vaccination Passports itself would be relatively easy, putting the infrastructure in place to ensure it was scalable and secure would be complex and that needed to be started on immediately.
The response was something that those of us who have been offering our help for months have become only too familiar with. "Thanks, but we have this under control – we know what we are doing."
So today Minister Hipkins announced the launch of the Vaccine Passports, with two caveats.
The first was that we shouldn't apply for one in a rush because the system might crash. That's a surprise! We waited until over 3 million people were vaccinated and then launched the registration app. We could have been picking these up gradually months ago while we built the system to handle the load. I guess we could always put people in a Virtual Lobby, surely that would work.
The second caveat impacts our company directly.
As part of the Covid protocol that we put in place more than a year and a half ago for staff working overseas there was a requirement that they be vaccinated as soon as vaccines were approved. Staff would not be penalised if they chose not to be vaccinated but they would have to return to New Zealand and work in the office rather than on the front line.
Our US staff voluntarily took the vaccine Moderna, but on their return to New Zealand discovered that it was not approved here. So, basically, they were not recognised as being vaccinated. That has been remedied in the announcement today, except that recognition of the Moderna vaccine will require a letter that will take at least two weeks to process. We have staff due to leave for The Ashes on Friday!!! We have had months to fix this – but didn't.
This failure to recognise that any Covid response should have been targeted at saving lives and livelihoods has been at the core of us falling behind in our response. We are about to swap our 4 Level Lockdown system with a hastily pulled together "traffic light system" that will add further confusion. We have had 16 months to change our response to Covid as Covid itself changed. We didn't do that.
I have been labelled a patronising know-it-all by the ex-chief of staff for both Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little. I never set out on this trial believing I had all, or any, of the answers.
What I do know is that I have a lot more answers now than I did when I started.
And that knowledge has come from listening to people who knew more than I did and travelling overseas to see just how the rest of the world was handling the fact that we had to find ways to live with Covid because it wasn't going away and could not be eliminated.
Over the next few reports I will share what those lessons have been in the hope that there is someone out there who cares to listen.
And as for this 150 Trial – well yesterday I got a slap over the wrist because I hadn't filled out a pdf form (they still use those) that the Self Isolation Health Care team had sent me to fill in.
Thing was, they had forgotten to send it.
But that's part of another report.