A couple of weeks ago, the country's preeminent pandemic experts gave a presentation to the country where they said the Covid elimination strategy is the only way to go – anything else would mean mass death, overwhelmed hospitals and a shattered economy.
They also warned that an outbreak of the Delta variant was all but inevitable and we would need lockdowns, even with high vaccination rates. Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the Government's plan was to go hard and early.
That outbreak has happened. The plan has been followed. It seems to be working.
So, why is the chattering class suddenly saying we need to wave the white flag, surrender, and let Covid carry away our people?
Haven't they looked overseas? Haven't they seen the reports of American ICUs fill to the brim, 1000 deaths a day, cities having to ration oxygen supplies? "High vaccination" countries like Israel looking at locking down again as deaths surge?
The Covid cowards, the "surrender to the virus" crew, are the same "Plan B" people who are saying we should have just let it run wild in our population last year. And what would that have meant? 10,000 dead Kiwis, at the death rates of the US and UK. Countless thousands more with long Covid. A health system so overwhelmed it couldn't deal with anyone else's needs, and month after month of restrictions. We know what the alternative is: our friends and family overseas have been through it, and continue to go through it.
If we did surrender to the virus, we know many, maybe most, of the people who would get seriously ill or die would be Māori and Pasifika. It would be my family. It would be our kaumātua we sacrificed if we listened to the people who say saving lives is too hard. That's not the Māori way, it's not the Kiwi way, and it's a bloody good thing we didn't listen to the naysayers.
Ultimately, getting everyone vaccinated, including kids, is going to be how we break out of this pandemic. Not some arbitrary low target like Collins' target of 70 per cent of adults. We need to get everyone vaccinated.
Don't believe the rubbish about our vaccine contracts being slow or the myth based on a blog post that we could have paid more to jump the queue. We chose the gold standard vaccine, and we have been getting it as fast as Pfizer can make it. We now have enough vaccine being delivered that everyone can get their jabs. But we are not there yet, and neither are other countries that pundits would have us believe are "returning to normal".
Until we get to those very high vaccination rates at the end of this year or early next year, the elimination strategy is the best plan out there. Unlike the rest of the world, we have had over a year of more or less normality between nationwide lockdowns. We had weddings, tangi and celebrations without restrictions or risk. Our economy has boomed and unemployment is down to just 4 per cent. We'll be back there soon if we stick to the plan.
None of that would be possible if we decided to give up and let Covid spread. Within weeks, the hospitals would be filled with the sick and dying, and we would have to lock down anyway just to keep the health system from collapsing.
The elimination strategy just acknowledges a simple truth: you either lock down quick and nip it in the bud, or you wait too long, react too late, have Covid permanently in the community, bury the dead, subject others to illness and long Covid, and still have to lock down in the end.
We only have to look at New South Wales to see what a failure an ideological opposition to lockdowns is. Going hard and early is the least-cost option and the option that saves lives.
Why would we abandon the strategy that has given us the lowest Covid death rate in the developed world, and allowed us to live our lives without restrictions for the vast bulk of this pandemic? Why would we suddenly abandon the plan and listen to the same panic-mongers and wet blankets who said we couldn't eliminate Covid last year?
Jacinda Ardern is not going to abandon the best plan we have just because the political class are bored. She sees the polling showing the public massively support the lockdown and the Government's management of the Covid crisis.
So, what can we do to ensure the plan succeeds?
We stay the course on the lockdown as needed. We get vaccinated as soon as we can.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for getting themselves and their loved ones vaccinated. Māori and Pasifika leaders, especially, need to ensure their communities get vaccinated. Our people are already the most vulnerable to Covid, low vaccination rates only risk making that worse.
There will come a time when, as we reopen the borders, cases do get into the community but, if nearly all of us are vaccinated, the virus will find it harder to spread and we can fight it without lockdowns while not overwhelming our health system.
For a year and a half, we have blocked every punch Covid has thrown at Aotearoa. We will soon have it on the ropes.
Until we get there, we keep vaccinating, and we lock down hard and early to stop outbreaks before they explode.
That's how we will succeed, not by throwing in the towel as we enter the final round.
• Shane Te Pou (Ngai Tuhoe) is a company director at Mega Ltd, a commentator and blogger and a former Labour Party activist.