What a remarkable spectacle, the number of people jumping out of the bushes to tell the Government it's time to end the lockdown, and/or, the hot idea this last week: oh no, Australia is doing it better than us!
How do they know? Almost none of them are infectious disease or public health specialists, epidemiologists or health professionals of any sort, and nor are they statisticians with a good grasp of the data.
Have you noticed? Actual scientists have been remarkably absent from the ranks of the complainers.
There's a lot we should be debating about how we respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Which kinds of businesses will need ongoing economic support and what should it be? What rebuild projects do we want? What transformations to our society do we want? Public input on all that is important.
But declaring your local butcher is a good person so they should be able to open, as if there are no larger issues at stake? Not so much. Deciding Australia got it right, when there's so much we don't know about how this will play out? It would be more honest to set yourself up with some chicken entrails.
What we're doing right now, all of us, is managing risk. The Government with national policy is doing the same thing as each of us at home, going shopping, walking or cycling or jogging in places other people do the same, managing the kids in the park, helping a neighbour or being helped by them.
None of us know. We're managing risk. What we hope for – what we have a right to – is to be as well informed as possible about the risk.
Pretend experts aren't helpful to that.
What we also have a right to is a view on the Government's strategy. They've never spelled it out as such, but I like to think they have a 10-point plan. Not everything in it is being implemented well enough, and because of that it's right to scrutinise and criticise. But whenever someone goes OMG Australia, or, you've ruined my business, it's worth putting that into the context of the strategy. As I see it, it goes like this.
1. Health and safety first
The Government made a decision early to prioritise the health and safety of the whole population. That contrasted with countries that initially opted for denial (China and the US) or "just let it happen" (Britain and Sweden).
There was a debate from the start about whether they were doing enough, especially at the border. That debate was important, but it took place within the parameters of the health-first strategy. Mostly, there was agreement on the goal.
2. Be guided by the health experts
If whole-population health is the goal, the health experts must take the lead. That happened too. The value of having the Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, take the lead was not just that he turned out to be a charismatic and reassuring leader, but that it showed the experts were not just being listened to, but were also helping to run things.
The PM has taken political responsibility, and the health professionals are front and centre with her. Imagine how unreassuring it would have been if only politicians had fronted.
These first two steps have remained fundamental to our pandemic strategy.
3. Build national unity and purpose
The entire national response to the strategy stands or falls on this step. It was noticeable that when the PM announced the four-level strategy and then, two days later, told us we were moving to level 4, that the Government had put a high priority on building our understanding of the crisis.
Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, has had some pertinent things to say about governments in a pandemic.
They get one chance, he says. If they clamp down before the public realises how big the danger is, the rules won't be followed. Go too late, and the virus will get away from you.
The PM appears to have known that. If we didn't accept the rules, everything would collapse.
Seen in this light, the criticisms before lockdown that not enough was being done were important. Every health expert and every politician who said we should already be doing more helped lay the groundwork for the big announcement.
The move did come a bit late to stop the virus spreading from the border, to a small degree. But when it came, we were ready. We understood it and embraced it. The remarkable success of our lockdown compares sharply with almost every other country in the world, where the concept has often not been well grasped and is confusing, inconsistent and quite obviously inadequate.
Markel, by the way, also says we won't know it's over till long after it's over. That's another thing to remember.
4. Help everyone damaged by the measures we take
The lockdown has been devastating to the economy: to jobs, businesses and financial security. For many people it's put them at risk of domestic violence and/or mental ill health. Healthcare for every other kind of illness is affected.
Essential workers are asked to put their own health at risk, and that of others in their bubbles.
The Government has responded with massive economic rescue packages and support for essential workers to do their jobs as safely and as well as they can. That's vital too. They asked for enormous sacrifice, and they weren't really asking, they were telling: that obliged them to help us through as best they could.
Is the support good enough? It's important to debate that and we need to keep having that debate, keep exposing what isn't working as it should. But the strategy itself isn't in doubt.
5. Fix the mistakes
The lockdown, the testing, tracking and tracing regime, the economic consequences, the public health implications and the analysis around it all are completely new for almost everyone involved.
Whatever we might like to think, no nationwide system involving so many people, doing something new and making judgment calls absolutely all the time, will be perfect. It's another good reason to err on the side of caution, as we are now, on the whole, doing. It also requires the willingness to correct mistakes.
Sometimes, the problems have been hard to fathom – especially in the obvious gaps between Health Ministry guidelines and DHB implementation. The "rationing" of PPE is one of several examples.
The Government, however, has demonstrably been committed to fine-tuning, to reviewing progress as we go, to being open about what's going on. Most people in the world are not so lucky.
6. Balance authority with democracy
Parliament was suspended, of necessity, but the creation of the Epidemic Response Committee is a critical part of the whole Government response.
Chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, with a majority of Opposition members, the power to call anyone at all to appear before it and hearings in public (online), that committee provides a powerful vehicle for putting important disputes on health and economic issues before the public.
It's already proved its worth several times over.
7. Stamp it out
Within a couple of weeks of lockdown it became clear we might have the chance not just to "flatten the curve" or slow the advance of Covid-19, but, in the words of the PM, to "stamp in out".
Again, look around the world to see how astonishing that is, and think for a moment what enormously beneficial consequences it will have for New Zealand. For years to come.
The most difficult part of this goal is yet to come: it's how we move out of level 4 and, in stages, back to "normal", which won't be the old normal but will become some kind of new normal. The Government, and all of us, will be making it up as we go along: seeing what works, what needs changing, what more is now possible.
In all of this, the consequence of deciding to stamp out Covid-19 in New Zealand cannot be shirked. We have to do it properly or it's not worth doing at all. See points 1 and 2 above, and then see points 3, 4, 5 and 6 above. No one said it would be easy.
8. Rebuild the economy
It's instructive that libertarians the world over have thrown up their hands and accepted that governments must borrow and spend, and rethink taxation, to get us out of this. Our Government has accepted that responsibility, while one-time political opponents like Sir Bill English have warned that we should prepare for "all taxes being on the table".
A rebuild programme to get us back to work is critical: everything flows from there being enough jobs and enough money in people's pockets because they have jobs. And, need it be said, from retaining a decent safety net: this crisis proves the value of the welfare state and cannot be an excuse for its undoing.
The Government appears to understand that.
9. Reinvent ourselves: could we live better lives because of this?
The rebuild focus to date has been on "infrastructure". In fact, the "horizontal" construction sector has more or less monopolised the entire discussion about getting back to work, and the Government has, to date, allowed that to happen.
But as Rod Carr, chairman of the Climate Change Commission, reminded us this week, there are other challenges we face now and in the near future, and other options for creating work. He's dead right.
We don't need to see it just as building roads when there is a railway crying out for attention. We know we need massively more social housing. Is this the chance to train up an army of Te Reo teachers? Another army of social workers, community workers, counsellors and others?
If we said, we're going to spend all this money, restructure the economy and all that, so what would it look like if we said: let's do it to end poverty?
We know that right now in our cities, carbon emissions have fallen to the level we'll need to meet our targets under the Paris Climate Accord. What if we said, this is our chance, perhaps our only chance, to lock that in?
In doing both those things, we'd have to reinvent the way our cities work. What would that be like?
In addition, there will probably be a royal commission to look at how the crisis has been handled. It would be a big surprise if that didn't result in some structural changes to the way our health services are run.
The Government isn't exactly clamouring to embrace this ninth step yet. But the strategy allows it. If we want to make ourselves a better society our of this, we'll have to insist on it.
10. Prepare for next time
Sobering fact: the likely source of Covid-19 is a species jump by the virus from an animal to a human. This is an expected consequence of pushing animals and humans together, when they are not used to it. That is, wild animals that have lost their natural habitat due to human demand for logs and for more farmland.
That trend is growing fast in the world and there's no sign of it slowing. A health risk like this will happen again. And again.
The single most important thing we have to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic is the need for a public health capacity to stop the next virus attack becoming a pandemic. Better public health generally. More equipment and facilities to cope with outbreaks. Much better border security. More economic resilience. Greater support for the elements of our economy we do not want to be so vulnerable. Rethinks about the way we live.
We're not talking much about all that yet. But we will have to.