Grant Robertson was wearing a black face mask with the logo "United Against Covid-19" at a recent press conference. It is a fine sentiment, but I fear deep divisions over the virus are becoming entrenched.
We spent Labour Weekend at our bach on a surf beach east of Cape Kidnappers and two relatives flew up from the South Island to join us. They reported a common reaction of incredulity from their neighbours: "Don't dare bring Covid back with you!" they were repeatedly warned.
There have already been anxious calls from the other side of Cook Strait for compulsory Covid testing of travellers from the North Island to the South, so that sentiment did not surprise me. It seems the entire country outside the infected zone is nervously watching and waiting for cases suddenly to arise in their neighbourhood.
That long wait is leading to increased intolerance of the unvaccinated. "No jab, no job" and vaccine passports may encourage the last few per cent of people to get two shots so that we can change to the Government's Traffic Light system and start on a path to near-normality.
At a recent press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spelt out a surprisingly tough message among a pile of placatory verbiage. "If you want summer, if you want to go to bars and restaurants, get vaccinated. If you want to get a haircut, get vaccinated. If you want to go to a concert or a festival, get vaccinated. If you want to go to a gym or a sports event, get vaccinated."
It sounded uncharacteristically harsh for Ardern, but I suspect Labour's own internal polling is picking up rising levels of anger among the vaccinated that a minority of holdouts are forcing restrictions to remain in place and curtailing our freedoms.
Aside from public health considerations, the Government has political ones to consider. After more than 10 weeks of Levels 4 and 3, Auckland is becoming restive and Labour has been forced to show voters it has a pathway out of home detention. Hence the Traffic Light announcement. It's been a useful device to encourage exasperated Aucklanders to endure several more weeks of lockdown.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
We will find out if the 90 per cent strategy has worked on November 29, signalled as the next important date for Ardern to announce what happens next. The likeliest scenario is that, politically, the Government will be forced to end lockdowns whether 90 per cent vaccination has been achieved or not, and introduce red, orange and green lights for various locations, depending on the prevalence of the virus in those areas.
It is a far more flexible system than the one we have now, but it depends entirely on the resilience of the upcoming vaccination passports. They will need to identify you, and only you, as the holder and be impervious to counterfeiting.
Already, I hear from young relatives that unvaccinated people are asking them for their existing vaccine-confirmation paperwork so as to evade limits on their activities. There will be a lot of effort made to fake vaccine passports for the stubborn holdouts who would otherwise face permanent isolation from their social lives through their own intransigence.
Are we "United Against Covid-19?" It seems likely that nearly 90 per cent of us will be, but there are still 10 per cent who for whatever reason are patently not. They risk facing the anger of the vast majority who fear they are being held back from normal life by the unvaccinated.