Raise the drawbridge
The year 2020 was without precedent and it has not done with us yet. The geographical advantages of our remote island location together with decisive Government action have protected us from the worst of the accursed Covid-19 but we cannot afford to relax.
It is disturbing to read of a number of mariners arriving with symptoms.
While it may be criticised as selfish, we should keep the drawbridge up to preserve our relatively secure and controlled situation.
The merits of "bubbles" with other similarly fortunate states should not be overstated. Covid has demonstrated its ability to capitalise on any weakness. Roll out the vaccines.
Peter Clapshaw, Remuera.
In response to Jim Colvine's letter (NZ Herald, January 14), if we keep doing what we're doing then it will only be a matter of time before we go back into lockdown.
I believe that getting people to have a negative Covid test three days before hopping on a plane to fly back to NZ is a waste of time. What do these people get up to during those three days? A lot of them can't self-isolate because of their financial situation in England or South Africa. They then hop on a plane, have stopovers and land here in NZ and are put into quarantine facilities.
I believe that the only way we can prevent the virus spreading out into the public domain again is to increase the time returnees spend in quarantine to say at least 18 days.
While I appreciate this will be a burden on us taxpayers I believe that this will easily be a better scenario than the country being placed back in lockdown and hospitals being on high alert and all operations cancelled.
As soon as there's a sniff of the virus being out in the community people will be back to contract-tracing.
Liz Sampson, Mission Bay.
Most Kiwis realise that if there is a community outbreak it will be because the virus has escaped from the MIQ system and that the carrier will most likely be a frontline worker.
It could be anyone from airport staff processing arrivals to the last staff member processing the release of a returnee after 14 days and a negative test.
These workers go home at the end of their shifts, and sooner or later one will carry the virus. Given this scenario, I cannot for the life of me understand why the health department is not expediting the vaccination of all frontline workers to minimise the chance of this happening.
It seems a no-brainer to me to have staff protected as soon as possible.
Hal Griffiths, Whitianga.
Kate McNamara's comments (NZ Herald, January 14) on modifications to Level 4 restrictions were sensible and appropriate.
It needs to be added that many schools could remain open. The virus poses very little risk to the pupils but the break in education, especially for disadvantaged, will cause permanent damage.
The Government needs to keep the public informed of proposed modifications to ensure that the team of 5 million retains confidence in the leadership.
Nick Hamilton, Remuera.
Thanks to Emma Russell for writing about the long-term, large-scale study which shows that mental disorders are linked to physical disease (NZ Herald, January 14).
How often valuable information is discovered almost by accident, as it was in this study. A year ago, I set out to write a book on preventing dementia.
After I had read over 200 papers detailing the latest research on the subject, it became clear that not only a significant amount of dementia can be avoided by following certain guidelines, but that this can also lead to a significant decrease in other chronic illnesses. Barry Milne, one of the authors involved in the long-term study, highlighted these: gout, diabetes, lung, brain and heart diseases, stroke and cancer.
Now I shall have to make amendments to my manuscript. Are mental disorders genetically inherited or do they arise out of lifestyle?
Angela Caughey, Meadowbank.
Take it as read
Mark Bracey (NZ Herald, January 12) calls for better teacher training around reading instruction and he should be applauded for this.
However, many trained teachers have been kept in the dark about what evidence-based reading instruction looks like.
I encourage reading the work of cognitive scientists Mark Seidenberg and Stanislas Dehaene to understand how all brains learn to read. It's incorrect to say that children can learn to read because they're taught "in a fun and enticing way". There is zero quantitative evidence to support this notion.
Reading is not a natural skill and decades of scientific research shows explicit instruction for everyone is what works. Sadly, teachers in this country have for decades been led astray by the flawed work of the late Marie Clay. It is up to the Ministry of Education to make real change in this area, but a lack of understanding of what evidence-based teaching instruction looks like only perpetuates an out-of-date argument that proponents of evidence-based reading instruction are merely fighting for phonics.
Phonics is already in most schools, and, as our appalling literacy rates show, that's simply not enough.
Julie Clothier, Mt Albert.
The easiest and best system of teaching children to read is to use a very old system of putting up on the blackboard or having wall signs, showing all children progressively the same basic 25 words, starting with "cat".
Teacher displays the word "cat" and says it. All the class says "cat".
This system progressively teaches class basic 25 words. Then, reading books are given out, each page features those 25 words.
The class is then introduced to more words, say another 25, with correct pronunciation.
Several years later, children are now reading well and are introduced to phonetics so they can work out pronunciation of any new words they might need.
That's how an elderly Catholic nun taught me, the eldest and two younger ones.
The youngest of our four was put in another class and taught differently by a young teacher just graduated from training college; she told that old helpful nun her system was outdated. Children were now allowed to pick their own first word. This resulted in chaos, so many different first words chosen and displayed.
Our youngest suffered years of poor reading skills because of this.
Eric Strickett, Henderson.
Spare the children
It breaks my heart to read articles like the one about a mother and four children living in a leaking Kāinga Ora house (NZ Herald, January 14).
The Government has passed legislation to ensure private landlords are bringing their rental properties up to standard; why is Kāinga Ora not doing likewise?
The article should be compulsory reading for all young people. The lesson to be learnt from the story is don't have children until you can provide a warm dry home for them to live in.
B Townley, Mt Roskill.
I appreciated reading your firm commentary (NZ Herald, January 13) on many councils' current petty and disruptive behaviours.
Your closing paragraph summed it up very well: "For the sake of all our stomachs, not to mention our hard-earned rates, councillors and board members need to put on their big person pants this year and get on with the business at hand."
These folk must focus on the responsibilities we expect of them, and strive for efficiency in all things.
Some of them might need to grow some spine too.
B Watkin, Devonport.
It seems a little unfair that a selected group of privileged young people tacitly should be permitted to break the law as they pop safety-tested pills at their not-inexpensive summer music festivals.
To provide balance and fairness in such an upside-down world, other sectors of society should be similarly accommodated.
Consider the group of motorists who get a buzz not from ingesting drugs, but from the
thrill of hitting the accelerator and ignoring speed restrictions. In fairness, this collection of drivers would be better supported if authorities were to test sections of highway at speeds well in excess of legal limits.
Then, when safety at high speed is established, signage should be posted indicating such, even if highly illegal. The familiar yellow and black advisory signs are ready for the task.
After all, as they say in the music business, people will always break the rules, so
let's make it safe for them to do so.
David Duignan, Campbells Bay.
Several Herald correspondents have suggested that Twitter's ban of Donald Trump represents repression of freedom of speech.
It is not the job of private organisations to provide a communications platform for politicians or anyone else. Private companies are free to set their standards and choose their customers.
This kind of commercial freedom from the reach of government is a fundamental tenet of conservatism and it is odd to hear it decried by Trump supporters.
Rowan Hill, Mt Eden.
Short & sweet
It seems to me Labour won the election by promising to ensure our safety from the pandemic. Importing the worst strain known to man is not fulfilling that promise. S P McMonagle, Greenhithe.
The comparison of the GDP quarterly performance between NZ and Australia is not a reasonable one. Australia has far larger resources sector than we have – oil, gas and huge iron ore reserves. Those sectors have been almost unaffected by the pandemic. David Nicholson, Karori.
In the 1500s, England was bitterly divided between Catholics, Anglicans and Puritans but Queen Elizabeth managed to hold everything together. What about America in 2021? We wish Joe Biden well but, after all, he's only a male. Arch Thomson, Mt Wellington.
Weakened Covid scanning practices may well be due to many being increasingly wary of large corporations and government agencies having unintentionally let slip personal data to overseas hackers, marketing agencies etc. René Blezer, Taupō.
A Bluetooth card needs to be issued to every person as soon as possible in order to make contact tracing more efficient. Bob van Ruyssevelt, Glendene.
It would be wonderful if we could try and focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. E Guy Abel, Pyes Pa.