COMMENT:

Some questions to think about this morning.

Obviously the biggest one is: is this lockdown working? Another would be, how do we really know?

If you don't test, you don't know. The cases we have are cases found by testing. The rolling average of tests is a bit over 2000 in the past week. We have capacity now for over 5000 a day, why have we never got to our capacity?

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Given every single epidemiologist going says we need to test more, why aren't we? Why are doctors and frontline health workers claiming they can't get testing kits, swabs, and protective gear? How come the Ministry of Health argues there isn't an issue when clearly there is?

Another question: If this lockdown is working, in other words if we are flattening the curve, and we can expect 80 or 90 cases a day, then at what point can we start to move on the economy? Australia too is flattening the curve, but has left more of the economy open.

This country simply can't afford $3.5 billion a week, which is the bill for this thing.

Dr David Hepburn from Royal Gwent Hospital explains how a person can die from coronavirus. Video / Channel 4 News

An important number to remember as well is how many people die anyway. In this country it's 7.6 people per 1000, in other words about 35,000 a year. The alarm you're seeing offshore in places like Italy is false coverage to the extent that many of those who die were dying anyway. It's a hard thing to say, but it's also true.

Places like Spain have a death rate of 9.2 per 1000, Italy is over 10 per thousand. In Spain well in excess of 400,000 people die a year, over 1100 a day. In Italy, it's over 600,000 a year, over 1600 a day. If we rang those deaths up on scoreboards the way we are with this virus we'd be alarmed.

Now, the death toll you're seeing is not unique to Covid-19. There are very few who you could argue die specifically of the virus. In early studies in Italy, 99.2 per cent die with underlying health issues. In other words the very things that were killing them anyway, at over 1600 per day. They now die "with" Covid-19, not "of" Covid-19. The distinction is critical, and yet barely reported.

Further questions, this health stance at the expense of the economy was launched through a fear our health service would be overwhelmed. Currently there is 50 per cent capacity in hospitals given all elective surgery has been cancelled, and yet a handful of people actually need that space.

"I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time. A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all," she said.

Which the health advocates, if all goes well, will argue, better safe than sorry. Well, really? How sorry will we be, as thousands face joblessness, we face debt for generations, and an economy in recession for what turned out to be, potentially, not a single death that would not have occurred anyway, hospitalisation that barely dented the sides, but a reaction, as one epidemiologist put it last week, that was a hammer to crush a flea.

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Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website