The Government again faced questions on Wednesday about the advice it received to make its most recent Covid-19 alert level decisions.
Recent alert level decisions have diverged from an apparent scientific consensus, with experts worried cases could rise in Auckland as restrictions loosen.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged on Wednesday that cases were likely to continue rising in Auckland, but rejected calls from experts including modeller Shaun Hendy for a circuit breaker level 4 lockdown.
The Government has so far refused to release the advice of director general of health Ashley Bloomfield on the most recent alert level decisions.
This advice will certainly be proactively released, as with most papers relating to Covid, but this could be months away. There's understandably huge public appetite for this to be released sooner, so people can themselves judge both the quality of the advice (and how it correlates with the views of other health experts) and, the extent to which it was followed by the Government.
On Wednesday, Hipkins also acknowledged the Government had not received any advice from its technical advisory group about recent alert level decisions.
This is normal - official advice on alert level decisions is usually provided exclusively by officials at the Ministry of Health, with the technical advisory group giving the Government advice on things like testing requirements.
A subsequent question asked whether the Government could still claim to be leading a science-based Covid response, given the Government now appears to be loosening Covid restrictions against the advice of large swathes of scientific opinion.
Hipkins put forward a familiar counterfactual: people were getting so frustrated by high alert level restrictions, they were losing their ability to comply with them, weakening the lockdown. Even if Auckland had remained at level 4, people's compliance would have waned to the point that Auckland would, in reality, be in a looser form of lockdown.
"The alert level system relies on a high degree - a very high degree of voluntary compliance," Hipkins said.
"The reality is, as I have already indicated, the alert level system that we have relies on a very high degree of voluntary compliance for New Zealanders. What we have seen in countries that have tried to sustain those kind of restrictions for a long period of time, they have found that the effectiveness of those restrictions actually diminishes."
There's a logical truth to this argument. An alert level 4 lockdown is among the most stringent lockdowns imposed anywhere in the world - alert level 3 is pretty strict too, for that matter.
The trade-off made with the public, as articulated by the Government is going "hard and early" leads to "short and sharp" lockdowns that are miserable for a few weeks, but allow life to return to normal.
Overseas, things are handled differently. Lockdowns are less severe and more liveable, but they're also less effective, meaning hardly anywhere enjoys something like "level 1" because their health measures are not strong enough to make those settings viable.
This time, the political logic has broken down: our lockdowns are long, they appear to be increasingly ineffective at sufficiently reducing cases, and the Government acknowledges that its big carrot - a return to level 1 normalcy - is unlikely to happen any time soon, with fairly strict public health restrictions set to be in place for the foreseeable future.
But that doesn't mean in the real world, compliance with lockdowns has eroded to the extent the Government fears.
The Government has acknowledged that cases have emerged in communities, including gangs, which appear not to have been paying too much heed to alert levels. Hipkins said last week some of the people in the recent outbreak "have been more active than would be consistent with the alert levels in the areas that they have been".
Hipkins reiterated on Wednesday that if even a small number of people stopped following lockdown rules, it undermined the effectiveness of the entire lockdown.
If this is the case - if compliance is so bad among the community the virus appears to be circulating - then there's a decent argument to be made that continued time at high alert levels is a waste of people's patience.
But this wasn't the only reason that's been given for concerns about the effectiveness of lockdowns.
Hipkins said that he's had "clear feedback that the mood is fraying", describing the "feedback" as "correspondence, the mood on the street, the media coverage."
This has rightly been ridiculed - the Government can do better than relying on anecdata for crucial health decisions.
Actually, the Government has some very hard data on how people are feeling about lockdowns - hard data it promised to release this month, but has so far failed to do so.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Public Service department coordinating the Covid-19 response, has commissioned regular surveys of how the public feel about the Covid-19 response.
Two surveys - essentially a detailed poll - were done earlier this year, one in March, the other in May. They surveyed a representative sample of 3000 New Zealanders. It found most people felt good about the Covid response - in fact, 28 per cent of people said that the Covid-19 situation in New Zealand made them feel joyful.
It found a fairly high degree of compliance among New Zealanders, but it warned that the Government needed to tailor messaging to people from the Māori, Pacific, Indian and young male communities.
The March survey zeroed in on how people in Auckland were feeling about the outbreak.
It surveyed just under 1000 Aucklanders and found that South Aucklanders were more likely than the rest of Auckland to think level 3 advice was "very clear", and that most Aucklanders thought there was "some plan to manage the impact of Covid-19, but there is not a lot of clarity".
That survey found that significantly more Aucklanders were taking Covid-19 less seriously in the March lockdown to the August lockdown, with the number of people taking it less seriously climbing to 17 per cent from 6 per cent, and the number of people taking it more seriously falling from 25 per cent to 17 per cent.
A large majority of people said they approached Covid with the same degree of seriousness.
The survey also found that the health of the economy was the largest area of concern when it came to Covid - but there was a divergence between South Auckland and the rest of the city.
Seventy-six per cent of respondents listed the effect on the economy as a "driver of concern when it comes to Covid19's impact, with just 22 per cent of Aucklanders saying they were concerned about the number of people getting Covid-19.
Interestingly, 33 per cent of South Aucklanders said they were concerned with the number of people getting Covid, versus just 20 per cent of Aucklanders overall.
This survey was repeated in September, when Auckland was again in alert level 4. Results were analysed and were provided to DPMC in the week of 20 September.
That means that they likely won't show the full degree of "lockdown fatigue" - if there is any - but they will give some sense of how Aucklanders are feeling about Delta, and protracted lockdowns.
That sort of data is crucial in how we understand the city's continued resolve, which is why the Government should urgently release it.
There's something vaguely unpleasant about the Government knowing how we - its citizens - feel without us too having the opportunity to see the data.
If Aucklanders have no lockdown energy left in the tank - and at this stage, who can blame them - we ought to know. Likewise, if the city has extra fight in it, well, that gives some ammunition to elimination hawks to argue for one last collective effort to get a normal summer.
Either way, all public and political life in New Zealand is currently engaged in a debate for which no one really has concrete information beyond the bounds of their own experience.
The Government could fix that by releasing what it knows - and it should.