Some of us are double vaxxed and we've done our bit and OMG we really need a holiday. We want to see our loved ones.
Some of us wouldn't mind getting away from loved ones we've seen a bit too much of.
Some of us wonder if there are people who won't do their bit until a local Covid scare frightens them into it. We know that might sound horrible, but honestly we have done our bit. Lockdowns were never meant to be forever.
Some of us don't want people to die because we went on holiday.
Some of us can't go on holiday. We don't have the money.
Some of us don't want anyone coming near us.
Some of us are desperate for everyone to come near us, because otherwise our businesses will die and our towns will collapse and then what?
Some of us are frightened, about what's in the vaccine, about loss of personal freedoms, about what the mandate's great weight of exclusion will do to us. We know you think this is wrong, but we're frightened and we have heard things from people we trust and we think you should be frightened too.
Some of us give thanks we live in a country with one of the best responses to Covid in the world and we think you should too.
Some of us wonder why we are poorer now when others are doing so well.
Some of us are angry and think you need to wake the feck up and realise what the media and the politicians are doing to your brains.
Some of us are sick of hearing that. We're angry at you.
Some of us watch the courier vans up and down the street all day and wonder how we'll manage when they're gone. Or will they always be there now?
Some of us are stranded overseas with no money. We are apart from sick and dying loved ones. We are separated from the people we need with us to survive, from the people who need us with them. We do not want to hear about your compassion because we are beside ourselves now, with fury and frustration and grief.
Some of us give thanks daily that we are safe.
Some of us are grieving, because loved ones were not safe.
Some of us think Covid is an Auckland disease. A punishment, you know, for the poncy shopping and the drinking in the Viaduct and everything else you JAFAs do that we don't want to know about. You think you're better than us, but now you know you're not.
Some of us would like to keep calm and carry on.
Some of us would like everything to go back to how it was.
Some of us can't understand why you would think that's possible. Or desirable.
Some of us are too tired to think.
Some of us can't go on holiday because we work on the health frontline or the security frontline and we expect to be quite busy this summer. And we are already exhausted.
Some of us just want to have a swim. Get the boat out and go fishing or bounce along behind on a sea biscuit. Sit under a tree and read a book. Ride a bicycle down a country road. Wander through the Saturday market in a pretty seaside town. Cook the kai on the barbecue and chill. Some of us really need to do this. It's probably most of us.
And then what?
We are the people who got to 90 per cent, double vaxxed. It is a heroic achievement. We had tough rules and accepted them and we have lost fewer than 50 lives along the way. We have done so well and we are better placed to build on that than almost everyone.
But we have not earned our "freedom", the wealth gap has widened and the future feels uncertain in every way. We were triumphant in 2020. Now we are the people who are barely even hopeful.
Fatigue has crept into everything.
Q: What's the biggest worry?
A: How long have you got, there's quite a list.
Q: But what is it really?
A: Mental health.
WHO KNOWS what to do? In New York, despite last year's horror of corpses piled into containers outside hospitals, only 68 per cent of the total population is fully vaxxed. So New York has mandated vaccines for all public and private sector workers.
In Portugal, they put a former submarine commander in charge of the Covid strategy and nearly 100 per cent of the eligible population is now vaxxed. What are the lessons there? In a submarine, everyone has to follow the rules because either you all survive or no one does. You can't choose to get off the boat.
In Singapore, Covid treatment for people "unvaccinated by choice" is no longer free. Singapore was the first country in Asia to start vaccinations, but they switched to "living with the virus" when the double-dose rate hit 75 per cent. Too soon. Deaths and daily case rates are rising fast.
In Denmark, they had a mandate, then they dropped it, then they brought it back again.
All round the world, we look at each other and take notes. Try to find the lessons to learn. The best balance of carrot and stick.
Some lessons are obvious enough. In 2020 we discovered lockdown is the way to confront a pandemic: New Zealand helped teach that to the world.
In 2021 we learned vaccine is the way out of a pandemic and mandate is the way to make the vaccine work.
Nobody likes it. But is this any different from a war or a never-ending drought? Nobody likes them either, but you can't stop a calamity by wishing it away. Most people understand this.
Most people? In America, reports the Guardian, less than 60 per cent of Republican voters are vaccinated, compared to over 90 per cent of Democrat voters. It's cold comfort to know that in counties which voted heavily for Donald Trump in 2020, people are dying of Covid at 2.7 times the rate of counties that opted strongly for Joe Biden.
OFFICIALLY, 5.3 million people have died of Covid, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) thinks the true figure is about 15 million.
Covid has found us out, not only in the way we treat public health, but in the value countries put on honest communication in a crisis. There's little comfort in any of it.
There was one note of hope: countries experienced in dealing with pandemics, especially in Africa, have not been so devastated by Covid.
Not yet. Nature magazine reports that new Covid variants like Omicron are likely to arise in places where large numbers of people are immune compromised. That would be Africa, in parts of which the Aids virus HIV has spread unchecked.
People with HIV are "30-50 per cent more likely to die from Covid-19," say the researchers quoted in the report. "Conversely, both diseases could be curbed more effectively if they are tackled simultaneously."
This is about them and about us. They need better Aids programmes and they need an international commitment to provide Covid vaccines.
Doesn't that commitment already exist? Yes it does. It's called Covax: the pledge made by developed countries to ensure vaccines are distributed to all.
But by late July, only 0.3 per cent of all administered Covid vaccine doses had gone to people in poor countries. In Africa, fewer than five doses had been given to every 100 people.
Canada bought five times as many vaccines as it needed. Britain: four times as many. The US twice as many.
What do we call this? Modern-day imperialism? Institutional racism, the global edition?
By the end of this year, about 11 billion vaccine doses will have been created. That is a thrilling achievement in science and manufacturing. And 11 billion is the number the WHO says are needed for almost every eligible person in the world to be double-dosed.
But 9.9 billion of those doses have gone to wealthier countries.
Let's spell it out: The vaccine grab by rich countries makes dangerous new Covid variants more likely. Because they will arise in poor countries and spread to the rest of the world.
This year, the combined profits of Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna, according to their own projections, will be about US$34 billion.
COVID GAVE us a lesson in institutional racism at home this year. Modeller Shaun Hendy says a 59-year-old Māori "with no co-morbidities" has the same health status as an 80-year-old Pākehā. And yet the vaccine rollout was age-based, so vulnerable Pākehā were vaccinated before equally vulnerable Māori and Pasifika.
Māori health agencies and others have presented a litany of such discrimination to the Waitangi Tribunal. Trusted community organisations were sidelined, a vax-the-whanau approach rejected, the risks in large households discounted, community events unused, rural residents overlooked. Consultation, when it happened, was "patronising and insulting".
In time, some of this changed, especially in the Pasifika communities, whose vax rates moved up strongly. But many Māori decided the health system didn't care about them and they found solace on Facebook, in the arms of Covid-deniers, anti-vaxxers and "freedom" fanatics.
By December 13, Ministry of Health data suggested 69 per cent of eligible Māori were double-vaxxed, compared with 88 per cent Pākehā. Māori are 17 per cent of the population but had accounted for 51 per cent of Delta cases, 39 per cent of hospitalisations and 45 per cent of deaths.
And now we have traffic lights, which give vaxxed people the desperately needed ability to return to more "normal" lives. But they put vulnerable Māori at risk.
The lesson is plain enough: deciding what's best for Māori should be done by Māori. Has 2021 brought us closer to understanding that?
WHAT'S GOING to happen when we do get back to normal?
Silly question? Normal is not a place on our maps anymore.
Are we going to treat the breakdown of so much in our lives as a chance to do things differently and better? Or has Covid beaten out of us the capacity to handle big ideas? Even to handle change?
And how do we plan for anything when we're still in a pandemic with new surprises and no known end?
Omicron is our reminder of the golden rule: act fast. Britain didn't do that. They had their "Freedom Day" in July, despite a surging infection rate, but now there are 3700 deaths a month and they're undoing plans for Christmas. If we'd managed Covid as badly as Boris Johnson's Government has, we'd have had more than 10,000 deaths by now.
But we still pay a high price. Visitor spending, according to a Chapman Tripp survey, has fallen by two thirds and nobody thinks it will soon be back. After the Christmas frenzy, how many restaurants and bars will close? At summer's end, how many tourist attractions will go the same way?
It's hard to grasp what the country will be like if these things happen. Tourism is the lifeblood of many small towns and it also props up the cities: Auckland has, or had, by far the largest visitor numbers in the country.
Now the struggle is on for the survival of the city centre.
It's not easy to know what to do. Few visitors to the city. Office workers keen to stay working from home at least some of the time. "WFH", when you're not stuck there, is good for work/life balance, productive for the work itself and good for the planet too.
And it's great for suburban centres: cafes, co-working spaces and local shops all become more viable.
But central offices without enough staff in them are dreary, which is bad for business. City streets without enough people walking them are a disaster for shops, cafes, safety and everything else about inner-city life.
The new problems of urban life: nowhere in the world have they been resolved.
Got an event or a show you want to plan? Good luck. On August 17, Auckland Theatre Company was about to open a play called "Things That Matter". August 17 was the night the city went into lockdown.
"Things That Matter" is about life in the ICU at Middlemore Hospital. Life and death, that is. It probably had some valuable things to tell us.
If the theatres and music venues and cinemas and nightclubs can't do their thing, or keep their numbers up when they do, audiences miss out on entertainment and cultural life is crushed.
In America, the Great Resignation is under way. People changing their jobs, changing their lives. They also call it the Big Quit. How will it manifest here? Is working life going to get better because of it, or worse? Thinking about your own options yet?
Everyone "wants" a high-wage economy, but the trend is to cast workers into the precariat. Moves to raise the minimum wage, eliminate zero hours, extend the Living Wage, introduce fair pay agreements and strengthen conditions for everyone making do in the gig economy are always resisted.
Inflation is back and we don't know where that will lead. House prices have had another record year despite laughable assurances from various vested interests that this was going to end. The numbers of new affordable homes and social housing are not growing nearly fast enough.
And a black economy is emerging: you can get your hair cut without flashing a vax pass, if you know who to ask.
DOES IT help to know things aren't desperate for everyone?
Global GDP fell further in 2020 than at any time since World War II but, says the OECD, by the end of 2022 it will have recovered completely. In developed countries, that is. The news is mostly terrible for everyone else.
Researcher Max Rashbrooke says that during 2020, the wealthiest 10 per cent of people in the world earned 52 per cent of all income, while the poorest half earned just 8 per cent. The World Inequality Lab says 2020 saw "the steepest increase in global billionaires' share of wealth on record".
The tech sector is having a great pandemic. Dairy farmers are also doing well, with a record $8.70 per kilogram of milk solids: that's a welcome $13 billion going into the rural economy. And the ASB says exports and imports to the end of the June quarter 2021 both had a record year. There will be more: the bank forecasts 9 per cent export growth in 2022.
Globally, despite the Ever Given, aka Evergreen, getting stuck in the Suez Canal and Britain and Europe running out of truck drivers, trade in 2021 rose 10 per cent.
Which is a little peculiar, because we've all seen the gaps on the shelves. Trade looks good on spreadsheets but supply chains are chaotic and no one thinks this will change anytime soon.
A Chapman Tripp report recently declared, "One thing that Covid-19 has clearly shown us is that strengthening economic resilience and overall security will require more, not less, global cooperation."
But what if that's just something they tell themselves to feel better? Air New Zealand's trade manager Alex Larsen says his job is like driving on the Desert Rd in a fog. "You can see 100 metres ahead, but then what?"
THE DEFENCE Ministry warns of war, but not very loudly. "The prospect of a major armed conflict in the Indo-Pacific is less remote than it has been," it says.
Perhaps don't panic yet. The region is far more defined by intricately woven trade relationships among the US, China, Australia and everyone else in Asia. Three quarters of American firms in Shanghai say they have no plans to relocate.
Still, global instability is on the rise. Cyber attacks on business, public institutions and political processes are now a constant threat. Just ask Waikato Hospital about the damage they can do.
The climate crisis creates droughts and floods that set off local wars and drive millions of refugees to seek new homes in Europe and the United States.
New disasters happen on a scale few are ready for: one of the tornadoes in the US last weekend destroyed everything in its path for 400km. That's the distance from Auckland to Palmerston North.
It's not just tornadoes. Anger and resentment are also blowing in the wind, especially among people in developed countries who feel they're missing out. Many are right about that; others cannot see how entitled they are and insist on complaining anyway.
Democracy hasn't been given such a vigorous stress test since 1939. It faces challenges everywhere, from the shows of sanctimonious self-interest at the Glasgow climate conference, to the ribald populism and corruption of many world leaders, to the selfishness of voters in local and national elections, to the credibility issues confronting mainstream and social media.
What are the politics of emergency? For democracies, the question has become urgent. How should we handle the ongoing pandemic and the climate crisis? How will we rebuild trust in our institutions and in each other?
And what should we do when there's a hollowing out from within, as is happening in America? Barely a year ago, armed insurgents stormed the Capitol, seat of their own Congress. The supposedly mainstream Republican Party still refuses to accept anyone should be called to account and is busy passing voter suppression laws in cities and states throughout the country.
And yet civic trust has been the resilient heart of our own success in the pandemic. We could make it stronger, but we have not abandoned it.
HOW'S THIS for a number: the world is about US$300 trillion in debt, because most countries harvested their money trees to get through the lockdowns.
Quantitative easing, it's called. Printing money. It propped up economies during the global financial crisis and it was used again for Covid. QE, not austerity, is the new normal.
It's pushing our net debt to GDP towards an expected peak of 40.1 per cent, although it is supposed to fall 30.2 per cent by 2026. QE kept businesses afloat and wages paid, but it also contributed directly to those runaway house prices.
And basic wellbeing is still sacrificed on the altar of debt management. Wages rose 2.4 per cent this year, but rents are up 6 per cent and food 4 per cent. Demand for food parcels has soared.
Benefit increases, including a $20 bump in all main benefits, were announced in the Budget in May. But they won't kick in until next April. That delay, says the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), means a couple on a Supported Living Payment with one child will miss out on $25,000.
CPAG calls the welfare system "overly complex and unsupportive" and is pleading for more simplicity and a "comprehensive package of increases". There's no sign of either.
How long before we retool our welfare state so it's fit for purpose in the new pandemic-blighted, work-challenged, climate-crisis world?
In the early days of the pandemic there was talk of a Universal Basic Income. But a UBI isn't a great option: it pays too much to people who don't need it and not enough to people who do. What about a Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI)? Paid to all working-age people not in work, set at the rate of National Superannuation.
Or is that another big idea it's too hard to think about?
WHAT NOW? It can't be said enough: what we've done in Aotearoa New Zealand is incredible, on the health and economic fronts.
But if we want to rise up, it needs to be better again.
New Zealand could become the country of the 21st century. A place that knows how to beat pandemics, with judiciously restricted movement and gatherings as required, high vax and testing rates and with excellent health services, from frontline public health all the way to intensive care.
A place with great civic commitment to both the greater good and the protection of the vulnerable, where kindness is our watchword.
A place that's transitioned away from fossil-fuel dependency and pioneered new low-emissions technologies in agriculture, transport, construction and more, future-proofing trade and domestic enterprises along the way.
A place that's worked out how to build a high-wage, high-tech, highly productive economy. With socially cohesive education and training, and community programmes in health, housing and welfare that help everyone to flourish.
A place where cities are safe and walkable, bursting with creative endeavour, stimulating and rewarding, for all types of citizens.
We're not that place. Perhaps we never will be. But why did we trudge through these last two long years, if not to try?
Just the other day, Dunedin writer Talia Marshall said this: "Amazing that it took a plague to rid the world of the buffet."
Turns out we kept our sense of humour too. Just think what else we could do.
And now it's summer. Be kind. Have fun. Take care. And then we'll return, to the task of rising up better.