Nothing is more important to New Zealanders right now than preventing the return of Covid-19.
The two women from the United Kingdom helped to show some of the holes in our border defences. So have other examples recently highlighted in the media. We are teetering on the edge of another catastrophe.
The problems come in two forms. First, the Covid-19 border protocol has more holes than Emmental cheese. It should be replaced by a rigorous protocol drawn up by an independent panel of experts.
Going by what the experts have already said, the new protocol would include the
The first two weeks must be strictly supervised. Under the current system travellers are put into quarantine only if they are already showing symptoms at the time of entry.
Asymptomatic arrivals are sent to "managed isolation".
While in managed isolation, day two people are permitted to mingle with day 13 people.
They can go for walks in groups in the pious expectation that they will avoid contact with others. The supervision of those allowed to attend family functions on compassionate grounds is loose, to put it charitably. We can't afford to carry on like this.
Forget voluntary compliance. Compliance needs to be meticulous and mandatory.
There must be three Covid-19 tests. Sir David Skegg says that, in line with best practice
overseas, there should be a first test at the airport, a second within a few days of entering a facility and a third before being released into the community.
At the moment only one is mandatory and, as the past few days have illustrated, even that may be overlooked.
All testing should be mandatory. At the moment, the first test in a facility is optional and later tests are not always required. It should be a condition of entry to New Zealand that the traveller consents to all tests required by authorities whether at the airport or in one of our facilities.
Daily health checks in a facility must be comprehensive. Travellers report that the so-called daily health check may amount to nothing more than an inquiry as to whether the traveller "feels okay". Each health check should include a temperature check plus a series of specific symptom-based inquiries.
The second problem is the naive assumption that a protocol will be followed. There will always be a gulf between a policy or code of conduct devised in Wellington and the way it hits the ground in Mt Roskill or Te Awamutu.
Recent illustrations have included the alleged availability of PPE gear to all health workers who needed them, the allegedly comprehensive availability of flu vaccine and the distribution of modems to needy pupils.
Every important policy or system designed to influence human behaviour must include fail-safe mechanisms that assume the inevitability of human error. They seek to anticipate such errors by putting in place a second line of defence. Thus workers are instructed never to put their hand near a circular saw - but the saw must also have a guard and automatic shutoff, just in case.
So it is with Covid border control. The great majority of travellers will abide by requests to self-isolate but some will not. That is why all have to be closely controlled whether they like it or not. No one should be given compassionate leave without continuous and stringent supervision.
Health workers must be reinforced by enforcement officers, whether drawn from the police, the military or, if their training improves, security guards.
Three Covid tests would reduce the risk that an asymptomatic traveller will slip through untested. A final test before release into the community is too important to leave to one health worker. It should be independently certified by two.
• Robert Fisher QC is a former High Court Judge.