COMMENT by Sandeep Singh:
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is caught between a rock and a hard place as she is required to choose between another complete lockdown, or partial, targeted, localised restrictions in managing the second wave of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
This is different to when the Covid-19 virus entered the community for the first time in March, when the Government opted for an "elimination strategy" by ordering a complete lockdown.
It was an unprecedented situation then, with limited overseas experiences to learn from, and Ardern and her Cabinet eventually relied completely on the advice from experts. Moreover, the Opposition was largely muted with not much conventional wisdom available to guide the Government or demand any sort of accountability as the nation cautiously embarked on an uncharted path.
However, that is not the case this time, as an increasing number of people become jaded with the prospect of hunkering down for endless periods, especially with no vaccine in sight.
The "expert" advice is also seemingly becoming increasingly diversified in the light of the changing nature of the world, which is witnessing an unabated rise in the spread of Covid-19 virus. There are arguments that, with continuous mutation, the lethality of the virus is gradually reduced, in comparison to when it first emerged late last year.
Additionally, the Government can learn from overseas experiences, especially where there have been second waves of Covid-19, along with an overall comparison between elimination and containment.
There is also an Opposition raring to go at the Government. At least they have a script to follow now, unlike in March, and an unrelenting leader who has come out hard against the Government immediately after the Prime Minister announced moving Auckland into alert level 3.
Judith Collins has come out swinging about not being consulted by the Prime Minister, and because her Health spokesperson, Dr Shane Retti, was not "briefed" by Minister of Health Chris Hipkins about the immediate health-related response.
This all complicates the Government's decision-making.
Added to this is increasing attention from countries around the world, who have previously envied New Zealand's immaculate management of Covid-19 virus while watching their own nations being ravaged by an unfettered spread of the virus. Some might even be secretly wanting New Zealand to crumble under a second wave.
The question posed by an Australian journalist to New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister yesterday is a case in point, showcasing how the world is keen to question the efficacy of New Zealand's earlier elimination strategy. Australian journalist Patricia Karvelas asked Winston Peters "does this suggest elimination was really never truly achieved - that it was - sure, you were saying you'd eliminated it, but clearly you hadn't?"
The Prime Minister is expected to remain aloof to all of this and come up with a measured response to our second wave.
Hipkins suggested this morning there might not yet be a framework for a complete lockdown.
Since then, there has been more news of probable and confirmed cases, not only in Auckland but also further south.
It's not clear if the Government is testing the waters about the general receptivity around a possible complete lockdown in Auckland in coming weeks.
What is certain is the fact Auckland and wider New Zealand is not returning immediately to alert level 1 that the country has enjoyed for quite some time.
It will either be a continuation of levels 2 and 3 if health officials are able to track down all possible close and casual contacts of the first family of four in South Auckland who mysteriously got infected with the Covid-19 as a precautionary measure - or a return to complete lockdown with an intention to eliminate the virus in the community.
It's a tough ask. However, the Prime Minister and her colleagues need to come up with a plan that is remarkably different from what the country saw at the time of the first wave of Covid-19 in the country.
• Sandeep Singh is the editor of Auckland-based community newspaper The Indian Weekender.