"I've been following the rules. I miss my friends. Can I invite them over for a protest?"
Very good letter in this paper yesterday. I like especially that it's irony, not a genuine appeal for level 3 restrictions to be abandoned. Which is more than you can say for some of the complaints about the Government's handling of this lockdown.
In the last week we've heard from politicians, former politicians, businesspeople, media commentators and the very naughty Brian Tamaki, none of them messiahs but all of them demanding that the Prime Minister abandon the lockdown strategy and get us back to "life as normal".
National Party leader Judith Collins said, "I think that you're going to find that Aucklanders are going to start moving themselves down to level 2," which sounded awfully like she was encouraging them to do it.
NewstalkZB presenter and Herald on Sunday columnist Kerre McIvor wrote, "If we're not out of level 3 this week, I'll bloody well be signing up to Tamaki's next protest and bouncing alongside that oleaginous rabble-rouser on his Massey Ferg or whatever it is he intends to ride into town on."
Her piece highlighted the "sheer grind" of lockdown. It's frustrating to do your bit, she argued, only to watch the police indulge Brian Tamaki hosting a potential superspreader event.
McIvor is on record as "loathing" Brian Tamaki, but she chose an extreme way to make her point on this occasion. Most people share her frustration, especially those who've got themselves vaccinated and take all the other required precautions in their daily life. Why should good citizens have to suffer the hardships of lockdown, they might ask, when the problem is the bad citizens who refuse to do those things too?
But Tamaki's rally on Saturday was not the action of a frustrated good citizen. He's against vaccines, testing, lockdowns, masks, the works.
Let's be clear: the Government's handling of this crisis is not above scrutiny or criticism. It has not done well enough with the vaccine roll out, MIQ capacity, ICU capacity, border controls and the availability of quicker and easier testing options. And we're all chafing at the lockdown leash.
But that doesn't mean we want the strategy abandoned. In every survey, support for it has remained strong.
The Government's new "three-step" plan reads like an attempt to steer between lockdown support and lockdown frustration. Lockdown with benefits.
Last week also brought the news that the financial services and media agency Bloomberg now ranks New Zealand 38th in the world for Covid resilience. What the hell? We were number one for much of last year and we were still number one in June this year.
Ireland is ranked top. It's an excellent comparison country for New Zealand, because it's an island with the same-size population to ours and a similar standard of living and trade-dependent economy.
Ireland got its top spot because, said Bloomberg, "Even as the peak summer travel season unfolded alongside Delta's spread, Ireland … held down serious illness and deaths through pioneering moves to largely limit quarantine-free entry to immunised people."
Really? Over the 28 days Ireland's reported rate of infection was 66 times higher than New Zealand's and it recorded 137 deaths. We had none.
(My figures are from the authoritative Johns Hopkins University tracking site, for October 3.)
Does Ireland have a better vaccination rate than ours? Definitely. Over 90 per cent of the Irish adult population has been double-vaccinated, compared with 48 per cent of everyone aged 12 and over in New Zealand.
But we've done 1.5 million doses in the last 28 days, against Ireland's 319,000. We're catching up.
The biggest difference, though, relates to Bloomberg's new criteria related to ease of movement and quantity of international air travel.
When these measures were introduced in June, New Zealand lost its top spot and the country that took over was … the United States!
The country that's been worse affected by Covid than any other in the world. Thirteen per cent of its population have been infected and the death rate has just passed 700,000 with no sign of slowing down. The 28-day death rate, per capita, is 2.4 times higher than the next-worse country and the infection rate is nearly four times higher.
The US vaccine rollout has stalled. Over the just-ended northern summer, US spikes in infection and death were both more than double those recorded in the summer of 2020. The US has now fallen to 28th spot in the Bloomberg list, but hey, its borders are relatively open.
You get the idea. Bloomberg criteria downplay the health impacts of Covid and penalise those countries with lockdowns, even where they have made a material difference to preserving health outcomes, the standard of living and the strength of the economy.
Don't forget: The Kiwi "hermit kingdom" which Sir John Key complained about last week has a very strong economy. GDP is up 4.3 per cent since the start of last year, unemployment is only 4 per cent and debt reservicing costs us less than 1 per cent of GDP.
"Going hard and early" is what most people think of as the cornerstone of our Covid strategy. But as finance minister Grant Robertson reported over the weekend, since the start of the outbreak New Zealand has had 464 days without lockdowns causing workplace closures anywhere in the country.
That compares to a mere 82 in Australia (34th, according to Bloomberg) and 75 in Britain (16th, for some unfathomable reason).
The worst thing about the Bloomberg rankings is that they amplify the voices of those who equate a lack of freedom at this moment with failure. They prop up the sentiment that we've done enough, leave us alone, it's time we just got on with our lives.
That might work for those least likely to be infected: the fully vaccinated, those who don't work on the front lines, those without the financial resources to insulate themselves if they travel.
But our vaccination rates are still far too low for it to work well overall. Healthcare workers and the small army of others who look after us on the frontline are still far too vulnerable. And it doesn't work at all for those who can't get on with their lives, because they're trying to survive in an overcrowded and under-resourced hospital.
I wrote last week that the key to the Government's strategy is the social licence. The effort they have made to build and maintain wide public support for going hard and early, and for insisting that our public health and our economic wellbeing are inextricably linked.
Bloomberg doesn't give points for it but it's the secret to our success to date.
So how do the new three steps fit in? Are they a mechanism for keeping the social licence strong, or for giving up?
It cannot be the latter. We still have a chance to beat this thing.
To achieve it we need to get our vaccination rates into the 90s, especially among the vulnerable. We need more resilience in the health system. Both doable, both very hard.
In time we'll be able to open our borders under controlled conditions, provided we retain the ability to manage Covid flare-ups with short, sharp action. And though we will not "return to normal", we can make ourselves a new normal.
Despite Bloomberg, we don't need to accept that a lot of people will die and many more will have their lives ruined. This is beyond the reach of most other countries but it is still possible here. Why wouldn't we try for it?
This is the moment. We have to make this three-step lockdown work, because if it fails it's hard to think there will be a social licence for another. It could be our last chance.