"It's Groundhog Day," they are saying in Queenstown and other holiday destinations.
For those who wonder about what Groundhog Day refers to, it is a 1993 comedy film in which the main protagonist must relive a day hundreds of times (which happens to be Groundhog Day – a winter festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania) until he corrects all of his mistakes.
Unfortunately, the analogy is not quite accurate in reality because you cannot replay things to correct your mistakes or omissions. And, thanks to a hole in the border processes related to the travel bubble with Australia, what the tourism and hospitality sectors are really experiencing is deja vu. And the rest of us must also feel like we have been here before, too.
But, while our "experts" and "...ologists" were, in my opinion, overhyping the threat with words like "explosion of cases" and telling us to continually "brace ourselves", the attention of the public appears turned away from the fact that we have a means to take back control. And it is not a surprise that the business sector is calling loudly for it – vaccinations – or more specifically, better access to them.
We could talk about why wasn't the "very active Aussie tourist" asked on either side of the Tasman whether he "worked in a health centre at the middle of an emerging cluster (Bondi)?". We could also ask "why isn't the border paused earlier?" – but the more pertinent question is, why aren't enough of us vaccinated so mistakes like that do not matter so much?
While other countries are opening up and beginning to talk about the pandemic in the past tense, we have gone from "front of the queue" to 120th in the OECD. And we are told, effectively, that we are late so other countries can get theirs first. Really? Didn't we go through all those sacrifices last year for our own benefit? If we lock down to protect ourselves, surely that logic needs to also be applied to vaccine procurement.
We have a population that is probably smaller than the top 100 cities in the world and there is more than one vaccine available, so the logistical position is eminently manageable.
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But I know of friends and relatives, now eligible for vaccination, with health issues (from immune deficiency to asthma) who are confused about the whole process. And official communication has moved from "you will be contacted" to "you need to contact us" and "you are in for a wait". "Be Kind" now has a new friend - "Be Patient".
And, at a macro level, we're told we are "doing well" against our targets. Sure. But when targets are set low you are always going to think that you are succeeding when the reality is different. It is a false economy, just like coaching a team and telling them that finishing the season in second-last place is a success in some way. And yesterday we learned that vaccines are not a "magic bullet" (which is extremely concerning in the long term if you start to think about it).
So, Queenstown, aunties and uncles, granddads and grandmas, the business sector and the rest of us will continue to wait and be at risk of infection and lockdown - and it may be for some time. And who knows what the experience will be like when, or whenever, Gen Xers like me are eligible. I am not holding my breath - I will save that for when the next stranger coughs nearby.