So when I wrote last week's article, all was looking good. I was getting ready for the Vinyl gig on the coming Saturday and was planning for the National Trade Show for Mrs Bell's business (Poppy Cards). And then, even before that article had hit the presses on Tuesday night, my phone buzzed with several alerts – at the time I ignored them (thinking it was social media alerts).
Then the Civil Defence alert came through and, once again, life was jolted sideways by an identifiable, but largely invisible, threat. (Quite why we needed a night-time and then another early morning alert was puzzling – in fact, some people I know thought it was a hoax).
To quote the great Toyota ad of bygone (and much simpler) days I said "Bugger". And very shortly after that "how did this happen?". As I write, both of these statements remain in force. The uncertainty being driven by this situation is damaging to confidence, economics and mental health in the community. And where confidence is being materially challenged it is not long until you start to see concern and worry.
Only a few months back, after tremendous sacrifice (and some tangible suffering) there was a declaration that we had "eliminated" Covid-19.
But it soon turned out that the conventional definition of "elimination" didn't hold in this situation. Nevertheless, through the decisions made, New Zealand and everyone in it was committed to a course or trajectory which relied heavily on keeping the disease out.
The word out of the hankie wringers at the WHO is that there may never be a vaccine, take a breath and let that sink in. So our elimination / eradication strategy either needs to be 100 per cent effective all the time or there needs to be another plan (the lack thereof is a concerning topic for another time).
So attention turns to the border and isolation processes.
We as a public heard words like "gold standard" describing tracing and took it on faith that the border similarly represented a series of obstacles through which no self-respecting virus could penetrate. Tui billboard anyone?
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Since the revelation of the two travelling infected sisters who drove the length of the North Island while "virus positive" - to people successfully breaking into quarantine facilities - to even revelations this weekend of aircrews transiting through Hong Kong and Australia not being tested, the border has looked about as solid as a dam with serious cracks (with more and more water being consistently added on the other side).
I guess that this is not surprising given that the narrative changed a couple of weeks ago to the virus being "tricky" and that it was not if but "when" the virus would get through to the community. Given potential that there may be no vaccine, this isn't sustainable. And, yet, here we are at risk of potentially bouncing in and out of lockdown for a long time to come.
And before I start fielding criticism for "not being an epidemiologist" (which, given where we are, should have been on every guidance counsellor's crib sheets since the late 1980s) managing any border is about identifying all entry points, monitoring them and mitigating risk.
News today that, almost all of a sudden, we are blanket testing at sea ports suggests to me that they have been potentially overlooked – I need that Tui now please.
Given the cost to the economy and pressures placed on business of all sizes, the importance of these controls cannot be under-estimated. It is disappointing that, as of Monday, August 17, the source of the current outbreak is still up in the air, which points further to shortcomings in our border controls rather than the "bug" magically popping up out of the blue.
As an update, Vinyl postponed its gig and the impact on Whanganui is not anywhere near that of the hit taken by Auckland. However, the true impact of these hits to New Zealand and its economy can only be postponed for so long.