PLAN B – DOES IT EXIST?

With the public’s broad support, in the face of the Covid threat, the government closed down New Zealand, imposing a dictatorial control regime to an extent unprecedented in our history.

That said, every measure they took copied to the letter what was being done abroad, albeit to little criticism from a panic-ridden populace. I was a critic, claiming we were fortunate on a number of counts and need not have aped other nations to such an extent. I stand by that with one qualification.

What we knew about the virus victims at the halfway stage justified such criticism. However, with the passing of time a clearer picture has emerged. Without doubt the most at risk were nursing home patients who worldwide, went over like ninepins. So too in New Zealand, 19 of our 22 deaths came from nursing homes and with an average age of over 90.

These were people in the main who’s mind and memories had gone and were demented. Their existence was a horror story. Most folk over 50 are familiar with that awful scenario with a friend or relative and know the relief when news of their demise occurs.

But in sheer numbers we now know the biggest toll has been the obese which has accounted for 50% of deaths in Britain and America, mostly with their poor and conspicuously with black folk. New Zealand has an obesity issue with Islanders and Maoris in particular. Had we done nothing they’d have likely gone over in droves.

Throughout the past 6 months the world has been subjected to a huge variety of “expert” opinions. New Zealand has been no exception. Numerous hitherto unknown academics, specialising in plagues, epidemics, viruses and such-like have emerged.

When I commented on this to a senior government figure he replied darkly, “that’s precisely why we need university reform.” I agree, but that’s another issue.

World-wide there’s been massive variations of expert opinion disputing the proper approach and the critical trade-off with the economic consequences. Nobel prize winners and other experts have ranged from a virtually do nothing strategy to imposing a Dark Ages monastic lifestyle on everyone.

Talk of a vaccine has also ranged from an inevitably in time to none at all, again from different “experts.” What we now know as fact is the Covid virus doesn’t kill most people. Some have bad aftermaths but they’re rare. For most it’s simply a winter flu episode.

Of Britain’s circa 10 million children under 15 there’s been 2 deaths, or put another way, in the words of a British epidemic expert, less than the chance of being hit by lightning.

The evidence is now clear with second waves, spikes and what have you emerging everywhere, like other such viruses, it ain’t going away in a hurry.

Some countries have woken to that and opted to restore normal life, notably Italy, Germany, America, Portugal and others. The Prime Minister of Norway a week back, expressed her regret at her country’s hard-line, New Zealand like approach and wished she’d taken a more realistic view, to quote her, as per Sweden.

Australia has had a similar “good” virus war to New Zealand but has now, like us, opened up to everything other than the 14 days quarantine to outsiders. To much justified anger however, interstate Australian state borders idiotically remain closed.

14-day quarantines are unrealistic, doubly so when imposed on visitors both arriving and then again on their return home. Why can’t the world create a Covid passport? Holders could be tested a week before departure and noted in the passport, then tested again on departure. On arrival they should do and record tests at weekly intervals at widely available testing sites.

Other than that, they’d be free to travel between countries without the impractical 14 days quarantine, let alone its cost. When I mentioned this to my eldest son he said he thought Germany proposed something similar months ago but it hadn’t been pursued.

In the multitude of expert voices, many suggest the Covid virus may well be here to stay and will periodically break out, much like the annual flu.

Unless we’re about to resort to a Dark Ages monastic lifestyle it’s critical we open the borders without the quarantine lock-up. Adopt the passport proposition and we can restart our major export industry of tourism, likewise too, foreign students.

Australia is our main trading partner. Currently business people must lock down 14 days on arrival if say popping across to Sydney for a 3 day meeting, then another 14 days on return. In total that’s a month stuck in a hotel room to engage in a 3-day discussion. That’s ludicrous.

It’s overdue for a new approach. The economic damage world-wide is horrendous, so too the social cost of unemployment, depression and poverty. Copycatting other nations ain’t leadership, indeed to the contrary it’s the opposite.

Leadership would be initiating, say with Australia first, a virus passport and then extending it from there.  The current situation is farcical and must stop.

A final comment. We don’t edit comments on this site. But henceforth please keep them to a reasonable length and additionally, cut out the gratuitous abuse of the Prime Minister. She’s followed “expert” advice in an unprecedented crisis. Criticising those strategies is fine; insulting her and other well-meaning politicians with unpleasant comments won’t be tolerated.

57 Comments

The reason for the lack of a virus passport or suchlike is that current tests are surprisingly unreliable, they return a large number of false positive and so on. Also the latency period is a problem. On the whole I agree with the above especially the point that this virus is here to stay and will rise and fall over time.

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Cannot agree with your comment that Jacinda has followed “ expert “ advice regarding this calamity.
The MOH specifically recommended a four week shutdown to level 2 beginning late March ( similar to Queensland).
Jacinda by her own admission sought advice from her friends in the UK who told her to close the country down immediately.
This she did , thus creating the biggest self-made financial disaster In our history.
Worse, based on the ranting of a self-proclaimed “ expert “ she terrified the population by saying that if we did not go to level 4 up to 88,000 could die !
She has only listened to friends and “ experts “ whom share her world view— not the MOH when we all needed her to.

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    John , I would dispute your assertion that the PM only listened to friends and experts who shared her view.
    You do not get to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand without a modicum of intelligence.
    She is not the heir to a throne , she is an elected official.
    Most New Zealanders have a pride in the strength of our democracy.
    Did something change and I missed the memo ?

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    You are correct. They claimed 80k plus NZ deaths to carry out their illegal level four lockdown.

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    At the time Ardern stated that 88,000 people could die in NZ (which is roughly 16,000 per 1 million of our population) Italy – then highest on Worldometer for deaths per million – was running at below 500 deaths per million. How most NZers could believe that we would be 32 times worse than Italy is beyond me. Thanks to Ardern, many people are still worried about going out into the community. Ardern carried off the biggest scaremongering campaign NZ has ever seen.

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The reason why NZ borders should have been shut in FEB as per health department advice is no-one knew anything about the virus. WE couldn’t trust the stats coming out of China which weren’t matching the body bag counts, and the NZ government knew our overstretched health services couldn’t cope with a large outbreak (the Swedish government listed their outstanding health service as one of the reasons for not locking down).

So not hard and early but the lockdown was a reasonable response at the time.

However, it soon became apparent the Government had squandered the 4 month warning NZ’s isolation afforded us and had done no planning or preparation prior to the nuclear lockdown option (I can still remember Sarah Stuart Black telling us she was busy planning for level 4, 2 weeks after we went into level 4).

And even now there is no coherent plan for NZ’s economic recovery, no plan for border testing and quarantine, and no plan for the likely no vaccine scenario.

FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL…. AGAIN

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Yes i suspect many people are coming to the same realisation in last month,it isn’t going away by the looks and we may need live with it, so best we get some long term plan in place to work around it and if they find a vaccine its a bonus …I for one have been thinking how to structure which needs to be a overseas meeting without 4 weeks locked up (as i simply wont go on that basis , which will have a cost to the business). The other realisation is ( unlike your good self who by shear fact of age experience as well as obvious intuition and vision view has credibility ) is that economically it doesn’t seem as bad as it did at start. Albeit recessions are like a slow mo car crash and it only really obvious when the car stops how bad it was…

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OK I will try not and insult the Prime Minister.
However is it gratuitous abuse to say that she has constantly lied, or more politely misrepresented the truth. We did not go “hard and early” we, as in the words of Professor Des Gorman (a rare voice of sanity), were “soft and sluggish”. Hard and early were countries like Hong Kong,Vietnam,Taiwan. Their results are simply outstanding and the economies largely untarnished by measures undertaken.
Then last night she said “that we had one of the strictest border measures in the world”. That is complete nonsense. Our border control and quarantine protocol right from the off has been haphazard, poorly organised, a shambles. We have been, as Bob has previously alluded to,extremely fortunate to get away with the number of cases that we had. As Professor Des Gorman said “arriving back in NZ in mid February was like coming back to a backyard BBQ”. I could think of infinite countries who have, efficient. very strict,well organised border control. Its time for the media to highlight these, rather than accept the PM spin.
Finally it’s all well to say she is relying on expert advice. I don’t buy that. Surely she and her government receive a range of advice. They can’t be that tone deaf. I simply don’t think she and members of her cabinet have the wherewithal or intellectual capacity to understand the destruction of the economy bought about by their Covid policies.

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    “Advisers advise and ministers decide”
    Jacob Reece Mogg

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    Andrew little stated that this is our opportunity to build a better nz.the economic carnage we are about to endure is a necessary prerequisite.

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    My wife and i arrived in N.Z. from the U.S. just six days before the P.M. (for it was she, Bob) imposed lockdown. We expected to be tested. Instead, the Immigration Officer merely asked us if we had been to China or Iran in the last 14 days. “No,” I said, “and we haven’t been to Italy or South Korea, either.” This elicited a blank stare. Oh, we did get a nice little pamphlet though.

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Why don’t we have an international cloud-based passport system based on biometrics, namely finger scans? Then any kind of detailed human management or contact tracing becomes easy and totally reliable.

-Bob, just to say, as long as there’s such thing as a ‘political decision’ (of course there is) informed people are going to get a bit angry, here and there. And sometimes rightly so. Comes with the territory.

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    Andrew , I have no doubt your finger scan and other potential personal ID systems are entirely possible and do-able.
    But you are entering the realm of ” big brother ” , ” I know my rights “, ” personal liberties ” scenarios.
    Do you think that will ‘fly’ with the ‘woke’ brigade ?

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      markscreaminggoosearmstrong June 25, 2020 at 10:07 am

      They already use face scanning, or is what you suggest markedly different Andrew? I thought that was already using biometrics focusing on the eyes and facial shape. I guess you mean digital visa stamps etc?

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      If the government wants to covertly find out all your silly details they can do it. You have a cellphone. Cat is out of the bag.

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“Hear , hear” Bob for your comment.
To my mind for all your suggestions regarding opening up and travel.
If as much research had immediately gone into a test that could give an accurate instant positive / negative result that has gone into chasing the holy grail of a vaccine we would be much better served as we try and come out of this.

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Not sure I agree Bob- it would be bureaucrat’s nightmare
By the way – where is your proposed wooden high rise proposal for Wellington at- it made me feel green …

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Roy Edwards - Corona refugee stuck in Cambodia June 24, 2020 at 5:22 pm

I am always “”interested”” that nobody seems to look at Belarus(pop 9 mill) instead of Sweden as the counterpoint to lockdown.
Belarus did no lockdown!. Yes they did 14 day quarantines for visitors
but
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_Belarus#Government_response

On 11 June, the 14-day self-quarantine requirement, issued on 9 April, was lifted from persons entering Belarus from 37 countries.[152] Since 11 June, all foreign citizens entering Belarus must provide a PCR-based COVID-19 test certificate acquired no longer than 2 days prior to entering the country.[153]

This pre clearance is becomeing a bit of a standard in many countries.
So why isnt NZ doing this?

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    Roy , sorry , but Belarus is not the first cab off the rank I would choose to follow.
    Sweden is still a work in progress and looking a little shaky.

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    Absolutely agree and have been saying this since February. No-one has a right to get on a plane to infect others. Airlines should have to vet an approved recent clear test result along with the usual visa/entry documentation before boarding.

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In early March when gloom and doom had struck I read about <1 hour testing being approved by FDA.
At the time I posited that travel would continue with a new albiet reverse ""star of David"'
Where citizens would have a Covid free badge which would allow them to travel.
After that I read about the Chinese system where ctizens where classified as Green etc on a ""card"" which would give or deny them access to buildings.

So Sir Bob, your idea is not outlandish or impossible. It just needs the will of the politicians….yep I know stupid thinking…but it can and I suspect ..will be done.
When? Who knows.

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Good call on the unwanted personal attacks.
Virus management needs to evolve for maximum effectiveness with minimal inconvenience. Politicians and bureaucrats don’t have the right incentives to make that happen as they wear the risks but not the costs. Risks and costs should both be privatised to allow innovation and efficiency. The tourist, transport and hospitality industries are obviously highly incentivised to find solutions and need to be allowed to do so while bearing the costs of any failures.

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    You’re allowed to mean to Donald Trump though, lol.

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      Also a good call though we are fairly inured via the daily stream of unmitigated anti-Trump pieces in our media. It is extraordinary that these persist alongside his solid 40%+ support in the US. Professional journalists and editors must see that another side to the story is going untold – but don’t want to tell it.

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    When has private business ever covered the costs of the damage they cause? If an outbreak happens do you really think the private companies that were making a profit from more open borders would cover the cost? If you do then I have a bridge for sale.

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The one good outcome of this whole panic has been to shut down mass tourism.
Which was always a poor bargain, with no long-term future anyway.
Plus crap along the roadsides and our best resorts taken over by assholes
Rich pricks only from now on please.
They at least leave a bit of loot behind.

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    Fritz and Heidi poo-ing behind the bushes were never a good deal for NZ. And the argument that they might come back in 30 years when they were rich could well be true… but lets have those who are rich now.

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Hmm. Regarding abuse of politicians, I read on this very blog yesterday the quote below about Trump, and I also note there was not a single ‘criticism’ of his ‘strategies’, just the following foul & unfounded abuse about the man personally:

‘… he’s a grotesque, psychopathic, ignorant, lying megalomaniac …’

Heaven forbid anyone criticise our own dear, great, & benevolent leader though. Gag orders and hypocrisy make great bedfellows, albeit laughably so – laughter is the best medicine after all. On the other hand, sometimes the world just makes me want to be vomit.

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Ok Sir Bob. Will take that on board.
…following advice in the advent of failure…unilateral brilliance when things go right…or left.
…hang on.. think we’ve heard that before!!

Remember to be kind and why is the opposition so nasty.
Excellent.

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National has gone belly. Rather than use their brains, they’ve sided with the intellectual Left to stuff New Zealand.

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Just let it rip n move on , controlled if poss , load up on ventilators n create field hospitals or use all those unused rural halls . Over 600 die every week in Nz , so I’m thinking big deal on stats . Worldwide bugger all when compared to the nations usual tally , maybe accelerating the old and infirm a bit earlier , but these numbers will decrease after initial cleanout . It’s here for good , carry on as normal , do a Sweden , n get on with it .

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    Yeahtheboys , I like your gungho attitude.
    Cull them old bastards !
    When you are young and bullet-proof you expect you are going to live forever.
    As you get older it becomes your life’s work just to live as long as possible !

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Sir Robert,
In this article, you say to:
“…cut out the gratuitous abuse of the Prime Minister. She’s followed “expert” advice in an unprecedented crisis. Criticising those strategies is fine; insulting her and other well-meaning politicians with unpleasant comments won’t be tolerated.”.
In your very previous article, you describe Mr Trump in these terms:
“verging on insanity. That he’s a grotesque, psychopathic, ignorant, lying megalomaniac is well established.”
This could be viewed as gratuitous abuse of Mr Trump, a politician you don’t seem to like?
It’s your blog, you can obviously do what you want.
However, you could come across as hypocritical?

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    markscreaminggoosearmstrong June 25, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Yeah but many, Cakeface my friend, are on occasion nothing but just abusive. You stray there yourself on occasion.
    Yeah Sir Bob has a go at people, myself included, but he’s intelligent, entertaining and mostly very funny whereas many posts from out there are just boringly abusive and adding nil to the discussion. And sadly must be lacking in imagination to even bother.
    When I read the word “sycophant” again in reference to anyone who expresses any kind of support for Jacinda (or support for anyone else) it makes me immediately write off anything and everything else the writer contributes because if we have to be a sycophant to support someone then we’d all need to be sociopaths to keep those writers happy.

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Being tested a week before departure and then upon departure for Covid 19 will not work as sometimes there is not enough of the virus in the body in the early stages for a positive test, hence why the N.Z. Government test on day 12 of isolation.

A Covid 19 passport could possibly work if there was such a test which could prove you once had the virus, providing there was evidence showing you could not be re-infected with a variation of the virus. The negative side to such a scheme could be that some younger people may want to become purposely infected so they can travel.

Well done Bob on the comments surrounding the personal attacks on Politicians but I would go a step further and say the comments regarding our country are sometimes overly negative. Providing you can make an average living, N.Z. is arguably one of the best places in the world to live and you should be thankful that you live here. If you don’t agree, well Australia will accept you in due course.

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    It’s not about any single test being foolproof. It’s about an overall system being effective and efficient. Detectability and infectiousness are certainly highly correlated since both depend on viral concentrations. Yes, a few may transition from undetectable to infectious between testing and travelling but most will not and will either be stopped or be safe to travel. Similar logic will apply to testing on arrival and during quarantine/isolation. Perfection is always the enemy of good. Minimize costs and errors, detect and manage the errors.

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If a vaccine never arrives New Zealand took the wrong option, if a vaccine arrives in the next few months New Zealand took the right option.

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Here in the U.S. state of Maine, you have to get tested upon arrival, and then wait 24-48 hours in quarantine for the results. Then, if you’re clear, you’re good to go. This helps with the latency issue, because in the first couple of days of having this thing, you are at your most contagious, yet may not be
exhibiting symptoms…

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There have been no second waves, with possibly the exception of Iran (but how much can you trust the data out of Iran) what the media is calling second spikes is just upwards variability during downward trends.

Additionally, cases are going up globally for two reasons, firstly the epidemic is reaching it’s zenith in Brazil, Mexico and India, secondly in most of the rest of the world cases are going up our staying steady while deaths are declining – we are getting better at diagnostics in the west. Cases and deaths globally still fall precipitously over the next 3 months until this is a background virus – the 5th cold causing coronavirus.

Given the almost completely negligible risk for those under 65 and healthy, the borders should simply be opened, rest and care homes quarantined, and any one else who wants to stay home for a couple of months can do so.

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I don’t agree with you that Covid 19 is not a problem when it flares. The US is experiencing some flare ups in states, Arizona, California, Texas and others which might overwhelm their icus. If you listen to the commentator Dr Scott Gottlieb, the ex FDA commissioner who is on CNBC every evening around 10.10 pm NZT you will get a clear sense of the problem over there.

There are many reasons why it’s such a big problem they can’t control there. I do agree though that their obesity problem in the US is greatly exacerbating their Covid problem. The BLM protest marches have also clearly contributed to the covid flare ups.

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The government should have had a strategy, to deal with kiwis coming home, as soon as the boarders were closed ,that involved having a stamp on their passports, stating they are Covid free They must have had a clear test certificate, to be allowed on the plane
Now I didn’t think of this , but it becomes obvious to us all as the virus has come back into NZ ,without testing here or where you came from
I’m just a farmer, so I’m unqualified to make these decisions and to see what’s appropriate at the time .But there are people like Ashley Bloomfield, who are supposed experts , on huge wages, that I would expect to be making the right calls I cannot believe he has not resigned in shame and that the Heath minister has not been sacked They failed ,and the country, now broke ,and many jobless , due the lockdown, deserves much much better
As far as being nice to Cindy, I will struggle with that I agree she’s a nice person, and earnest, but she is without a doubt , our least qualified prime minister in our history It frightens me that a radical socialist , an naive idealist , with very little intellectual capacity, is running the place When you compare her with the likes of John key , she’s a school girl,
And she’s become delusional and unable to admit mistakes ,which is concerning She was put in as a last chance by the desperate labour party before the last election, because she’s attractive, with a lovely smile, and speaks well , but totally unqualified for the job She did well in the election, but lost by a landslide to plain old Bill English, but had , much to her surprise, a nasty , dishonest,and very right wing Winston Peters, betray all his voters, and put the crown upon her head She is an illegitimate prime minister, and that is what offends me the most
I do hate her Bob, but she’s out of her depth, and she should not be there

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Sir Bob, yes this is your blog but I’m disappointed you’ve felt the need to give those who leave comments a dressing down and a telling off. Gratuitous abuse is a little strong. Many commenters here appear to dislike the prime ministers politics and don’t share her love of socialism. Just because she appears to be a genuine (she could be genuinely wrong) and caring person doesn’t give her a free pass to do and say as she pleases (without consequences). She is the prime minister, a very public position, a very influential position and a position that is open to influence also. The prime minister is not our leader. She is the CEO of a team of public servants who in this case weren’t even put there by popular vote. In Jacinda Arderns case, because she comes across as being very caring and genuine it is hard for people to believe she could be doing anything that is not in our best interests. This is potentially dangerous because while people are being lulled into false security, freedom of the individual could be (and is being) eroded while they are asleep. Some truthful criticism is most definitely warranted but shouldn’t cross over to ones physical characteristics. The traditions of Hyde Park Corner are vanishing fast.

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    Have to agree and sorry to see the blatant hypocrisy evidenced by the comments on Trump in the previous post.
    I’ve noticed a certain protective chivalry from men “of a certain age” towards Jacinda. Perhaps that’s it. My brother says “leave her alone” when I make some criticism.
    I’m sure she knows it too, the fawning adulation from our wet media doesn’t help either.
    Go fast and go hard on her and her appalling legacy of failure I say.

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markscreaminggoosearmstrong June 25, 2020 at 10:15 am

Sir Robert, don’t you go all soft and kind on us mate! Next minute you’ll be placing full page ads in the NBR asking us all to be kind to each other. Please, please just put a stay on that warmth at least in this forum or I may have to take up the cudgel and get all grumpy here myself.

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Well said 62. Thats the truth of of it.
Don’t hate her but the damage wrought through naivety will be exponential.
We are at present on the horizontal part of that curve.

The socialist experiment seeing how far they can bend the population to create their socialist egalitarian metropolis.
“Lets see how far we can push them comrade”
History shows how successful this ideology has been…not.
We now have generation of voters that (by enlarge) don’t seem to understand history.

[The disease will not stop. We are the disease. Find a cure for C19 then wait for the next. Get used to it].

Sorry all; guess i could be less optimistic.

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…left-right-lef..t.. !!..feign then counter Sir Bob!!
Gauge the sentiment.!
Good fun.

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Hi Bob, I agree we should not be too critical on the PM. Let’s face it, in a democratic society; politicians simply cannot make politically suicidal decisions. Granted, the information, which our Govt relied upon to make decisions, may have been flawed. To quote just a few; expert modeling from UOA indicating 80,000 deaths, (which later projections downgraded to 13,000). Advise sought from PM’s friends in UK. Ignorance of the “Plan B” experts
http://www.covidplanb.co.nz/

So the question is what difference would our esteemed opposition have employed? Other than the border security managed isolation, what points of difference did any of the opposition offer?
Totally understandable, PM’s desire to front the media circus, basking in the lime light, victorious in the war on covid. Though, now, mistakes have been exposed, best we put forth the fall guys, Clark and Woods, to fall on sword with Bloomfield.

I find it amusing Norway’s PM, is now coping with the fallout. She too now regrets not having followed a realistic strategy, in her words, as per Sweden.

So, the main issue appears to be a total lack of realistic, meaningful acceptance, that this disease is bad. Worse, than the seasonal flu? How much worse? Maybe 2 to 3 times more deadly? Acceptance that people will die from it. Just as people die from other medical conditions. Was there a real cost benefit analysis done as to the ramifications of having a severe lockdown? Yes treasury did many. So when you consider the $200 Billion hole NZ now faces. Was the potential life (vote) saved, worth the $15 million/per save, cost to the tax payer, taken into consideration?

Yes, what puts NZ into a higher covid death risk, (other than old age itself), is the obesity epidemic sweeping through our nation. Obesity in itself isn’t the risk factor, rather the conditions caused by obesity. From the UK covid death statistics, the most common pre-existing conditions are diabetes, followed by dementia, chronic pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, and then heart disease. Most of those diseases commonly have associated obesity. Far, far more lives and less money would be saved had this Govt put less than 1% of the Covid spend up, into initiatives to fight obesity in NZ.

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There seems to be an unlimited faith in the fact that once we get a vaccine (of whatever origin) it will act as a preventative and we can open up. To my knowledge, there is little if any evidence that a vaccine will provide protection. We are is still at a ‘suck it and see’ stage.

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