New Zealand is arguably the easiest country in the world to stomp out a virus pandemic, simply because of our small population and our islands remoteness. But after the often embarrassing small nation self-awareness, the back-slapping, self-congratulations and infantile “team of 5 million” claptrap, we’ve discovered we can’t.
We’re not alone. Israel went ‘hard,’ to use the vernacular, thought they’d fixed the problem only to discover the same reality. So too Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, Spain, France and many other countries. Worldwide seemingly every country is now copping second waves. Significantly and at least to date, unlike here their peoples are protesting at the suggestion of further lockdowns.
Back in March on this blog I predicted that when this pandemic is all done and dusted, the Swedish approach will prove to have been the only sensible one. This led to an orgy of halfwits responding, citing Sweden’s infection and death rates, ignoring the critical “when it’s all done and dusted” qualification. That said, over the past month there’s been a swag of articles in the serious foreign media making the same Swedish point I made five months ago. Even the Norwegian Prime Minister, despite Norway’s low infection and fatality figures has now said Sweden was right.
Surely it’s indisputable that every time there’s a fresh outbreak, we cannot keep closing down the nation. Furthermore, we now know enough about the virus to realise this extremism is unnecessary.
We were dealing with an unprecedent problem thus heard numerous different and frequently contrasting views on it from an astonishing range of experts, all of which compounded the fear and confusion.
But after 9 months since its initial appearance in China, the world is none the wiser vis a vis destroying it.
Massive research efforts are going on everywhere to try and find a vaccine, to date in vain. Russia claims to have done so but no-one believes that, not the least because, as pointed out by western scientists, it’s impossible to conduct the necessary lengthy time trials to justify such a claim.
What seems clear is that pending such a vaccine, which as an aside, some experts argue for diverse reasons won’t be found, we simply cannot continue with the stop-start approach to life.
The government has been criticised for lax border security, but the latest outbreak had nothing to do with that.
The true cost of closing down the nation, not just in New Zealand but virtually everywhere, has been smothered by unprecedented money printing. Plainly that can’t continue.
Other costs have been similarly masked.
For example, for every four coronavirus deaths in Britain, there have been three, particularly with cancers, through inability to receive treatment. I’d be surprised if our situation is different.
Then there are suicides which according to some of my medical specialist mates are soaring here. Perhaps rightly, we don’t publicise those.
Adding to the confusion is the election. We need to take politics out of this issue.
The situation is analogous to wartime and coalition governments. Surely it would be smart to form a separate pandemic governing unit comprising the top political figures from all winning parties. That will hopefully induce bold decision-making without fear of political criticism.
Next year will see massive unemployment and small businesses, our biggest employers, going over like ninepins. Crime will surge, indeed it seems to be now.
Sooner or later the world will realise that Sweden got it right.
We should open our borders and let normal life resume, perhaps with compulsory mask-wearing in public, other than restaurants. We can protect the vulnerable, hardly an onerous task as we now know who they are.
While there have been exceptions, as with any illness, the vast majority of people who have caught the bug have quickly got over it. Most important, we now know that for 90% of the population, there is no need to fear coronavirus as we understandably originally did.
Everyday we drive in our cars and everyday some of us are killed on the roads. The statistical odds of being a road fatality, however, are so remote, we logically carry on driving. So too with coronavirus and to order periodic lockdowns is analogous to banning motor vehicles.
The lockdown approach has proven a failure. Repeating it ad infinitum is simply stupid.
Bob, could not agree more.
However, we are unique in that our so- called “ leaders “ are more adept at lying to us than sensibly addressing the issue.
Whether it be about the availability of flu-jabs, testing kits, PPE, community testing or Arderns “ Gold Standard “ border controls we have been continually lied to.
The public now have zero trust in the daily pontificating from her “ bully pulpit.”
Worse, and as you have said , next year will be an absolute blood bath within the SME community which will have long term repercussions.
Our personal health and the economic health of our country have taken a huge hit due to the sheer incompetence of the current government.
There is also the biggest lie of all ‘go hard and go early’ (precis)
Dead right Taupo Rotorua.
Nearly three weeks before Ardern took us into level 4 her MOH strongly recommend 4 weeks at level 2 To commence immediately.
But because that would have interrupted her Muslim “ hug fest “ she delayed making the hard decision.
Realizing too late that she had not done what her health professionals had opined she then justified going late and hard because Hendy had confirmed up to 88,000 could die if level 4 was not instigated immediately.
Worse, instead of taking the advice of her Health Ministry and their professionals , Ardern opted for the advice of “ friends “ in the U.K. who told her “ to shut the country down .”
Bugger the professionals in New Zealand but take the advice of so-called “ friends “ and a physicist .
Unlike Queensland who opted for level 2 with far superior results and only 20% of their businesses affected, Ardern went nuclear to level 4 affecting 80% of our businesses and economic carnage.
History will not be kind to Ardern who destroyed our economy, blew our debt out to circa $180 billion all because she willfully ignored the best health advice available and a wish to proceed with the Muslim Christchurch shooting anniversary.
Ironically, the very first Covid case was a woman traveling from Iran to take part at Ardern’s “ hug fest.”
The rest is now history.
Thank you great read, Agree we need to separate the concerns from one specific party. Delicate policy and governance to another entity. I am still on the fence in regards to opening the borders. Taiwan also has a very successful model although I do take your comment regard whats in the best interest for the end state.
Once again you have nailed it Bob. Can you please reproduce into main stream media so the 5 million sheep can wake up!! ( including our govt). Up to one Million people per year are currently dying from AID’s, this is years after it was first recognized etc etc, I don’t see the world coming to a screaming halt about it. How on earth does JA & AB think they can carry on this fruitless & flawed ideology to the detriment of the 99.98% that survive the flu?
God help us if JA does another term!!!
We could always try out the Australia way, lauded by many here in this forum as the best path…the backers of Aussie’s CV19 strategy are silent now and it is on record here that I said i could not understand how Australia was getting off so lightly. And the backers of Aussie’s strategy who shouted we should follow and shouted that we should open our borders to Australia and even – dear God even those that the temerity to scoff at the Goose including our Dear Sir Robert – well they are awfully silent now.
I think it’s easy to criticise and difficult to predict and that’s what politicians in opposatition do – yep that’s all you True Blues here. But the compromise between total and extended lock-down and Sweden’s way is the dilemna each and every Government has been and is grappling with globally.
Norway – well I agree it’s good we had a country trying the herd immunity way. I think someone had to do it but we must all be glad it wasn’t us in NZ. And though I’ll cynically wager a few Kiwis would have been happy to have the earlier inheritance the Sweden experiment would undoubtedly have brought if we’d done it here I think most are glad we didn’t.
Right at the moment (Monday 17th August) the Covid Plan B team is holding a webinar symposium. This is available via the following Zoom link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82227907015?pwd=SFB2Z1Z0eE9kQ0l3bTh3WkpnNUFYZz09
Passcode: 250068. There is still a couple of hours to go. They will also be posting the entire symposium on their website http://www.covidplanb.co.nz. A range of international and New Zealand academics are involved in this symposium and present valuable perspectives into dealing with the Covid-19 situation.
Oops, that’s Sweden not Norway…but if Sir Robert is right Norway’s leader has changed it’s tune about Sweden in much the same way you lot have about Australia…
Having said all this I don’t have the answers but I don’t pretend to. Only politicians pretend to and only the Government gets to test it’s theories.
Dealing with the unknown is not easy.
The failure of our democracy is well and truly seeded in the inability of parties of interest to disassociate themselves from the political ramifications of making the unpopular decisions.
Even if the unpopular decisions don’t follow the narrative, set by the lynch mob mentality of the left leaning media. The news media, being more interested in making and sensationalizing news, rather than reporting. ”Cancel Culture” prevailing, Sweden, BLM, be Kind, Trump, Judith Collins. One news appalling badgering of Ms Collins, yesterday was a prime example. Putting JC on the spot, as to what a “National” Govt would now do is grossly unfair. The fact is the Labour lead Govt has had for the last 6 month, the whole of the public service at their disposal to analyze and formulate plans and measures. Sure, if National and all parties were informed and made aware of the issues, had time to analyze and formulate a direction, then maybe answer that question. Unfortunately, as with all politicians, it’s all about spinning the populist beliefs. Politicians well and truly protected, from criticism, or unpopular discussions, is far more important than making debatable an unpopular decisions. Key point here, is there any political party willing to have the Sweden approach debate? This is why I totally agree with your comment;
“The situation is analogous to wartime and coalition governments. Surely it would be smart to form a separate pandemic governing unit comprising the top political figures from all winning parties. That will hopefully induce bold decision-making without fear of political criticism.”
Good Afternoon Sir Robert
Can’t help but feel that you’re right in that we need to face up to this pandemic and put our big boy and big girl pants on and for want of a better word go for the herd immunity approach along similar lines to What Sweden has and is doing
It will be interesting to see how history will judge us on the approach we took to dealing with the virus as we leave a legacy for our future generations with nothing but a huge financial debt to contend with
I totally agree with you. Sure the government had to be seen to be acting quickly but they did so relying on information which proved to be wrong. Their inability to really look into all of the different options and to change course quickly when more information became available is hugely to their shame. My kids and grandkids economic futures will be suppressed and they didn’t need to be. This government were closed minded and one eyed in their approach. We are all going to pay the price.
Has anyone considered that maybe-just maybe- they are doing their best according to the information available which is confusing and overlaid with personalities.Everyday when one reads the Herald there is the lie-making Death Notice column with up to 80 names and rarely a Covid death. Lots of cancer ,suicides,vehicular and, I suspect, regular Flu’.
There is better information out there. They seem stuck in a time warp. Check out http://www.covidplanb.co.nz for a different perspective. Particularly check out the symposium which was held today and featured a range of academics from both here and overseas.
Exactly Rogken, Mr Bloomfield needs to stand on his podium and address the country to explain why he was counting deaths towards C19 when in fact that was not the leading cause of death. Our last death #22 Mr BS Bloomfield admitted that the ‘victim’ had tested negative twice after an initial test as positive and was currently C19 free “that in the interests of consistency I’ll add this to the covid toll” So MR Bloomfield how many other of our 22 deaths were C19 NOT the leading cause of death? Please explain!!!!
Absolutely spot on Sir Robert. It is a shame that you don’t have a wider audience. Unfortunately you and the likes of Damien Grant seem like voices in the wilderness. NZ mainstream media is at an all time low. They see their mission as to be cheerleaders for labour, rarely questioning anything the govt does, but knocking National (and particularly Judith Collins) at every opportunity.
I would also add that a large number of New Zealanders are not particularly bright, seem incapable of rational thinking and are blindly obedient to the govt rhetoric.
Incidentally in respect of deaths related to lockdown, oncologists Dr David Lamb and Dr Chris Jackson both predict hundreds of cancer deaths due to delayed treatment. Don’t expect this to lead the 6 pm news!
I note an article in Stuff today again saying our policy of locking down is the correct one. They always compare us with the worst affected countries (USA,UK)- never similar populations or island nations. Today in comparing us with Sweden they fail to look ahead – Sweden will carry on the same path. We will probably be in and out of lockdowns. I know where I would prefer to be. Swedes are very well educated, liberally progressive, understand the science. New Zealanders have a disproportionate number of people who are simply thick.
As someone said once, the problem with democracy is that idiots can vote.
We’re seeing that same idiocy in the public and the way they praise Jacinda as if she’s some sort of God. It seems that people have lost any form of critical thinking ability.
I wrote about the effects of lockdown policy in a place that has similar characteristics to us, notably being isolated by thousands of kilometres of ocean – Hawaii.
And guess what? They’re also suffering a second-wave surge of COVID-19 cases even though they’ve had tougher measures than NZ, especially on maks.
Troubles in Another Pacific Paradise
Also note a point made months ago by one of the Swedish epidemiologists, which is in that article and linked back to the original interview:
Getting out of the lockdowns will be the big challenge since the question is around which restrictions can be lifted, followed by watching for upticks in cases and deaths at each stage, with increases met by what? Reinstating the restriction?
And here we are.
Personally, I believe JA made the right call back in March, but now we have a much clearer, but far from perfect, understanding of what humanity is facing ,I really cannot see any other option than to protect the most vulnerable and allow the virus in as controlled as we possibly can.
Inevitably at some point, it will happen whether we allow it or not.
The key risk is having our Health Service overloaded.
Based on the Swedish data, we can however expect circa 2000-3000 deaths for NZ’s population.
Tough call !
Well no one is happy with the new lockdown, least of all those of us in Auckland… its madness to continue to believe that we can lurch from Level 1 to Level 3 or 4 at the drop of a hat and assume all will be well… its will bankrupt the country!
One point is that there was NO testing at the seaports – so sailors could come and go as they pleased.. if a sailor passed Covid-19 to someone who was asymptomatic, who then passed it to someone who got the infection then there would be no tracing back to the source!
The border has been a disaster in terms of management, containment and competence = well done Cindy…
lets get past this and start deal with how to cope with this virus going forward – screwing the country ain’t the way to do it.
On Mon, 17 Aug 2020 at 2:00 PM, No Punches Pulled wrote:
> > > > > > > Sir Bob Jones posted: “New Zealand is arguably the easiest country in the > world to stomp out a virus pandemic, simply because of our small population > and our islands remoteness. But after the often embarrassing small nation > self-awareness, the back-slapping, self-congratulation” > > > >
I agree with much of the sentiments of your position here Sir Bob. However, I believe it is still too early to tell whether this second wave can be dealt with quickly and effectively. If it can, and if it turns out that the outbreak came through imports/cold storage, the NZ stands to gain some significant trade advantages through the fact that extravagant and unnecessary may be curtailed and our products may be seen as safe. For example, I have no need or reason to be drinking imported vodka right now, but I am due to it being a cheap and cheerful alternative to the nearly as inexpensive NZ alternatives.
Crikey it’s easy to be wise from the sidelines. Do agree about the grand coalition though.
Very well said, Bob.
Here is the current standard: If a handful of people test positive, then we do a level-3 lockdown on the region, and level-2 lockdown on the nation.
Anyone keen on starting up a business, or expanding, with those odds?
We desperately need a change of government. National, poll-driven prats though they are, can at least revise the situation because they’re not politically locked to an impossible ‘elimination’ agenda.
Btw, because we do not question our dear leader, Jacinda, we are not a team of 5 million. We are a cult of 5 million.
Sir Bob, Sweden has a population of 10 million and 5,783 people have died from Covid-19. Extrapolate that to our population and we’ll wave goodbye to say 2,800 people.
Providing a vaccine is found this year, which I believe is likely, the majority of the NZ public will not think, when this is all done and dusted, we should have let 2,800 people die because the financial cost was too high. It therefore follows that a Government pandemic unit will not disagree with the mood of the nation.
The counter-argument could be we can reduce the estimated 2,800 deaths by taking precautionary measures but that will still not be accepted because the majority of the NZ public believe we should not let people die for the sake of being placed at Alert Level 3 or 4 when there’s an outbreak.
There has not been 3 deaths in the UK due to inability to receive treatment, particularly with cancers, to every 4 Covid-19 deaths. There has been 41,366 Covid -19 deaths in the UK and an estimated 3291 to 3621 avoidable cancer deaths due to inability to receive treatment, which is 1 avoidable cancer death to 12 Covid-19 deaths.
With respect to the vaccine you may be interested in this presentation to the Covid Plan B symposium by Dr Byram Bridle, viral immunologist at the University of Guelph. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HndetYzK8gU&fbclid=IwAR0hrnuWN6W1O8oF-H0VfnWp82kYSZ_U4KCXO87HdSSAaEN8MTI4ik2xlnU
What your argument (which is a commonly heard one) fails to consider is that people die anyway in far greater numbers than “COVID-19 deaths”. 30,000 people per year die in NZ. It is a question whether the 2800 you refer to, would even be “additional”; i.e. 32,800 deaths that year instead of 30,000.
The deaths “because of lockdown” disproportionately include a large number of people who had a lot of life left otherwise. It is not just untreated cancer patients; I don’t think any study that has considered the options suggests LESS overall deaths from the lockdown scenario. Some of them suggest FIVE TIMES as much!
Instead of comparing Sweden’s “COVID-19 mortality” from March to August 2020 with comparable nations rates, the honest comparison will be Sweden’s excess mortality from all causes, in 2020, 2021, and 2022, with the other nations.
COVID-19 is overwhelmingly “killing” people who were on the verge of dying from whatever came along next to tip their precarious health over the edge. Among 90+ year olds, the rate of death and survival from COVID-19 is around 50/50. I bet this is not a lot different to the rate of death and survival of the common cold in this age cohort. We just never see “common cold” on the death certificate; we see “pneumonia” or “heart disease” or whatever. Each age cohort has a lower and lower death rate from COVID-19, until below 40 it is close enough to zero as to be below statistical margins of error.
Sweden’s outcome is disproportionately Rest Home deaths. So too, is Britain’s outcomes – which closely match Sweden’s rate even though they have done a prolonged hard lockdown. In every nation’s death statistics, Rest Home residents are disproportionately represented. Merely being in a Rest Home is a powerful statistical predictor of impending death. Most of the fit, healthy elderly who are the likely survivors of COVID-19, and most other mild illnesses that come along, are not in Rest Homes. Then we have the Dementia patients. All context has been flung to the winds.
If we want to keep Rest Home patients out of the COVID-19 statistics for the sake of the overall score, and perhaps prolong feeble lives by one more season, we can work out how to do this without carpet-bombing the entire economy, society and health itself. If our experts don’t know how to keep COVID-19 out of Rest Homes, then lockdowns won’t keep it out of Rest Homes. If they do know how to keep it out of Rest Homes, then they can do that without lockdowns. The vulnerable who are not in Rest Homes, already tend to live lives informed by their knowledge of their own vulnerability. Again; they know they risk death at the hands of the common cold; they either live life to the full in the acceptance of this or they choose a life of limitation anyway without the government mandating this for everyone in addition to them.
It just isn’t good faith to accuse people like me who want context, of being “granny killers”. We get it that lockdowns are killers too, including of the active, self-helping elderly who are suddenly deprived of their daily routine of activity, or deprived of their check-up or treatment for conditions other than Covid that are also logically high risk for the elderly. Deaths “because of lockdown”, for many causes, will be higher for the elderly we thought we were trying to “protect”. One interesting statistic I saw from Britain, was that while deaths in Rest Homes from COVID-19 was high and deaths of other causes in Rest Homes was lower than usual (because COVID was “killing” the people that would normally be dying of something else), deaths of NON-Covid causes among elderly at their own homes was actually much higher than normal.
Brilliant narrative Phil & thanks for posting it. This should be mandatory reading for all the hand-wringing numpties out there – starting from the manipulative PM down.
How many people die of flu(And pneumonia) every year? If you calculate it as underlying AND associated causes(as with covid) It is probably 2,000 in NZ.
If you relate NZ to sweden, you have to adjust for NZ much younger population so probably 2,000 deaths. BUT sweden was taken by surprise by returning skiers from covid infected
Austria and Italy in February. NZ has had 5 months to prepare and learn from mistakes. My estimate is 800. 95% very old and very sick. Just part of life, no need to get mass
Youth unemployment and suicides for….
Sir Bob; you’ve been a voice for sanity on this all along. One problem we have now is that the humiliation that will be a consequence for those who have been hysterical and wrong all along, including “leaders” and “official experts”, and their media sycophants and their deluded masses of worshippers, means that the reckoning might be staved off forever. One faint hope is that the media will see mileage in turning on the experts who they misguidedly supported against so-called “contrarians” who actually turned out to be right. The whole true story could be a magnificent example of investigative journalism if the media can bring itself to doing it.
One quibble: you say the outbreak now is nothing to do with failures in border security? Do you believe it came in with frozen food; or it was present asymptomatically (or untested) all along since the last lockdown; or something else? I strongly believe that it was always possible for the quarantining arrangements to leak this virus to staff; or from recent arrivals to earlier arrivals who were about to be released into the community. I did not believe that our authorities and “experts” were competent to arrange “quarantining” that would actually work. They have been competent about exactly NOTHING so far.
Kiwis have no idea how backward our entire National health system is; the shortages of PPE and COVID test kits and materials; the inability to even consider antibodies testing to get more intelligent about true spread; the corollary allegation that asymptomatic spread was “not a thing”, (all the better to scare the sheeple about the deadliness); the ignoring of research in countries miles ahead of us in medical tech, including discoveries about T-cell “immunity” (up to 60% of people having this) and the corollary that herd immunity arrives after only a fraction of the deaths predicted by alarmist, GIGO computer modelers. Nope, we have a narrative, we have a St. Jacinda and a St. Ashley; we have an adoring mass of sheeple providing high-riding poll results, so St. Jacinda can “just dismiss” inconvenient questions! I hope against hope that this is the hubris of someone heading for the completely deserved subsequent fall, rather than someone who will get away with it forever. Pity help us.
Phil, absolutely correct.
But what pisses me off immeasurably are the outright lies regarding the availability of PPE, test kits and testing as enunciated by Ardern, Bloomfield, Woods and Hipkins on a daily basis.
Politics, not our health, both physical or economic trump their propaganda.
Yes the effects of the so called ‘ hard/early’ bullshit from ardern will haunt NZ for decades. Yet…if you believe polls ( I don’t ) 55% approx of people still think ardern is wonderful. Who are all these people? How do they get to vote..are they canvassed somehow..? Of my circle of family/friends, a very small number say they favour labour. I’m talking 10%. How about some of you…do you bother to ask? Or are ‘we’ all of the same mind, there’s bullshit afloat? Are the 55% the same 55% who think the world starts and ends with coronation street and endless house reno, cooking shows etc on tv? And don’t challenge themselves to think of the alternatives to what is fed via tv daily with the drama queen pulling faces while feeding us the ‘ bad news’ about the chinese flu?
Sir Bob. Recommending the Swedish approach might have economic benefits, but at the Swedish death rate to date, NZ would have had 2,866 deaths compared to the current NZ total of 22. Politically 2,866 deaths would have been hard to justify. The Denmark, Germany, Austria, Israel approaches with deaths rate around 100 per M would be much better to promote as NZ deaths would then be much less than 2,866 ay around 500.
The jury is still out on the Swedish strategy, or any approach for that matter.
But correct, as you, others and I have said before – the longer lockdowns go on the worse it is for us, particularly with the rest of the world continuing as it is.
The long-term disaster (especially economically, to speak of nothing else) of keeping the virus will inevitably be bigger than killing it in the egg was going to be, but as you say vaccines may not be possible and it may well be a lost battle doing anything else at this point.
Ideally, as is typical, the virus will become less deadly/virulent. Death isn’t the only concern of course, there’s many reasons we can’t sit on any high horses about what we know even now, mutations being but one.
I just hope we can learn some lessons for next time, as opposed to something like a crying-wolf scenario that clearly certain people believe it is.
The many, many people failing to see the difference between car crashes and a spreadable virus (including yourself apparently) leaves me almost speechless, describing them as ’halfwitted’ doesn’t do it justice.
Masks may prove to be our most useful tool if western people actually bring themselves to wear them.
Though beyond all else unemployment and inflation/deflation etc. shoes are soon to drop for sure.