A week back a Victorian Treasury economist, Sanjeev Sabhlok, resigned in protest at the absurdly dictatorial situation imposed by the now widely loathed State Premier to combat the coronavirus. He made some interesting observations in an Australian Financial Review explanatory article.

Largely his criticism was of a grossly disproportionate response that did not pay proper regard to the hugely adverse economic, social and health consequences of the Victorian government’s totally over the top approach. One of his observations is worth noting. I quote him as follows.

 “The whole thing hinges on the scare created by politicians and health officials. For instance, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton claims this is the greatest public health challenge since the Spanish flu. But this is no Spanish flu, which killed at least 50 million people world-wide in 1918 when the global population was 1.8 billion. Proportionality, to be as lethal the coronavirus would have to kill at least 210 million people today. Instead only 0.9 million have died so far. Compare this also with the 60 million who ordinarily die each year.”

This is familiar stuff for Kiwis, many, myself included having made similar charges of disproportional reactions. Initially we were accused of placing money over lives, but no longer. There’s real anger seething in Auckland now and I believe the government senses it. With the election a month away, I expect and hope a more realistic approach will be adopted.

How to respond to the unknown has been a tough call for governments and a kicking for touch approach was initially understandable.

But we cannot continue with lockdowns every time there’s fresh outbreaks, something European governments are now accepting as constant new outbreaks occur.

If there’s no successful vaccine, which is a possibility, it may well be that the world, albeit inadvertently, will find itself following Sweden’s path.

As the Economist wrote recently, “Most people quickly recover form Covid 19. For them covid-19 is a brief mild illness and between a third and half of those infected do not have any symptoms.”

We now know who the vulnerable are (the elderly, those with underlying health issues and the obese) and protecting them should be the primary concern.

That said, the point of the Economist piece was the fact that some who’ve had the virus and don’t fit the vulnerable three categories, are suffering from on-going health issues as a consequence.

That said, I repeat, we cannot continue closing down every time there’s an outbreak. A week ago I compared the motoring fatalities figures with the virus death rate and asked why aren’t we banning motor vehicles to be consistent. It’s a good analogy in another respect beyond fatalities.

Probably there are dozens of motoring accidents every day. Most result in damaged vehicles but no injuries. Some cause bruising or broken limbs while a tiny handful have long lasting effects (wheelchair bound etc.) So too with the virus and its effects.

It’s time for common-sense to prevail, something Professor Mark Woolhouse, the Chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh called for two days ago. The Professor is a member of both a UK and a Scotland Covid-19 Advisory Group. 

Describing the current strategy as a cure worse than the disease, Woolhouse slammed the disproportionate response to date. “We cannot continue with a crippling on-off cycle of circuit breakers until we get a vaccine. This is a very important virus but for the great majority of people, not nearly so unpleasant that we should shut down society to deal with it.

We can help individuals assess the risk to themselves and the people around them enabling everyone to mitigate those risks while ensuring the most vulnerable are protected and thereby minimise the need for government-led interventions. Would that work? It seems to be working in Sweden”.

In my view the current response in New Zealand is infantile.

It’s way, way, way overdue for an end to Ashley Bloomfield’s daily radio and television “presentations” at garrulous lengths and out of all proportion to the reality of the situation.

Even worse is a reappearance of the embarrassing mush inflicted on the public back in March, namely the childish “Be Kind” messaging. 

Now on the Hutt-Wellington motoring another hugely embarrassing electronic sign has appeared, specifically, “Be Brave”. The Health Department flea responsible for this should be dragged out from under his bed and (Wellington’s public servants are still cowering at home while the private sector is back at work – no surprise with either category) publicly flogged.  

As one critic of Britain’s (there are now a flood of them from experts there) wrote recently, “Government does not solve problems – it subsidises them” which sums up the current situation here in New Zealand – oops – my apologies – Aotearoa.  


Some very interesting points by this former economist for Victoria Govt in Australia. Especially re the creative genius of business people and the public to create solutions as opposed to a dogmatically imposed cental control by those who are out of touch with the economic and social effects of lockdowns. Well worth listening right through – and at least twice!! https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6191658847001?fbclid=IwAR0EG6IB2GLRodW5h8KiEYdcqHIcJFmGH1ElB8yByZ-SapmYgB4F0cGmkpo

    NZ private sector people here trying to help were battered into incredulity. Many examples. When Govt declared PPE unavailable, a few businesspeople made some calls and a chartered plane later, handed over. Rather than reply, cool, let’s make stuff happen, I hear it was regarded an embarrassment, hushed up, businesspeople shaking heads. Sam Morgan card recently presented another example. Actually that was known about in April, but couldn’t even be mentioned then, yet when decent tracing capacity was mentioned by Sam months later, even then couldn’t have logical, evidence-based conversation, slammed back as not fitting narrative we had ‘gold standard’ already. (Clue: we never had, don’t, and likely never will), and ‘too expensive’ (rather than 100m, better to spend unlimited billions indefinitely apparently). Ditto when I suggested all-population testing in April, when NZ doing fewer than 1000 tests a day claiming ‘gold standard’ and media lapping up 1500 as a ‘surge’, the problem was perceived difficulty getting tests. One of three strategies could have solved it within 1-3 weeks, with 10 million tests, but the (perceived difficulty) tail wagged the (outcome) dog rather than strategy and tactics flowing from objective as taught in project management 101. Wider science and private sector skills didn’t get a look in. That said, world class message management. As a political scientist, amazing to observe, masterclass stuff, opposition and media completely in control, a great case study one day.

    Yes its an excellent piece. It would seem the genie is climbing well & truly out of the bottle in Oz but our quivering leftist media won’t go near it – except for the virtually lone voice of Hosking….. Our PM would not like listening to this interview. Or the Alan Jones clip either for that matter. Most folk cannot see that politicians are using this “pandemic” for purely political, and in NZ’s case, re-election purposes. Its a bloody disgrace smothered over by the never-ending smiling & frowning Ardern telling us to ‘be kind’, ‘be brave’, ‘team of 5 million’, ‘teddy bears’ & that ‘we went hard & early’. What a crock of childish shite.

Bob, cannot agree more.
Caught Alan Jones pontificating about the situation in Victoria.
A must watch.
Problem here is that Cindy and her sycophants are solely concerned about the politics of Covid- 19 and will continue to play it out for all its worth until the election.
The health ( particularly mental health) of our citizens and the carnage ripping through our economy is of no concern for the current socialist / communist administration.
The Health Department flea you mention is not the only one who should be dragged out to a public square and publicly flogged.
Venezuela / North Korea here we come !

Have you looked at the website of ‘Covid planB’, Sir Bob? A group of highly esteemed (albeit none with pink hair) Professors, Epidemiologists, Grant Morris (Vic Uni law lecturer) etc whom would totally agree with you that our response is OTT and in fact dangerous. They point out that States in the US that have been in lockdown have very similar cases/ deaths as States without lockdown. They also say that masks are not shown to prove effective. They also research treatments which are very successful As you say, many illnesses (or accidents) can have lingering effects eg sometimes the flu can go on for months, Glandular fever etc; but the covid cases, although rare, are highlighted by the press. Please can we go to life as per Sweden, the world can not keep functioning like this!! I do wish the Government would listen to other experts such as these Plan B ones-a scarey thought is that their statements early on in lockdown were actually shut down/ removed.

    Saffron, totally agree.
    Why, oh why from today’s “ pulpit of truth “ in AKL did Bloomfield and Ardern state that they had “ talked to Hendy and his team today “?
    This is the idiot who advised Ardern that 88,000 could die if we did not immediately go to level 4 in March.
    He is directly responsible for the economic carnage, a rising suicide rate , the loss of our civil liberties and the unrelenting fear that Ardern has used at every opportunity to keep the impressionable in line.
    All three should be publicly flogged, then exported to Siberia.
    Putin will know how to address their misleading statements that will result in my grandchildren’s children repaying our debt.

Sad it’s only seriously starting to surface now. Scores of scientists, myself included, and you Sir Bob, tried to call this out back in March, in my case imploring a multi-disciplinary, critical thinking approach with a broader outcomes-orientation, open to considering all strategies enabling better health and economic outcomes simultaneously, beyond simplistic uni-science and one-track approach. (The health/economy either/or is indeed a false dichotomy, but BOTH ways, causing untold extra harm in both dimensions if focusing on one then the other rather than simultaneously). All independent scientists and countries non-conformist to the dominant/constructed narrative were shut down, ignored, ridiculed, ‘countered’ with spurious ‘facts’ and spurious ‘evidence’, with the media magnifying rather than critically testing the narrative. Covid is serious, but is unprecedented not as a pandemic (it’s barely middling – better compared not with 1918 but 1957/1968 (remember them? nope, few do)), but for its unprecedented response massively increasing its harm, unnecessarily and avoidably. NZ might have avoided lockdown entirely, possibly enabled borders to remain open, likely saved more lives, and certainly inflicted vastly less economic damage (and its concomitant additional social and health harms), but, as predicted way back then, by March was insistently and inexorably on track with blinders fully fixed to lurch up and down lockdown levels, exacerbating harm.

I live in regional Victoria (Ballarat) having moved post earthquake. Its not an exaggeration to say Dan Andrews is loathed state wide. It is beyond stupid and pointless to keep attacking civil liberties under the guise of safety. Outside of a few Post Codes in Melbourne, that are largely inhabited by new migrants who often don’t understand or cooperate with the masks/distance requirement there basically is no virus. Plainly when you lock people away-contact and disease spreads. QED. However this leads to the question of what the end game is? Lock everyone away for ever? Obviously this has to end & viral transmission will just be part of life-as it largely is already.
A colleague recently pointed out that Dan Andrews will never willingly give up the amount of power now agglomerated in his position. Wait for the next step- “Ministry Approval” before any business can restart. Shades of 1935 Moscow.

Sorry-That should say “when you lock people away contact and disease spreads deccelerate”

100% agree Bob. This for some time now has been about ‘people control’ via a socialist/communist PM totally drunk on power not wanting to waste this once in a lifetime opportunity to smile at the cameras every day & tell those still hiding under their beds shaking & quivering in fear that shes saved them all so 2 ticks Labour please!
Here is the Alan Jones TV commentary referred to by JJH above.
https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/international-news/disease/covid-19-the-great-hoax-in-history-as-evidence-surfaces/ utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=RSS

    You may be right MB63. Personally, however, I try to assume the positive in people until proven otherwise, so tend to the view that the PM and most officials are genuine in their belief that they are doing the right thing. (And heartened in this view that Dr Bloomfield has admitted to self-doubt). And, with respect, labeling, common in what passes for commentary in the US, is, in my experience, often wrong and almost always unhelpful.

    My hypothesis, however, is troubling if that presumed genuineness is itself a barrier to enabling genuine critical debate seeking optimal outcomes.

    Likewise, if the tight message control externally (necessary in crisis) also extends internally, thereby suppressing the critical exchange and rigorous testing of ideas enabling better outcomes. Calm message control externally is vital, but a controlled chaos in the engine room is a healthier sign than everyone aligned with the narrative. (In each case I mean ‘critical’ in the pure sense, not criticism).

    You are spot on.
    I saw Cindies party add which centres on vote for me because I keep you safe (alive). Nearly made me vommit.
    Should say vote for me because because bankruptcy is cool.
    And Ron, your second senario is correct. So many fawn over her that they forget to question the illogical happened in front of them.
    I still have to ponder the lack of backbone being shown throughout the world. Today a celebration of the Battle of Britain. Thank God none of our modern leaders were leading back then. We may all be speaking German. Even Winston had party members ready to surrender right?

      Thanks ‘edge’. What troubles me is not that politicians dissemble and use attack narratives irrespective facts, evidence. Nor use ‘trust us, not that’ in response to misinformation – and conveniently extend it into anything not fitting their narrative. It’s what they do.

      I’m deeply troubled scientists have been doing it too, piling into everything that is indeed misinformation, as well as stuff that actually has a scientific basis but happens to be outside their area, and unreflectively repeating a narrative with the weight of science that is sometimes more narrative weighted than science.

      Equally troubling that the media, another bastion of truth (as we once knew it at least) piles in likewise, repeating it all without pause to consider or research. Even RNZ, one of the last left standing that actually try, a few days ago listing some misinformation tropes, from QAnon to anti-mask. On the latter there is serious scientific debate, yet they glibly parroted a political talking point without a skerrick of research or apparent care for fact, evidence and the elusive concept of truth.

      If this is that path that scientists and journalists are now on, it frankly frightens me. Not so much for Covid but future issues, such as a pandemic on 1918 scale (bar the self-inflicted harm, C19 as a pandemic is currently less than 1/200th) or when things truly unprecedented arrive.

Sir Bob, what about the fifteen people who are hospitalized for every Covid death? Our health system simply couldn’t cope if the Government changed its response. Then you have the hospital staff who would be put at at risk and their families.

You cannot isolate the elderly, the obese and those with underlying health conditions until a vaccine is found. Those combined three groups would be hundreds of thousands of people.

Rather than broadly criticize the Government’s response, why not write how you would deal with the pandemic in precise terms.

I have an underlying health condition but still manage twelve km runs. I say thank goodness Jacinda is in charge or any one of us in the above three groups would need to read that Be Brave sign if another political party thought the economy is more important than the pandemic.

The car fatality analogy is a poor one to use as there are many people who die in car accidents from speeding, drinking, not wearing seatbelts and the like. They knowingly increase their risks and therefore are liable for the consequences. Not so with the pandemic. Why should a person with an underlying health condition or someone who is elderly be put at an increased risk because the Government’s response to the pandemic is affecting the economy.

    So, what’s precise Covid-related hospitalization rate in NZ?
    As for the hospital staff being “put at risk” that’s what hospital staff is employed for. Is the other purpose of hospitals and medical personnel? Perhaps, if hospital staff wants to avoid all risks associated with contagious diseases it should look for alternative employment. Apparently the fruit growers are soon to be desperate for labour…

    Of course you can lock these groups away. Chances are they are either retired or on a sickness benefit already to create nothing. They are being supported by the tax payer already.
    Because they don’t work they CAN stay home, get groceries etc on line.
    Maybe you are confusing can’t with don’t want to or visa versa.
    You could, and should, create a business out of providing for this subsection of our community.
    You call on Sir Bob to disclose his plan. I ask you to disclose your business! Or are you a retired public servant ?

Trouble is its not comparable to the road toll Bob. Lets say we made as big a mess of our control strategy as Trump has made of America’s; then we’d have 61 deaths per 100,000 population or 3000 deaths so far with many more to come. This is about 10 times the road toll. And these deaths occur on top of the normal NZ mortality rate. The overcrowding in our hospital and morgues would be horrendous – doctors, nurses and other health staff would be effectively put into a war zone type environment. A surprising proportion of our medical staff are over 65 and will be at life threatening risk every day they go to work. Great Britain has recorded 200 Nurses killed by Covid but this under estimates the true number as most deaths are not in the public domain. Witness the public out pouring of grief for the Policeman killed in the line of duty recently and realise that every health worker killed in the line of duty is as big a tragedy.
Yes, people who die of Covid are probably going to die of something else anyway but surely that applies to every death. And remember most Covid deaths are long and lonely (and expensive – ICU care is not cheap).
Also remember that the mortality rate from any number of other causes will increase simply because there wont be enough health care to go around.
I invite you to consider this analogy – I reckon it fits the situation better than your road toll one; so, a new form of transportation is suddenly available to us in New Zealand that would revolutionise our economy, bring new wealth to many and increased opportunities for all. But: we could be fairly certain that this new innovation would cause more than 3000 deaths in its first year – that’s 3000 over and above the 300+ currently dieing on our roads. Some would say “Ok lets take the economic growth and sacrifice the people”. I might even agree – provided it was guaranteed not to be me, or my mother, or my wife the nurse.
I’m backing Dr Bloomfield thus far.

    I think Scott you are missing the latest analysis of the virus as clearly highlighted by Swedens death curve.
    They still have the virus, also have an open functioning economy.
    Their death rate has stalled to almost nil from C 19. Early deaths were tragic but primarily in people close to death already.
    Recovery rates are extremely high worldwide as better ways to treat the infection have immerged.
    I would be interested to hear about your business and economic knowledge and experience.
    Also as thousands lose their jobs businesses and soon, homes will you be happy to lose your pension because the Govt can no longer afford it because the covid response murdered the economy???

Most causes of death/injury are idiosyncratic and if involving other people have a very limited maximum bound with relevant times frames of split seconds. A disease if sufficiently spreadable is multiplicative and often lingering with almost no fixed upper limit save for the entire population.

Bang on sir bob ! We all take our chances in life n can’t pander to the scared , if you’re that freaked out then do the decent thing and lock yourself away and let the rest of us get on with it . Wreck your own economic situation n destroy your own freedom … not mine

frederickwilliscroft September 21, 2020 at 6:58 pm

15 people hospitalised for every death. What nonsense. In Sweden they have had over 5800 deaths. Number of people admitted to Intensive care 2,588 as at 15 September. Surely that should have been 77,000? Currently Sweden are having about 200 cases a day (well below most countries in Europe) Number of people in intensive care at the moment – 14. I think they are coping OK !

In New Zealand we were told that thousands would die by idiots like Wiles and Hendry. Intensive care units would be over run. The reality was we had over 1800 cases with 25 deaths (most elderly from rest homes) and Intensive care units stayed empty while crucial operations were postponed and cancelled.

This argument of lives over economy is just ridiculous.The economic and social devastation that is being unleashed will be devastating. This damage, which will take years to recover after only 5 months of lockdown/partial lockdown. Heaven knows what will happen if we get another outbreak of Covid.

It is expected many extra deaths will occur because of delayed diagnosis – particularly cancer. The number of people who will commit suicide,more heart attacks, strokes. Already mental health services are warning of huge increase in stress and anxiety as people lose their jobs and business’s go bust. Today in Wellington walking through the CBD the number of empty shop fronts was depressing.

Frankly the government and Bloomfield have made a complete hash of the response. I prefer the Swedish approach but failing that we could have imitated Taiwan. Economy remained open – using technology and a number of innovative measures they have been incredibly successful. Population 23 million – 7 deaths, 500 cases. GDP forecast predicted to be a reduction of around 0.48%.

To me the heroes of Covid are Tsai Ing-Wen and Dr Anders Tegnell. I wish we could swap them for the hapless Adern and Bloomfield.

Did any of the political parties do a lock down cost to benefit analysis?
I suspect after overwhelming public support for the lock down, from a terrified public.
The average voter being fed a diet of sensational news reporting, death, sickness, and disease.
The facts were seldom publicized, instead academics like Hendry, Wiles, Veral were promoted to levels of importance, they would otherwise never attain from their insignificant existence.
Low and behold, all our politicians, came to the realization that Corona virus lock down, had a definite vote benefit analysis outcome.
So here we are at the cusp of the election, outright majority, and total control is within reach.

    God save us from the lunatics!
    If only he actually existed.
    What does Sir Bob call them , the sky gaizers.
    Hence I fear we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

It’s a cunning plan on behalf of the Queen of Hindsight…
Screw things up bad enough but keep smiling & she’ll be a dead cert’ for a cushy UN job one day. The UN Commission of Kindness Through Failure would be a good fit

Good on you Bob, bout time!

Tonight’s debate will be an interesting one, having to listen to the patronising “gummy mummy” letting us all know how kind she’s been. Would be good if she wore a mask as it would hide those bloody annoying teeth

Frederick, fifteen people requiring hospital “care” not “intensive care” to every one covid death is a statistic released from the World Health Organization. Your information on Sweden only relates to intensive care.

Theedgeisnigh, to answer your question, I’m a commercial property investor and are many years away from the pension, not that I’ll ever need it. One in five people worldwide have an underlying health condition so based upon your logic, excluding the other two high risk covid categories of being elderly or obese, we should lock away one million Kiwis.

Taieri, two hundred U.K. nurses have died from Covid. Do you think that’s acceptable?

    Nice to be rich, comfortable, happy to watch people lose jobs, businesses, homes and probably hope!
    As you provided no source for your figures I was forced to research and stopped right at home. We have had 1824 cases 25 deaths. You and I know those deaths have been primarily in rest home patients with the life quality of …..?
    I can’t find anything about underlying conditions but again we know, the real conditions of threat are OLD AGE (although 70%+ of those recover) heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Probably add in there alcohol, drug abuse and aids. All of us age but few of us are born with the other issues making those issues a result of personal choice. They need the same personal choice to “look after themselves ” and “take care”. It appears you think the majority should suffer for the minority which appears to be standard fare in the world today.
    Re health care worker deaths i agree this is disappointing just as soldiers deaths in any conflicts are tragic. But stuff happens. The suicides from lives destroyed by economic destruction will also be tragic. If you read a little it would appear most health care deaths have been put down to poor, or no, PPE. Who’s fault is that?
    Like you I’m very comfortable but years in the finance industry tell me this will not well. Protecting those already being paid by the state (and can permanently self isolate at no cost) at the expense of a countries economic future makes zero sense. Maybe when all your commercial properties are empty you will understand.

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