Opinion by Stewart Hydes
I think our Government has been doing OK over he covid19 virus — but then not great.
I agree with the “lockdown” – if anything, our borders should have been shut, and isolation forced / supervised, a lot earlier.
A short, sharp lockdown was necessary .. to force us to ‘get with the programme’ including adhering to physical distancing protocols etc .. and make sure we weren’t destined to become one of the hard-hit countries.
A major worry that should concern us all .. is that any money spent has to come from somewhere .. somebody has to pay for it.
There’s a whole lot of hitherto quite comfortable public sector employees .. still being paid at 100% from a fast-disappearing pool of public funds .. (actually, it’s gone, and all being wracked up as public debt) .. who have collectively got a big shock coming. Roughly speaking .. if 30% of private sector businesses have folded .. unfortunately, there needs to be a similar contraction in much of the public sector. If people fully comprehended this .. calls for an end to lockdown may become a good deal more strident.
Will those standing in front of microphones and enjoying the “popularist” limelight now .. have the courage to lead these tough decisions, in the weeks and months ahead?
We must remember .. regardless of who may be standing in front of the microphone – the main driving force behind the policy being implemented right now is the expert advice coming from the leading government agencies.
Although in such a national state of emergency .. even the top public officials are forced to front the media .. e.g Director General of Health, Police Commissioner etc, as we are seeing now.
It’s ‘all very nice’ being in lockdown .. but as we emerge, and the true economic devastation becomes clear .. as the reality of private sector job losses wracks up .. the public support packages dry up .. the dole queues grow .. and the financial pain bites deeper .. then, we’ll start to see the real picture.
Don’t get me wrong .. what we are seeing is a very slick PR operation. The public face of political leadership is doing a fantastic job.
But behind the scenes .. it’s night-time, and the Engine Room Telegraph is going off. The temperature’s going up .. the over-temp alarm is sounding .. the fuel line’s leaking dangerously, threatening to burst .. the main bearings are making terrible noises .. the hull’s creaking and groaning .. there are fires burning everywhere .. we’re taking on water .. the whole vessel is on an alarming list .. and still the Captain is calling for a steady course.
At some point, we’re gonna have to run ‘er aground, to avoid a capsize.
As after a hurricane has struck .. only when daylight comes, and we emerge, blinking, from our houses .. will we be able to begin taking stock, and survey the full extent of the damage …
Our greatest protections as a country .. remain our isolated borders, and our relatively low population density.
By comparison, for example – Singapore has 8,358 people per square kilometre .. we have 18.
Outside of our major cities .. many of us in rural New Zealand can physically-distance relatively easily.
I simply do not agree with where we are at now. Too many particularly rural and small-town businesses .. that can relatively easily accommodate reasonable physical distancing protocols .. are being required to stay closed .. or jump through too many hoops to open. Examples from non-lockdown countries .. coupled with how we are faring .. tell us a prolonged lockdown quickly becomes counter-productive, in the bigger picture. And economically, exponentially disastrous.
Of course, there is risk in any strategy .. but there is risk in crossing the road, too. We lose 3-400 people on our roads every year .. but we don’t plunge ourselves into such enormous economic and social chaos, to try and avoid that.
I believe we should:
* put even more effort into ring-fencing, protecting and supporting the elderly, the immuno -compromised, those with pre-existing conditions, and clusters;
* ask (require) people to maintain physical distancing protocols etc, wherever possible .. maybe even make wearing masks compulsory, in public places / at work (they may not stop you from contracting the virus – but it must help an infected person stop spreading it, i.e better than sneezing or coughing into your elbow);
* apart from this .. and maybe some other steps .. allow people outside those mentioned above .. to cautiously go back to work, as soon as possible
* remain on alert .. and be prepared to take further steps, if necessary
Best way I have come up with to describe the impact of the whole COVID-19 thing on businesses and the economy .. is to use an analogy of climbing Mt Everest:
· 1st week = Camp 1 – Khumbu Icefall, an early shock to the system
· 2nd week = Camp 2 – not too bad (surprisingly, climbing thru the Western Cwm, the greatest issue can be heat)
· 3rd week = Camp 3 – challenging, but OK (Lhotse Face and getting up to 8,000 metres, starting to get seriously quite technical now)
· 4th week = Camp 4 (last camp) – now, we are in the Death Zone, above 8,000 metres. Very few have been at this altitude before
· 5th week – Summit Push – fully in the Death Zone now – in my analogy, the rate of business failure is now sky-rocketing …
I’ve been working throughout the Lockdown, in an “Essential Services” business .. and quite seriously, it’s been fine.
The quicker we can all get back to work now .. the more we will (collectively) have to go back to.