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Covid fears and fortress mentality

Editorial

Rising concern sparked by the disastrous spread of Covid-19 in many countries, with new and more transmissible strains of the virus taking hold, seems to be cementing opposition to the idea of travel bubbles — at least for some time.

The latest example was the result of our weekly poll which showed that 58 percent of respondents believed there would not be a Transtasman travel bubble in 2021. The comment of one respondent that with the world in crisis it was far too dangerous is a view held by many.

Quite apart from the poll, you do not have to move far through the community to get the vibe that people want the border to be absolutely watertight. There also seems to be increasing opposition to New Zealanders being allowed to come home, unless and until they have been fully Covid-checked.

There is no doubt that reports from the United Kingdom and the United States have contributed to the rise of a sort of fortress mentality here. That is no surprise when you read articles like the one from a New Zealand nurse in the UK, that working in an intensive care clinic there was like having to run for an aeroplane every second throughout a 12-hour shift.

The National Health Service is under immense stress and there are predictions that the current wave there, which has been twice as devastating as the first one, will not peak for another two weeks.

The coronavirus is also spreading fast across Europe and in South America, and worldwide reported deaths from Covid-19 have passed the 2 million mark.

In the US, president-elect Joe Biden has announced a $US1.9 trillion economic package to combat Covid and restore the economy. He has also promised to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days — a logistical challenge that will require a massive improvement from what is being achieved now.

The remarkably fast and successful development of effective vaccines is going to provide the world the pathway out of this pandemic, as production of them ramps up — so it is worrying to hear doubts in some quarters from people who say they are not proven and they will wait and see. Caution is understandable but the approval process for these vaccines has been rigorous, and the goal of herd immunity will not be achieved without mass vaccination.

Here in New Zealand, while we enjoy the peak of summer, the bleak cloud of Covid continues to hang over us. Another community outbreak could be disastrous.