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Lockdown fatigue being recognised

Editorial

Our biggest city is now officially enduring the country’s longest Level 4 lockdown with yesterday’s extension through to midnight next Tuesday taking it to five weeks, two days longer than the nationwide lockdown of March/April last year.

It is Auckland’s fifth lockdown and many of its 1.6 million inhabitants are deeply frustrated at the ongoing disruption to their lives. It was no wonder the Prime Minister yesterday stressed the pain being caused by the lockdown and how we should all be grateful for Aucklanders bearing the brunt of Covid-19 impacts on behalf of the rest of the country.

The Government has also softened criteria for Auckland moving down to Level 3, saying there could still be unlinked community Covid cases, and signalling an “in principle” decision that it will do so on Wednesday next week. There was no such signal for the rest of the country’s Level 2 setting — Level 1 will no doubt require certainty the outbreak is fully contained.

For this week the focus has shifted from tracking down sources of transmission that link 17 mystery cases over the past fortnight to the outbreak, to surveillance testing in the seven Auckland suburbs where these cases suggest there could be unidentified spread. There is also a redoubled vaccination push, made possible by additional vaccine supply from Spain and Denmark.

High testing numbers in those suburbs this week is crucial for not only ensuring we do extinguish this outbreak, but also holding to the nation’s elimination strategy — which only has a limited remaining shelf life, but is saving lives and protecting our health system until such time as every eligible New Zealander has had the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

It was stating the obvious, but Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show this morning there was no intention to use lockdowns in the long term. For that public statement now we can possibly thank immunologist Graham Le Gros, director of the Malaghan Institute, who essentially pleaded yesterday for an end to “exhausting” lockdowns. Covid-19 was changing too much and we “can’t escape the virus”, he said. Instead there should be an all-out drive to get the first dose of vaccine into all unvaccinated Aucklanders by the end of this week.

“Major societal pressures are under way, and economic pressures . . . . At which point do you start worrying about all the cancer deaths and the other socially-induced deaths and all the alcoholism and things like that?” asked Professor Le Gros.

  1. Doug Smith says:

    I notice that some of the most vocal proponents of lifting public health measures are Pakeha business interests who lament the economic impacts of lockdowns and travel restrictions. When asked about the illness, death and fear ravaging all the other countries that lowered public health protections – especially for minorities and the poor – these anti-lockdown capitalists tend to talk out of both sides of the mouth, in one breath saying there are so few cases restrictions aren’t necessary, and in the next saying there is no way to control Covid so why bother trying. In the end, their only consistent complaint is about economic impacts on their business interests. They assume the rest of us should share this concern.

    Meanwhile, most of these privileged few and the people they know are vaccinated and eager to use their wealth to travel and to open New Zealand to foreign tourists.

    This reckless attitude is reminiscent of 17th and 18th century Europeans who came to Polynesia and the Americas for the purpose of trade and profit, and who disregarded the known risks from the infectious diseases they carried with them. The resulting waves of epidemics caused 70-90 percent declines in indigenous populations, and then these same Europeans blamed all of this on the “inferiority” of those devastated communities and “dying races”. From the 1860s to 1960s, these facts were twisted into a white supremacist worldview cloaked in the fleece of Christian piety. These poisoned spiritual fruits of self-centred greed and lust for power were widely accepted by Europeans of the time, including those who colonised Aotearoa.

    I wonder if generations will look back on our time and see that Covid health risks for Polynesians, the poor and those hesitant to accept the vaccine, risks that are a direct result of global travel and trade, were again explained away by double talk from impatient European businessmen and politicians – or will we refuse their reckless calls to lift restrictions and realise that those men’s personal power and profit has always mattered far less than they insist it does? Time will tell.