Ardern opted for ‘go hard go early’ after listening to friends overseas

New Zealand was lucky that Covid-19 had already made an impact in some countries before spreading here, and some lessons could be learned from what happened elsewhere.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she took advice from friends overseas before deciding to ‘go hard, go early’. So far this appears to have been a relatively successful strategy.

Stuff: Inside Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus bubble: What’s on the PM’s mind during Covid-19 crisis

When friends overseas painted a bleak picture of the advancing pall of coronavirus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern listened.

“[They were] saying, ‘Go, just shut down, because here I am in lockdown with thousands of people dying. Just shut down’,” she tells Stuff‘s Coronavirus NZ podcast.

It helped make the decision to “go hard and go early”, to close New Zealand’s borders and enforce a lockdown.

By day (and into the night, too), Ardern is receiving counsel from scientists, senior officials and Cabinet colleagues.

But she’s also revealed how personal connections with people overseas have played a part in helping make up her mind about how to act against Covid-19.

One friend in Britain, a Kiwi, has been “really unwell” with the virus, and another has had to take over as caregiver for the floor of their apartment because they’re the only ones who aren’t sick.

“So it really does give you that sense of its very close proximity to everyone over there.”

A personal perspective can change the way you view things. That’s a good thing – people in power are at risk from getting too remote from ordinary lives.

This was also reported in Australia’s Daily Mail – New Zealand PM reveals how she switches off in her downtime – and why she imposed some of the world’s harshest coronavirus restrictions – which included this comparison:

a close up of a map

That’s a couple of days old and is cases, but our low death rate suggests that for now at least the quick and comprehensive lockdown has been relatively effective.

Newsroom have daily charts that show COvid-19 progress here – Covid-19 in NZ – Saturday’s numbers charted

That’s at the same time as the number of tests have increased.

So for now New Zealand is doing fairly well, but a lot now depends on how well we keep limiting the number of infections, and that will depend on how we ease out of our Level 4 lockdown, and if we virtually eliminate Covid-19 from New Zealand, how we manage people travelling here from overseas. Quarantines for all people arriving in the country were announced by Ardern on Thursday:

That’s why from midnight tonight every New Zealander boarding a flight to return home will be required to undergo quarantine or what we have called managed isolation in an approved facility for a minimum of 14 days.

I am also signalling that the requirement for 14 days of quarantine or managed self-isolation in a government-approved facility, will be a prerequisite for anyone entering the country in order to keep the virus out.

As an island nation we have a distinct advantage in our ability to eliminate the virus, but our borders are also our biggest risk.

The Government has gone harder earlier with border measures compared to other countries, but even one person slipping through the cracks and bringing the virus in can see an explosion in cases as we have observed with some of our bigger clusters.

The quarantining of returning New Zealanders will be a significant undertaking.

A network of up to 18 hotels will be used to implement this approach, of which one to two will be specifically set aside for those under strict quarantine conditions.

This could be required for some time – months at least – if it is going to stop Covid-19 from coming back into the country.

The other big task is getting business and jobs back up and running as soon and as safely as possible.

Level 4 has come with some heavy restrictions. That has required difficult decisions around services and businesses that can and cannot operate.

We need to give similar more detailed guidance on what life at Level 3 looks like, and we will do that next week. That will give us a window to iron out questions and issues, and make sure we’re as prepared as we can be when it comes time to move.

It is then my intention that on the 20th of April, two days before the lockdown is due to finish, Cabinet will make a decision on our next steps. That’s because we need to use the most up to date data that we have to make that decision.

I think that Ardern will more likely be talking to friends and people involved in business in New Zealand to get advice on this.

A month in lockdown will have had a big effect on many businesses, but most should survive and be able to get up and running as much as is possible in the current circumstances.

The travel and tourism sectors have been badly affected and there’s no quick fix for them no matter what we do here in New Zealand. Air travel, cruise ships and international tourism everywhere have been virtually stopped, and it could be a long time to build them back up.

Internal tourism may mitigate this to some extent if we quickly eliminate Covid-19 from New Zealand if Kiwis have holidays closer to home rather than traveling the world.

It’s hard to know how quickly other business sectors will get back into gear, and whether they can get back to previous levels of sales, services and trade.

Because of what is happening and may happen in other countries there may limits to the business recovery here that we can’t do anything about. We will just have to deal with that the best we can.

 

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34 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  12th April 2020

    I suspect we’ve been in a media self-congratulatory fools paradise with infections mainly in younger travellers and now the virus has got into resthomes our fatality rate will be far less impressive.

    Reply
    • David

       /  12th April 2020

      Unfortunately this looks like the path we are now going down. The policy advice for rest homes has been poor especially given the advance warnings form overseas and how they are staffed with a large component of immigrants, at the very least when we shut the border to the Chinese stronger protocols should have been in place for rest home workers with a mandatory 2 week wait before returning to work. I find it ridiculous that there isnt more testing going on there given we have spare testing capacity, we are locked down as is the border.

      Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  12th April 2020

    As for the economy, at least three close family members look like losing their jobs around the country. This is going to get very ugly.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  12th April 2020

      the underlying weakness in the international financial system means it will be very ugly…indeed.
      C19 is the trigger.

      Reply
      • This is the end stage of capitalism. Markets don’t exist to serve people; people exist to serve markets. And that means people should be willing to sacrifice anything, including their lives, to prevent market disruption. /s

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  12th April 2020

          Replace the word markets with freedom and think about it again, Ishmael.

          Reply
        • Pink David

           /  12th April 2020

          “And that means people should be willing to sacrifice anything, including their lives, to prevent market disruption

          How many lives get lost in your desired ‘market disruption?’

          What’s the butcher’s bill?

          Reply
  3. Blazer

     /  12th April 2020

    A very misleading,mischievious politically motivated, headline worthy of the Sunday News.

    Reply
  4. Patricia

     /  12th April 2020

    She didn’t go hard and she didn’t go early.

    People such as myself (just a 73-year-old sittin in m’ house) who saw what was happening over the seas was shouting “close the bloody borders” at least two weeks before we did so.
    And when we finally ‘closed the borders’ we still let people through. We didn’t test them, we didn’t monitor them, but let them wander willy nilly throughout the land dispensing their germs.

    If we had gone early and hard, we would not be in lockdown.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  12th April 2020

      you should be P.M….any other good ideas ?

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  12th April 2020

      Closing the borders and proper contact tracing and testing has had a far greater impact than the lockdown I suspect.

      Reply
      • NOEL

         /  12th April 2020

        When we get to the lessons learned phase will be the time to reflect on our putting money into the WHO.

        How their spokesman could sit on the world stage and claim it wasn’t get a pandemic, when reporting around that world was identifying it was, retained his job is beyond me.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  12th April 2020

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure he also spent a week or more telling the world it shouldn’t be banning travel from China. Aljazeera tv was carrying all his briefings & announcements live. Then he later walked back from that. The dude is only wise after the event.

          Reply
    • Duker

       /  12th April 2020

      “still let people through”
      They were NZs which we cant restrict – like every other country. Do we make them stay overseas, mostly Australia and starve on the streets
      The numbers of 5000 per day meant lock down quarantine wasnt possible, but people who circumstances meant they could isolate at home did so and those that couldnt were put for 2 weeks at Government expense.
      perhaps 73 yr olds dont know enough to comment especially when they say nonsense like ‘wander willy nilly through out the land’
      Has the contact tracing shown that to have a shred of truth ?
      One cluster in Auckland is said to have been spread ‘between family groups during lockdown’

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  12th April 2020

      Describe the ‘early and hard’ you would have implemented which would have seen no lockdown.

      Reply
  5. duperez

     /  12th April 2020

    It’s quite likely those who made decisions you don’t agree with also saw what was happening overseas. It’s quite likely many with knowledge and experience were involved in all sorts of consultation about what to do and when.

    It’s a pity they didn’t consult every 73 year old sitting in their home. Especially those with the prescience enabling them to explain to the decision makers exactly how things would pan out given various scenarios.

    Reply
  6. Germany and South Korea made testing a priority, and that is an important factor in why they have the fewest rates of new cases and the fewest deaths per capita than any other nations on earth. Large numbers of tests followed by rigorous protocols for mandatory quarantine of infected persons has kept the numbers of deaths low. With fewer people infected, Germany and South Korea can focus their resources on care and treatment.

    Germany performs 500,000 tests per week. South Korea performs 150,000 tests a week. We need to continue to push testing along.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  12th April 2020

      It gives me great pleasure to agree with you, Ishmael. Keep it up.

      Reply
  7. Tom Hunter

     /  12th April 2020

    She didn’t go hard and she didn’t go early.

    I get why the Jacindamaniacs in the MSM keep repeating this lie, plus those blogs slavishly devoted to Labour and the Greens, but I thought this blog set itself apart from such worship of our political leaders.

    Reply
    • I think New Zealand (not Ardern) did go relatively hard and early relative to when Covid started increasing here and compared to other countries. It’s not worshiping anything, it’s seeing things as they are.

      It’s funny that some who challenge the’hard and early’ line often also complain about how hard New Zealand went, but also complain about not going early enough on some actions that weren’t done so hard and early.

      I see a lot more of criticism of Ardern regardless of what she does and how she does it than worshiping of her.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  12th April 2020

        “It’s funny that some who challenge the’hard and early’ line often also complain about how hard New Zealand went, but also complain about not going early enough on some actions that weren’t done so hard and early.”

        Isn’t the entire point of going early to not have to go hard? NZ seems to have achieved the worst of both worlds, slack boarder control (given the idea that this virus was not present in NZ), coupled with the imprisonment of the entire population and institution rules to control almost all public behavior.

        The whole point of an effective reaction early would have been to allow NZ to carry on largely as normal.

        There is little logic in the sequence and extreme level of NZ’s reaction. Nor has there been any serious debate about the consequences.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  12th April 2020

          Probably in line for a Damehood though.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  12th April 2020

            Yep, could be Simon’s parting gift to her.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  12th April 2020

              I doubt she would accept one.

              The Tories love titles,thats why the first order of business for the Key Govt was reintroducing…them.

              Dame Jenny,Sir Douglas……a rogues gallery ,beyong compare.

            • Conspiratoor

               /  12th April 2020

              B, one is left with the uncomfortable thought that Key’s stint at the helm, resuscitation of the entitled knightwackery and subsequent obligatory gong were all part of a carefully cultivated career path.

              But hey as you say, he’s in good company

        • Blazer

           /  12th April 2020

          ‘The whole point of an effective reaction early would have been to allow NZ to carry on largely as normal.’

          =do nothing….then…very good.

          Reply
          • Pink David

             /  12th April 2020

            “=do nothing….then…very good.”

            Largely as normal does not equal do nothing.

            Reply
    • duperez

       /  12th April 2020

      Does simply asking questions of those who say Ardern got it so wrong attract the label ‘Jacindamaniac’?

      What would you have done and what would the impact have been? How do you know that’s how it would have panned out?

      Sport is off the agenda but our main sport goes on. We’re saying what the players in whatever position should have done and how they should have done it. We’ve already said the wrong team was picked. And of course we’re rubbishing the tactics.

      But it’s not about the winning and losing though. A victory of 58 nil should have been one of 158 nil. If I’d picked the team, the starting time and the tactics, the score would have been a long way past 158. How do I know? I just do.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  12th April 2020

        😳

        Wot ?

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  12th April 2020

          Sorry. I read a couple of books which talked about abstract thought, the ability to see relationships between things and the age of cognitive development.

          I’m used to living and working with some further down the line. If I were with others further back I would have said:

          Tom Hunter said Ardern didn’t go hard and she didn’t go early. Tom Hunter implied that those believing Ardern or not attacking her are jacindamaniacs.
          I asked him what he would have done in Ardern’s place and how it would have panned out.

          Just as I know if I’d picked the All Blacks Rugby World Cup team last year and prepared them they would have won the trophy, Hunter knows if he had been in charge and made the decisions around coronavirus in NZ things would be so much better. I know about my rugby thing with the same certainty that Hunter knows about NZ and dealing with the coronavirus situation.

          (Take back that part about the rugby and me, but I know some who think that.)

          Reply
          • David

             /  12th April 2020

            She went pretty hard with shutting the country down, more brutally than most but she was woeful on the border but she still manages to manipulate the media by saying repeatedly she had strict border controls when she had no such thing. I still give her an 7/10 so far with one point off each for severity of lock down, border and miserly wage subsidy while increasing benefits and winter fuel allowances.
            I think the media enjoy bathing in the sunshine of glowing overseas coverage of “our gal” much like like NZers do when overseas people talk about the All Blacks, its flattering to be noticed. I think it was Audrey Young who talked about visiting the UN with Ardern and being surrounded by her international media colleagues all wanting to talk to her, an unusual occurence and one she thoroughly enjoyed.

            Reply
      • Tom Hunter

         /  12th April 2020

        Since I now write for the blog No Minister I have a platform beyond simple comments so I can point to a piece I wrote on January 29 urging the government here to lock down the China flights at a minimum, Faster Please, just as the USA was about to do.

        Containment is the only way to beat a disease, but the idea – given that we’re an isolated island nation – was that shutting down our borders first and totally for people and focusing on isolating the most at-risk internal groups (old age homes etc) would be the best way to go about this.

        Instead we still had Adern telling New Zealanders on March 10 that:

        Jacinda Ardern does not want Kiwis to avoid public gatherings amid the COVID-19 outbreak despite asking officials for advice on two events this weekend.

        Four days later she was forced to cancel the 15 March Christchurch Mosque commemorations and then a week later it was lockdown time. Well of course: by then it ws TINA,

        Reply

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