World Covid trends

It appears for now the worst may be over in Italy and Spain for now at least, the death climb seems to have at least flattened (current total 15,362 in Italy, 11,744 in Spain) and Italy has recorded the lowest daily increase for two weeks.

Spain Virus Cases Pass Italy, Where Daily Deaths Are Falling

Spain’s confirmed cases increased by 7,026 to 124,736 over the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 809 to 11,744. Total cases are now higher than Italy’s 124,632, where the country reported the fewest number of new deaths since March 26. In France, the total number of fatalities rose to 7,560 and the U.K. reported its deadliest day yet with an increase of 708 deaths.

The virus has crippled Europe at different times with most countries now in some form of lockdown, even as nations like Sweden and the U.K. were more reluctant to take drastic measures earlier. Governments and policy-makers are scrambling to find ways to mitigate the damage with entire economies headed into deep recession and a common approach still elusive.

Spain to extend state of emergency to April 26 as rise in infections slows

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday he would ask parliament to extend lockdown measures by 15 days until April 26, as the rate of new coronavirus infections and deaths slowed again in one of the world’s worst-hit countries.

But they still have significant problems – RNZ Live:

As nursing and care homes across Europe try to stop the spread of Covid-19 among the elderly, France has revealed 1416 rest-home residents have been killed by the virus.

Alarming cases have emerged in the Spanish capital Madrid, with reports of dozens of deaths in two nursing homes.

Residents were taken to hospital in the Italian city of Naples after a care home outbreak claimed several lives.

Cases have also been reported in 100 care homes around the Swedish capital. Local media SVT say more than 400 people in the Stockholm region have been infected and about 50 have died.

A Glasgow rest home has had 13 residents die in one week following a suspected coronavirus outbreak. Two staff members have tested positive for the virus and are being treated in hospital, but the rest home says the residents were not tested.

France hasn’t been getting much attention here but has the fourth highest number of deaths recorded and the third highest deaths per million population.

Covid-19: 7,560 deaths in France

The number of deaths in France in hospitals from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours is 441, the director of the health service announced this evening.

This is a drop on yesterday’s figure which set a record at 588 deaths in the preceding 24 hours.

The total number of hospital deaths in France since the beginning of the epidemic is now 5,532.

But official French figures were understating the real toll.

In retirement homes and other medicalised institutions which were not counted in the figures before last Thursday, the number of deaths has been given as 2,028, bringing the total number of deaths in France to 7,560.

Health service director Jérôme Salomon said 28,143 people were currently hospitalised, 711 more than yesterday. Of hospitalised patients, 6,838 are in intensive care, an increase of 176 people in 24 hours. Friday’s figures gave 263 people admitted to intensive care in the preceding 24 hours.

India reports 2,902 cases of coronavirus, with 68 deaths

India reported six fresh deaths in the last 24 hours due to novel coronavirus (Covid-19) taking the total death toll to 68 and the total number of confirmed cases to 2,902, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Saturday, April 4.

But India was relatively late getting infected and with deaths now reported from Asia’s largest slum in Mumbai there are fears of much worse.

UK – ‘We’re on our knees’ says nurse

Shirley Watts, an operating theatre nurse at a hospital in Basildon, posted a video to a Facebook group after a long and difficult shift in ICU treating patients with coronavirus.

The US is currently recording about a third of the world total daily increase in cases, and deaths are also climbing more quickly – 1,328 yesterday and already 902 today (GMT). New York is bearing the brunt with about half the US deaths:  New York reels as 630 die in a day, the state’s bleakest toll yet

Coronavirus-related illnesses killed 630 people in the last day in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, in the grimmest 24 hours yet for the U.S. state hit hardest by the pandemic.

The novel coronavirus has now killed 3,565 people in the state and the situation is particularly worrying on Long Island, east of New York City, where the number of cases “is like a fire spreading,” Cuomo told a news conference.

Health experts calculate that New York, home both to bustling Manhattan and hilly farm country stretching to the Canadian border, might be around a week away from the worst point in the health crisis which has killed about 60,000 people worldwide.

“We’re not yet at the apex, we’re getting closer … Our reading of the projections is we’re somewhere in the seven-day range,” Cuomo said.

“It’s only been 30 days since our first case,” he said. “It feels like an entire lifetime.”

In contrast California had also seemed to be hit at a similar time to New York but lockdown quick and seems to have the virus under far better control.

All countries are making mistakes (understandable in such a rapidly changing crisis) –  Exclusive: Pressed by Trump, U.S. pushed unproven coronavirus treatment guidance

In mid-March, President Donald Trump personally pressed federal health officials to make malaria drugs available to treat the novel coronavirus, though they had been untested for COVID-19, two sources told Reuters.

Shortly afterward, the federal government published highly unusual guidance informing doctors they had the option to prescribe the drugs, with key dosing information based on unattributed anecdotes rather than peer-reviewed science.

While Trump, in a series of tweets and press comments, had made his opinions on the drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, well known, the nature of his behind-the-scenes intervention has not been previously reported. The guidance, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has received scant notice outside medical circles.

The episode reveals how the president’s efforts could change the nature of drug oversight, a field long governed by strict rules of science and testing. Rarely, if ever, has a U.S. president lobbied regulators and health officials to focus their efforts on specific unproven drugs.

“The president is short-circuiting the process with his gut feelings,” said Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School. “We are in an emergency and we need to rely on our government to ensure that all these potential therapies are tested in the most effective and objective way.”

Not only life and death decisions being made by leaders around the world, but also life and death tweets.

 

New guidelines for Covid-19 Level 4 rules on recreation and bubbles

On Friday the Ministry of Health issued a Health Act notice to all persons in New Zealand that most New Zealanders won’t have found let alone read (I had to search for it, and for a while yesterday it wouldn’t load).

Based on the the Ministry and the Police have issued joint Additional guidelines on Alert Level 4 rules:


The Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has issued a Health Notice that provides additional guidance on the rules around the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to ensure its success and help move the country out of lockdown as soon as possible.

The Notice sets out:

  • Everyone in New Zealand is to be isolated or quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for essential personal movement.
  • Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and two-metre physical distancing must be maintained.
  • Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.
  • A child can leave the residence of one joint care-giver to visit or stay at the residence of another joint care-giver (and visit or stay at that residence) if there is a shared bubble arrangement.
  • A person can leave their residence to visit or stay at another residence (and visit or stay at that residence) under a shared bubble arrangement if:
    – One person lives alone in one, or both, of those residences; or
    – Everyone in one of those residences is a vulnerable person.

“Most New Zealanders are doing the right thing. In the first week of being at Alert Level 4 we have seen high rates of compliance,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“The best way to ensure the success of the lockdown is for everyone to play their part. That means staying at home, maintaining physical distancing when outdoors and washing your hands.”

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomes the guidance and said Police’s primary goal is to ensure people understand the importance of staying home.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders have a high level of awareness of what they can and can’t do under the Alert Level 4 restrictions, and by and large people are doing a tremendous job,” he said.

“We want people to stay safe, but if a small number of people persist in deliberately flouting the restrictions, Police will have the discretion to warn or, if necessary, to arrest.

“The Health Notice makes it clear what types of outdoor exercise and recreation people shouldn’t do. Outside of that, we are asking people to stay local, apply common sense and not do anything that could risk exposure to injury or require search and rescue services.

“The public should not notice any significant change to policing as we continue to prioritise high visibility reassurance to the community, and a continued focus on day-to-day Police work.

“I have recently set a clear expectation of our staff on how we Police in the current environment.  We have today updated our operational guidelines to staff, to help them Police with confidence and certainty,” Commissioner Coster said.

Dr Bloomfield said the guidance also provides additional clarity around bubbles.

“Specifically, if you live alone and have already established a bubble with another household this can be maintained so long as both households have no contact with others – that they stay in their joint bubble,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“No one is immune to the virus. We are seeing high rates of people aged 20-29 with the virus. These people may not die of it, but if they are not following the rules they can pass it on to others.

“By clarifying the rules we are also reinforcing the ability of Police to enforce them. No one likes a rule breaker, especially when breaking the rules puts other New Zealanders’ lives at risk.

“We’ve started well but now is not the time to be complacent. We need to be extra vigilant to move out of Alert Level 4 as soon as possible, and Police have all the powers they need to make sure people not following the rules are dealt with,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“The Government can’t do this alone. Everyone has one job to do in helping to stamp out the virus, and that is to stay at home and follow the rules.”

More information: Health Act Notice(link is external)


Also Police Operational Guidelines – 4 April 2020

Police position

  1. We police by consent and must maintain the support of the wider public in our actions. This means our actions need to be seen as reasonable, proportionate, and aligned to the intent of the Level 4 restrictions.
  2. All non-essential businesses are required to close. Individuals must not congregate in a public place of amusement or recreation.
  3. All people in New Zealand are required to remain at their current place of residence, except as permitted for essential personal movement; and are required to maintain physical distancing, except from fellow residents; or to the extent necessary to
    access or provide an essential business
  4. Police may do anything reasonably necessary (including the use of force), to compel, enforce, or ensure compliance with a requirement made by a MOOH in the above Health Act orders (s70A(1)(e)).
  5. There is a power to stop and inspect any vehicle, and enquire into the purpose of travel under s 71A(2) to ensure people are not travelling in breach of the Health Act orders.
  6. Police have a power to enter, remain and inspect premises (s 71A(2)) if they have reasonable grounds to believe actions or gatherings are occurring in those premises that are not consistent with the Health Act orders.
  7. Police will not set up a Police Roadblock for Police purposes. However Police may place roadblocks as a direct request from their Territorial Authority EOC (in consultation with the District Commander). If a request is made to Police prior to the roadblock being enabled, The District Commander will notify the NCCC and SRO’s to ensure that these are captured and recorded. Random checkpoints to assess whether people are complying with the essential travel requirements may be part of a local deployment plan based on a risk assessment – these must be approved by the District Commander.

At all times we need to take a graduated response to any situation we encounter and apply a common sense understanding to the intent of what we are asking everyone in our communities to achieve.

  1. Engage with the parties and communicate with them to identify whether their current behaviour or activities are contrary to the government’s response to COVID19
  2. Educate them on the current requirements (if necessary) to correct their behaviour or activities
  3. Encourage compliance measures if required
  4. Enforcement – only resort to warnings or prosecutorial measures if absolutely necessary.

We want to support frontline staff to operate in a very different environment to which we traditionally police.

Every District is encountering circumstances where Police will need to respond, and make decisions about how to deal with situations as a result of the declaration of the state of emergency, and that are impacted by the Health Act orders.


This doesn’t mention an important part of Health Act Notice on Emergencies:

Both this and the Health Act Notice don’t mention key allowable essential personal movements: buying groceries and food, buying medical supplies (from a pharmacy) and seeking medical assistance.

 

 

Summary of the David Clark bike ride

The Minister of Health David Clark was in the news for going for a mountain bike ride between conference calls on Friday. See: Minister of Health Clark drove to bike park for a ride under lockdown

Here’s a summary of what I have seen about this.

Yes, it actually is permitted to (say) drive five minutes to a local mountain bike park where there are few other riders, and then ride up and down a gentle, well-groomed trail at a reasonable speed. It may not be politick or wise to do so if you are the Minister of Health, but for the rest of us “the rules” do allow for it.

  • But it was against the repeated advice of the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and both she and Grant Robertson (“We don’t want the minister of health out mountain biking” said Clark had apologised, and they both said he shouldn’t have gone for the bike ride as it was too risky.

Robertson: “I certainly think it’s important for the minister of health not to put himself in any risk … We don’t want the minister of health out mountain biking.”

Ardern: “What we need people to do is stay local and also stay away from risk. And that’s really important because ultimately we don’t want our emergency services or other people having to come to your rescue., and that’s why that’s so important right now.”

  • Clark and others have played down the mountain biking by saying ‘The Big Easy’ was a relatively low risk mountain bike trail. But it is on the side of a hill, and Clark was not “available to front anytime” as Robertson claimed.

““He’s available to front anytime … He has a young family, and we all have to understand at this time we’re operating in a very different world. He’s involved in every single cabinet and cabinet committee meeting.”

  • Demands for the Minister to resign or be sacked were little more than the usual knee jerk automatic response from political opponents and appeasing radio stirrers.
  • Criticism of Clark wasn’t confined to those from the right. See David Clark at The Standard:

But what kind of message is being sent when one of the government’s own upper middle class twats imagines it’s fine to do what David Clark did? Do lock down rules only apply to people without four wheel drives and the ability to go for a day out?

If David Clark can get away with a simple “sorry”, then why the fuck would anyone else feel the rules around lock-down are to be taken seriously?

I mean, is this lock-down serious? If so, the government needs to demonstrate how seriously it is and jettison David Clark.

The Government has acknowledged the error (bad PR and politics at least) but otherwise not demonstrated much seriousness, certainly not Ardern in this interview:

Ardern interview – lockdown, eradication, data, duration, business on hold 

This will,probably blow over now with Clark still in his job as Minister of Health, working from home in Dunedin. In a Government where optics are carefully managed as much as possible sacking a supposedly key Minister in the middle of a health crisis would be ‘bad optics’.

But it has highlighted two things.

This is the biggest health issue New Zealand has faced in a century and one of the biggest situations faced by a Minister of Health, but Clark is working from home a long way from the epicentre of the handling of the crisis, Wellington.

Why is Clark absent (in person from the main decision making loop? See Dominant Ministry of Health, weak Minister – and weak Government

Also, a comment from The Standard:

I’d rather Clark spent his time really asking his ministry hard questions about the policy they are demanding the country follow. The Minister is after all the meeting point between that Ministry’s policy and the rest of the interests of the the country. The Health ministry is rightly concerned with Health, but not the overall health of the country as it were. So they’ll just do what they do and with no questions asked how are we to know what the best policy is?

Right now they seem to be ruling the roost and Clark isn’t really visible enough, imo.

If he’s got to go it should be for that reason, not the bike ride. His performance reminds me a bit of Justin Lester’s and we all know what happened to him…

Muttonbird had been defending Clark’s bike ride at The Standard a day earlier.

And maui:

So arguably the second most important person in the country is in lockdown seperated from all the other key people. Great…

I pointed that out in a prior thread at The Standard and was criticised for it.

stunned mullet:

Minister Clark has completely abrogated responsibility to Ashley and the ministry who are now running the show.

And possibly related to that, the general competence of Clark as Minister of Health has been highlighted – quite a lot in fact at the normally defensive of Labour The Standard.

stunned mullet:

On his performance as a Minister as Health he (or the Ministry under his time) has been poor.

  • The meningitis vaccine fiasco in Northland
  • The decrease in vaccination coverage
  • The removal of a number of measures to track DHB performance
  • Running out of flu vaccine last year and what looks like a supply chain rupture this year

and there are no doubt additional examples..

If this was one incident in isolation where we weren’t advising the general public to isolate and not needlessly drive away from one’s locale then no issue but he is the Minister of Health and it is not reasonable behaviour from the Minister of Health at the current time.

adam:

As for making mistakes- sure we all human.

I’m just not seeing him do anything of great worth, all I’m hearing is small towns struggling with keeping doctors clinics open, the same amount of homeless sleeping in cars, and I have other concerns about planning and communication from the MoH. And lets leave aside the complete and utter mess around support for disabled, that clark and co (MoH) have once again forced on disabled people and their families. Mistakes I’ll accept a few,  but as you said, what they do after what counts.

The last word is from Corey Humm:

But I’m labour through and through, still , this guys a plonker if the nats did this wed we up in arms about this, but labour supporters are acting like football supporters,Fafoi is useless and Clark has “flouted” the rules, time to go! After the crisis of course, right now  yeah would be crazy, he’s dog Tucker though,I really  hope the pm uses  the time after lockdown to get rid of her entire front bench bar Robertson and little before the election, a new young team, the incumbents are a bunch of hopeless automotons being carried by the PM,  political non entities who not only do the public not know who they are, the ministers themselves couldn’t tell you who they were they have no identity,the front bench of labour shows exactly why we were out of office for 9 years, it’s infuriating as there is so much talent in the 2017 class of labour it’s sad that they won’t get any leadership roles until we’re in opposition. Which will be another nine years out of office because of the power vacuume the pm will leave

Imagine what this pm could achieve with competent ministers.

It’s notable enough that comments like this are coming from The Standard, but at least as notable is the fact that they are barely criticised or challenged, and no one has supported Clark’s performance as Minister of Health, nor defended him.

The problems are twofold – the bad optics of replacing a key Minister in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, and also (and possibly more critical), who would replace him? Clark is also an ordained minister with little background in the health field prior to taking this job on. He is a symptom of a lack of experience and talent in the incoming Labour crop of MPs in 2017.

Someone like Liz Craig looks well qualified based on her health background, but she was a new MP in 2017 and the first term would be a huge challenge for one of the most difficult portfolios.

It seems likely that Ardern and Robertson will have to keep covering for Clark for the rest of this term – and unfortunately, probably the worst of the Covid-19 virus.

If Labour retain power after the September election Clark will probably be moved to less demanding roles. While he simply doesn’t seem to be up to the job few people can manage the Health portfolio without difficulties.

 

Open Forum – Sunday 5 April

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Still getting mixed messages on allowable recreation

The Director-General of Health issued a Health Act Order yesterday that tried to clarify a number of things related to the Level 4 lockdown, including Permissions for essential personal movement which includes:

For the purposes of clause 1 of this order the following are permitted as essential personal movement:

Limited recreation arrangements
e.    a person leaving their residence for the purpose of recreation or exercise if-
iii.   it does not involve swimming, water based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.

Section 70(1)(f) notice to all persons in New Zealand – 3 April 2020 [PDF, 1.4 MB]

But in the Covid-19 newsletter emailed out this afternoon it is a bit different:

Q. Can I go surfing, boating or tramping?

A. Rescue services do not want to be out rescuing people who get into trouble. Don’t go tramping, hunting, fishing, surfing, swimming, or boating, mountain biking or for long drives or long runs/bike rides, or any other non-essential activity where you might need to force rescue service personnel out of their own isolation, or take up valuable health service resources if you have an accident.

Remember, you can’t ever guarantee that you won’t get into trouble. The Police will determine what enforcement measures to take.

The newsletter includes “mountain biking or for long drives or long runs/bike rides” and also fishing which aren’t  specified in the Order.

They should be able to get on the same message on this.

 

Daily Covid update – Saturday

82 total new cases (52 confirmed, 30 probable), total to date now 950

Yesterday was highest single day of testing at 3631. Testing capacity is now 6000 per day. There may be a drop in testing overt the weekend.

While the daily total has been up and down a bit the curve seems to have straightened over the time we have been on level 4 lockdown.

New confirmed and probable cases over time

Total confirmed and probable cases over time

This is an encouraging sign.

Summary

As at 9am, 4 April 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 824 52
Number of probable cases 126 30
Number of confirmed and probable cases 950 82
Number of cases in hospital 10
Number of recovered cases 127 24
Number of deaths 1

View full details of the confirmed cases.

View details of significant COVID-19 clusters.

 

Ardern interview – lockdown, eradication, data, duration, business on hold

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was interviewed by Hillary Barry for Seven Sharp yesterday.

 

On what the lockdown means – we must stay in our homes, it “really relies on all of us” because “because this is what’s going to determine…actually whether we get out of alert level four as quickly as possible”.

On David Clark’s bike ride, avoided with “I was just going to give you the charity of my silence”, and then a lecture on what we the ordinary people must do to comply with Ardern’s requests not to do exactly what Clark did. Poorly handled by Ardern.

Contain or eradicate the virus? “Every time a case comes up we all pile in, we stamp it out, we contact trace, we self-isolate. We keep going through that process for as long as we need to.”

On testing and data: “My goal is that we’re in a position where we have enough testing we feel real confident about the decisions across New Zealand

On allowing online business: “We need to stop people congregating or being in shared spaces as much as possible, and that includes people being in warehouses and facilities where they’re packing orders. And so it’s about both sides.” A one-sided no.

Extending the 4 week lockdown? “…my hope is as we get closer to that four weeks we’ll have a really good idea of what’s going to happen next, and it might be that some regions come out, might be that some regions need to stay in a little bit longer”

“All the data we’re sharing with you I’m getting as well, so you’ll see what’s happening with the numbers and what’s happening in our regions, how we’re looking in order to come out of Level 4. So we’ll keep sharing that and you’ll see us in real time starting to process that data, tell you what it’s looking like and what it will mean for us being in level 4.”

Note she says “All the data we’re sharing with you I’m getting as well”, not ‘all the data I’m getting I’m sharing with you’.

So we are left to guess by the number of cases per region, I suppose whether they stop increasing, on the likelihood our regions will have the restrictions relaxed or not after 4 weeks.

It seems like a well prepared interview, I would guess with questions provided in advance.

It doesn’t really tell us anything much we didn’t already know or could deduce.

 

 

Hillary Barry: This week we’ve been reporting that some people are still confused about what the lockdown means. Others are clearly ignoring the messages. What do you want to say to New Zealanders as we head into our second weekend?

Jacinda Ardern: Just how important it is that we all stay at home. And I just can’t make that clear or express it more firmly because this is what’s going to determine whether a) whether we are successful in breaking the train of transmission, b)  whether we save lives, and c) actually whether we get out of alert level four as quickly as possible. So it really relies on all of us.

Hillary Barry: I mean, your own Health Minister went out mountain biking, Your thoughts on that?

Jacinda Ardern: Oh I’ve shared my thoughts quite directly as you can imagine Hillary.

Hillary Barry: (hard to hear) to share with us what you said to him?

Jacinda Ardern: I was, as I said this morning, I was just going to give you the charity of my silence, but you can be assured I did not give him the charity of my silence.

What we need people to do is stay local and also stay away from risk. And that’s really important because ultimately we don’t want our emergency services or other people having to come to your rescue., and that’s why that’s so important right now.

But I do accept people will want to go for walks around their home, or around their street just to get a little fresh air.

We do need to make this as bearable as possible, but we also need to limit your contact and you risks.

Hillary Barry: It is a bit of a confusing time for people, and we’ve heard a lot in the early stages of this crisis about flattening the curve. Just to be clear, is New Zealand trying to contain this virus, or trying to eradicate it?

Jacinda Ardern: Yes so right now we’re in a period where we’re trying to get back control. You know at the early stages there we ran the risk of that number of cases really starting to grow quite rapidly, and that’s why we went through those stages or alert levels really quickly.

Now that we’re at alert level 4 what we’re trying to do is get that control back, manage the transmission, but essentially get rid of it.

Now that doesn’t mean that we’ll have a situation that because Covid will be with us for a number of months, where if we have  a case in the future that’s failure,  it just means as soon as that happens we again have to stamp it out.

Every time a case comes up we all pile in, we stamp it out, we contact trace, we self-isolate. We keep going through that process for as long as we need to.

That doesn’t mean being in alert level 4 for months and months, but it means getting control back, and getting into a position  where we can start working very hard on eradicating it every time it comes up.

Hillary Barry: Leading scientists say we need more testing and more data. What do you say to that, particularly about the data?

Jacinda Ardern: I agree with that. We need as much information as we can. It means we can make the best decisions we can about coming out of alert level 4 and doing it with confidence.

And so we had today the most tests that we’ve had in any one single day, roughly three and a half thousand tests, but we’re building up our capacity to have even more. My goal is that we’re in a position where we have enough testing we feel real confident about the decisions across New Zealand, but right now actually compared to others our testing is very good.

Hillary Barry: And are you happy with that data that you’re getting out of that?

Jacinda Ardern: Again, I want to keep growing  it. Today was a good day in terms of those numbers, but the longer we have that, then the better data we have, then the better decisions we make.

Hillary Barry: Now there’s growing concern about the impact on out economy of course. Business people appealing to be allowed to trade online. Now given that you can still get goods offshore, could you change the rules around that to help business out?

Jacinda Ardern: I utterly understand why people will be raising that issue, but the thing we need to think about is not just the person making the purchase, but the businesses that are having to  then come together in  order to process those orders. We need to stop people congregating or being in shared spaces as much as possible, and that includes people being in warehouses and facilities where they’re packing orders. And so it’s about both sides.

The best thing that we can do for our economy is try and make sure that the public health impacts of Covid are as small as possible, by helping or focusing on public health. That means that we can get ourselves in a position where we’re supporting our economy by not being in a prolonged lockdown.

So if you look at countries around the world who have probably put economy first, they’re now in these prolonged lockdowns, which is not only bad for our health because people die, but also in the long run bad for jobs.

Hillary Barry: Speaking of a prolonged lockdown, what are the chances, not that we’re this far into it,  that you will need to extend the lockdown?

Jacinda Ardern: Of course we were very open from the outset that four weeks was what we felt was needed to (?) the chains of transmission in order to make a really good judgement about what next for New Zealand.

At the moment it’s actually a bit too early to say because we haven’t gone through the full two week period yet, we haven’t seen the full benefits of the lockdown yet.

But my hope is as we get closer to that four weeks we’ll have a really good idea of what’s going to happen next, and it might be that some regions come out, might be that some regions need to stay in a little bit longer, but my goal is to have New Zealand in Level 4 for as little time as possible.

Hillary Barry: So are you saying that you will probably wait until that four week period is over before making a decision whether to extend it or not?

Jacinda Ardern: New Zealanders will really get a sense at the same time I do, because all the data we’re sharing with you I’m getting as well, so you’ll see what’s happening with the numbers and what’s happening in our regions, how we’re looking in order to come out of Level 4. So we’ll keep sharing that and you’ll see us in real time starting to process that data, tell you what it’s looking like and what it will mean for us being in level 4.

The interview finished with family stuff that isn’t important to the country.

Dominant Ministry of Health, weak Minister – and weak Government

Is the Ministry of Health fiddling with our futures while the Minister of Health burns around a bike track?

The Ministry of Health is dominating the actions and public face of the Government in dealing with the Covid-19 coronoavirus – while the Minister of Health is in the news for going off on a bike ride which was contrary to the ‘guidance’ of his Prime Minister, who has been working from home in Dunedin, distant from all the decision making and most of the media.

Is the Minister of Health, David Clark, too weak, letting his Ministry run the show? If so that would also implicate a weak Prime Minister and Government.

There are growing calls for a clear indication from Government as to the plans for the near future in dealing with Covid, and in particular how and when more business activity and work is phased back in before the already substantial negative impact on the economy is too great.

Some of that impact is already irreversible such as the announcement on Thursday that Bauer Media were shutting down a number of iconic New Zealand magazines including the Listener, North & South, Metro and Woman’s Weekly.

Health of the people is justifiably a priority, so there is strong support for minimising the spread of and deaths from Covid. But we are now in the second week of a four week country-wide lockdown and have no clear idea of what the plan is from here apart from trying to stamp out the virus.

There are genuine and justified fears that too many businesses and jobs will also be stamped out in the process. The Government has had a huge task dealing with the virus, but they have failed to adequately inform about the future as far as the economy, business and jobs go,

The wellbeing of New Zealanders is not just dependent on minimising the impact of Covid, it also depends on minimising the economic impact.

Why are health concerns, and apparently the Ministry of health, so dominant?

Luke Malpass (Stuff) – Coronavirus: Health is important, but it cannot be the Government’s only aim

When does the cure become worse than the disease? That is the question that has to be being asked around the Government’s lockdown policy prescription for coronavirus.

New Zealand clearly can’t help what happens in other parts of the world – but we can control what happens here. And the overriding priority of the Government must be to get New Zealand out of lockdown as soon as possible.

Yet on Wednesday, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield admitted that there was no plan B, and that the rate of deaths forecast for New Zealand was unacceptable.

But here lies the rub: the Government cannot – and should not – prioritise health considerations, even including deaths, above all else. At the root of the Covid-19 fear across the world has been a public policy – and therefore, to put it bluntly, retail politics – problem.

…so the notion that the Government needs to indefinitely continue with the lockdown to “save lives” is a policy hocus pocus.

Indeed, it increasingly it looks like the Government has been captured by its public health officials. Take Covid testing, for example. The Government’s view on testing for Covid has done a full Road to Damascus over the past two months, from: we don’t need to test, to testing is a waste of time, to we are increasing testing capacity, to this week: test test test.

But it all seems reactive: where is the plan to test every person possible in New Zealand? Or sort out some fast and accurate testing regime at the border so it can reopen, in some way, as quickly as possible?

The lockdown is clearly a case of “no pain, no gain”, but for the enormous pain this is going to cause, the country had better get the gain. Because every day the lockdown goes on – especially if it continues for an ill-defined period after four weeks – will put more businesses against the wall, and more workers out of jobs. Some for a long time.

The Government now needs to get much better with the information flow and allow more data out in to the wild. It has been very carefully managing its messaging and it moved to act quickly. In a crisis, both good things. Both the prime minister and the minister of finance have excelled themselves.

Yet now that we are all at home, the scary thing is what happens to our jobs and communities when we get out, and what the plan is to get us out as soon as possible. We had better start hearing about that this coming week.

Michael Reddell is more blunt in Choices

Choices that matter are often hard…

As it is, the government has already failed us.  What other conclusion can we reach when much of the country is in lockdown, officials and ministers are deciding by the hour whose businesses will and won’t survive, with no apparent exit strategy?

Worse, they still aren’t levelling with the public.   We finally had the Ministry of Health release earlier this week various background modelling exercises done for them on contract by academic researchers –  including one dated 27 February (itself labelled a “revised preliminary report” so presumably the government had the guts of it earlier.

We estimate likely deaths to be between 12,600 and 33,600 people in our “plan for” scenario

Did the public see or hear any of this from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, or the Director-General at the time?  There was no hint of any of it –  let alone any greatly accelerated planning –  in thePM’s press conference a few days later.   And at the time the Ministry was still playing down not only the risk of asymptomatic transmission, but of any sort of community outbreak more generally.  If they were taking it all very seriously, they chose to treat us like children and keep us in the dark.

And in particular we’ve seen nothing that sets out any sort of cost-benefit framework that is influencing the government’s decisions…We just get the latest lurch.

A few weeks ago it became apparent that the government had adopted a mitigation approach – the PM was on a stage waving around a “flattening the curve” graphic.  But we’ve seen no serious analysis of what led them to that option.  Now a senior official –  not even the PM or an elected Minister –  tells the select committee that the government is set on an elimination approach.   But we’ve seen no serious analysis of the costs and benefits, risks and potential mitigants, of that either.

And then yesterday, the Director General of Health –  again not even the PM –  appears to double down, telling us that there is no Plan B, and that suppression will simply be maintained however long it takes.  But again, no papers, no analysis, no nothing, just rhetoric.  Not even a hint of what considerations our politicial masters took into account, what weight they put on them or of any fallbacks or contigency plans.

It isn’t like a real war – the enemy isn’t listening.  And we are supposed to be citizens, not children.  It is our country, economy, society,  and lives, not those of the politicians and senior officials?

It is as if the government is afraid of confronting and dealing with real hard choices –  and being honest on what they value, what they don’t –  and just prefers now to deal in simplistic rhetorical absolutes, when not much is very absolute at all.

We deserve a great deal better from our Prime Minister, her Cabinet, and the phalanxes of highly-paid officials and agencies who surround them. In the end, these are our choices –  our lives, societies, economies – and the government system is supposed to be our servants not our masters.

When, with all the resources at their command, they simply don’t do the analysis, and aren’t open with us –  radically so, given the gravity of the crisis – they betray our trust.  That is something governments can ill-afford in times like these.

While the Ministry of Health is dominating the decision making and the media, what is their Minister doing? Failing to heed the Prime Minister’s advice and going for a mountain bike ride.

It as the Minister of Finance who fronted on this yesterday: Health minister’s apology over non-essential drive is enough, minister Grant Robertson says

Health Minister David Clark failed to lead by example when heading out for a mountain bike ride during the lockdown, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says

“He understands that he needs to be leading by example, he didn’t do that in this case, and that’s why he has apologised,” he said.

But not leading may go much deeper than a paltry bike ride.

“I certainly think it’s important for the minister of health not to put himself in any risk … We don’t want the minister of health out mountain biking.”

Robertson said Clark could perform this role from his Dunedin home, and did not need to be in Wellington.

“He’s available to front anytime … He has a young family, and we all have to understand at this time we’re operating in a very different world. He’s involved in every single cabinet and cabinet committee meeting.

Clark wasn’t available to front while he was away riding his bike.

From Health Minister drives to local park to ride his mountain bike, amid coronavirus lockdown

Clark, in a statement responding to queries from Stuff, confirmed he went for a bike ride between video conference meetings on Thursday afternoon.

What was his Ministry doing between video conferences? Making the decisions in Clark’s absence?

Today’s Press editorial: Mountain bikes out of molehills

No-one could really believe a Government Minister should not be allowed an exercise break during the day. Clark duly apologised and Ardern made it clear he will follow the official guidance from now on.

Apart from alleged hypocrisy, the argument from critics, such as it is, is that Clark may endanger others if he has an accident and needs assistance.

Again, much of this seems petty and contrived.

Some of the criticisms have seemed petty and contrived – if looking at the bike ride in isolation. But it may be an indication of a much bigger problem.

There is much more substance to the criticism that at a time when New Zealand is facing its greatest health crisis in a century, the Government’s Minister of Health should have been in Wellington and making himself available to the media alongside Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

As many people as possible are being encouraged to work from home. I am. But huge decisions need to be made in dealing with Covid. The Ministry of Health seems to be the dominant decision maker and voice.

And the Minister of Health is distant from this. There are some things that can’t be done effectively by video conference alone. He looks like a weak Minister on the sidelines of a health and economic crisis.

While Prime Minister Ardern has been strong in some ways – she is an accomplished communicator in a crisis – this has mostly been a PR exercise, with most of the nuts and bolts communication coming from the Ministry of Health. Ardern and Grant Robertson front up from time to time but there seems to be a lack of overall leadership.

A weak Minister of Health may just be a symptom of a weak Government.

The lack of a clear transition out of lockdown, and the lack of a clear business and economic plan, is a glaring weakness, but that’s not David Clark’s responsibility.

Last night Ardern was interviewed by Hillary Barry on Seven Sharp. She laughed off Clark’s bike ride. The headline out of the interview?

It’s still too early to know if NZ’s lockdown will be extended, says Jacinda Ardern.

Why? Is she waiting for the Ministry of Health to tell  her? Who is leading who?

More in the next post.

Open Forum – Saturday 4 April

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Daily Update Friday: +71, total 868

49 new confirmed and 20 probable cases today  (+71) so the total is now 868.

The increase has come back down – it looks like the bounce back up over the last couple of days is related to seeking and testing contacts of the Bluff wedding and finding more cases (now 53 linked to the wedding).

13 in hospital, 1 in ICU.

29,485 tests total now, with a high of 3.446 done in the last day.

 

Clarifying the definition of ‘recovered’ – at least 10 days from onset and at least 48 hours symptom free. A negative test is not required.

People may be infectious for 1 to 3 days before they develop symptoms. People are most infectious early in the infection (which suggests before they get symptoms).

300 people arrived into NZ yesterday. All are Kiwis, no visitors are coming in. All people entering are required to self-isolate for 14 days and fill in a comprehensive set of questions on the back of the new arrival card.

They are disembarked in small groups to be processed and health officials ask about their plans for self-isolation. Those with symptoms are quarantined and tested.

135 people are in quarantine.

545 people in managed isolation.

If a confirmed Covid case was in an ambulance and needed resuscitation, ambulance staff would not perform that.

Some details sourced from RNZ Live.

Summary

As at 9.00 am, 3 April 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 772 49
Number of probable cases 96 22
Number of confirmed and probable cases 868 71
Number of cases in hospital 13
Number of recovered cases 103 11
Number of deaths 1

View full details of the confirmed cases.

View details of significant COVID-19 clusters.


ODT: Southern Covid-19 cases continue to climb, total now 132

That says about 70 people attended the Bluff wedding, there are 53 now in the cluster (up 19) but not everyone may have caught the virus at the wedding, and as the wedding was two weeks ago there has been time for community spread.

More than half of the world’s population is now in lockdown  (RNZ Live) – but there wil be varying degrees of lockdown.