Pressure grows on Cabinet to review Alert Level 2

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that the current Alert Level 2 lockdown would not be reviewed until next Monday and Cabinet agreed that they would consider “no later than 22 June” whether to move to Alert Level 1 or not.

It is the Government’s view that we should also move as quickly as we safely can to alert level 1. On that basis, Cabinet will check in again on our settings on 8 June, and we’ve agreed that no later than 22 June, four weeks from today, we will consider then the move to alert level 1

…and I should add: this is based on the advice of the Director-General of Health, who supported these recommendations and made these recommendations.

25 May 2020

But there is increasing pressure to review the level move earlier, like when Cabinet meets today.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters had already broken ranks with the collective Cabinet decision, and Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller has also mildly pushed for a move back to most business as usual.

Yesterday’s Black Lives Matter protests where hundreds of people gathered in various places, contrary to Level 2 rules, ramped up calls for change.

So far Ardern has remained silent.

NZ Herald: Social distancing concerns as thousands attend protests

In Wellington one person went as far as temporarily tying himself to the fence of the US Embassy following a vigil attended by around 500 people.

Earlier in the day an estimated 4000 people gathered in central Auckland to attend the Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity. The group travelled from Aotea Square to the US Consulate General on Customs St.

Very little social distancing occurred at any of the main protests, prompting concerns from deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Act leader David Seymour David Seymour and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles about the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Despite constant calls from organisers for social distancing, people gathered close due to the sheer immensity of the crowd.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to comment on the protests or on the death of George Floyd.

No sign yet of Ardern commenting on alert levels either. She will have to front up on this today publicly, and peters says that it must be discussed at today’s Cabinet meeting.

.RNZ – Winston Peters Peters: If protests condoned ‘why are we not at level 1?’

Cabinet meets today and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says alert level 2 restrictions have to be discussed.

Peters said the breaching of alert level 2 rules at the protests should have resulted in prosecution for the organisers.

And if they won’t be prosecuted, then there’s no choice but to move to alert level 1, he said.

“If they condone that and there’s no prosecution of the organisers of these two events then why are we not at alert level 1?”

“Why is this going on against the rules we’ve all agreed to?

“It’s a question for all of us. We cannot have rules where some people decide that they don’t wish to comply and there are no consequences.”

There have been no new Covid cases for the last ten days, and there is only one active case known about.

However there is also pressure from health people to continue with the lockdown.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles (@SiouxsieW:

“Absolutely gutted to see so many people joined the NZ BLM gatherings/marches without taking covid precautions. If you went today, please please please self isolate for the next 14 days. The last thing any of us want is to see a surge in cases.”

And epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker has been on RNZ this morning saying we should remain at Level 2 – he has recently been pushing for compulsory wearing of masks in public.

So this is shaping up to be a clash between health experts and Ardern versus Peters, Seymour, National and a lot of the public who seem to have already decided that Level 2 is too restrictive.


Ardern is being interviewed on RNZ.

“I understand the sentiment and  urgency” in protesting.

But “we have the rules there for a reason” but she says it is an operational matter for the police in how to deal with clear breaches of the rules “their call, not mine”. She appears to agree with the police approach to not try to restrict the protests.

Ardern certainly did nothing to criticise or condemn level 2 breaches by protests.

“We always want too keep under review” decisions on levels and Ardern suggests that Dr Bloomfield may have underestimated the success of the lockdowns.

Ardern has specifically committed to Cabinet reviewing the alert level next Monday 6 June. She indicates that we could go down to alert level one a couple of days after that if we continue to have no or few new cases.

So that’s a move by Ardern, but is it enough? A week of Covid restrictions is a long time for businesses already severely impacted by over two months of no or restricted activity. It’s also a long time for the public who have been moving on from restrictions before level changes have happened.

Another problem for Ardern and the Government – by saying she is bringing forward a decision on reducing the alert level by a week and indicating that if we continue with virtually no Covid cases then the Alert level is likely to drop in just over a week, the public are likely to continue to act as if we are already there.

RNZ: Cabinet to consider alert level 1 move on 8 June

It’s trickier for businesses who could get shut down for breaching the Level 2 rules. from what I’ve seen rules are not being strictly applied anyway. Are we already in a virtual Level 1 now anyway?

If protesters who have a good cause to promote can do as they please, why not the rest of us with causes of our own?

Businesses have a good cause – their survival.

The Government appears to have lost control.

 

Open Forum Tuesday

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).

Black lives matter more than Level 2

Actually I presume the organisers theoretically had a responsibility to follow Alert Level 2 changes confirmed for Friday 29 May:

Social gatherings can be held with up to 100 people

The limit for social gatherings will be lifted to 100 people. These include events at home and outside of home like religious services, parties, weddings, tangihanga and funerals. It is important everyone keeps playing it safe.

This means:

  • Social gatherings at a private dwelling will be able to have a maximum of 100 people.
  • A business or responsible individual, in charge of a social gathering, must ensure records are kept for contact tracing purposes, except where every person in a gathering knows each other. This includes in your home, community hall, or other such space.
  • Participating in community sport will also become easier, with greater numbers of people able to gather up to a limit of 100 people. Requirements for contact tracing still remain.
  • Workers providing a service to a social gathering, such as waiters at a wedding, are not included in the 100 person limit.

Some examples:

  • A game of community rugby could occur so long as there are no more than 100 people on the field. Groups of up to 100 spectators will be permitted if they are separate to the field and do not intermingle with players or umpires.

At a community sports game which has a field and two stands either side, 100 people could gather in each space provided they do not intermingle with those from the other stand or with players and umpires on the field.


The protest puts Ardern in a tricky situation:

Pressure on her to support the protesting, but that would be difficult if she ignores the breaching of Level 2.

No new cases for 10 days, no word from Government

No new Covid-19 cases for the tenth day in a row. No change to any of the daily numbers (there is still 1 active case).

But it will be another seven days before the Cabinet considers any changes to the current Level 2 lockdown, and based on the last indication from Government it could be up to 3 weeks before we drop to Level 1.

Winston Peters has already been pushing for a drop to level 1. Five days ago Winston Peters says NZ should already be in level 1 with trans-Tasman bubble

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has broken rank with Labour over coronavirus restrictions, saying the country should be at level 1 now.

Peters told Newstalk ZB on Wednesday morning that it was his party’s position that New Zealand should be at alert level 1 by now, meaning almost no internal restrictions on normal life.

He said this view had been made clear to Labour in Cabinet, but it didn’t have the numbers to make it a reality.

“The Prime Minister has actually admitted that, at the Cabinet meeting she said it, there was serious concerns from New Zealand First that this was taking too long”.

Peters made clear that he thought the health advice being given to the Government was overly risk-averse, pointing to the earlier advice from the Ministry of Health that even Kiwis be blocked from coming home to New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that Cabinet would check in on level 2 settings on June 8 and would make a decision on whether to move to level 1 or not no later than June 22.

Today from National leader Todd Muller:  Government must explain why we’re still at Level 2

The Government needs to explain to New Zealanders why it won’t consider a move to Alert Level 1 for another week, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“Kiwis have made enormous sacrifices to flatten the curve, but if their efforts still aren’t enough to move to Level 1 then the Government must explain why.

“It has been more than a week since the last confirmed case of Covid-19. There are fewer cases now than there was before any restrictions were put in place.

“The Government has a duty to speak with one voice on such a critical issue, but all Kiwis are hearing now is mixed messages from the Prime Minister and her deputy.

“Businesses on the brink of closure have been left in limbo too long. It’s time for the Government to be clear about what conditions need to be met for the move to Level 1.

“Level 1 should mean businesses can return to full capacity, transport networks can resume without constraints, marriages can be properly celebrated and loved ones can be appropriately mourned.

“The sooner small businesses know what Level 1 will look like, the easier it will be for the backbone of our economy to start repairing itself.”

If the Government waits another week before explaining what the new Level 1 will be like and when we may move to it they will leave themselves open to more questions and criticisms, especially if we continue with no new Covid cases.

There’s indications most of the public have already largely moved on from Level 2, but businesses are still restricted by Level 2 rules. The longer it takes for business to get back to near normal the more jobs and businesses will be lost.

USA – burning from the bottom, flaming from the top

As the smouldering from the bottom of US society erupts into riots and burning, again, about all they get from the top is blaming and flaming on Twitter from a flaming idiot.

Evidence that there’s a fine line between a civil society and anarchy is apparent in the United States of America who show society there is far from united. Another police killing of a black man has precipitated days of riots across the country, again. Nothing much seems to have changed since the last time, and the time before.

One of the most divisive presidents ever has talked tough but is largely impotent. People with long standing grievances and opportunist anarchists and if some claims are correct countries trying to incite mayhem couldn’t care less what a twit on Twitter says.

Order from anarchy?

The circle-A is almost certainly the best-known present-day symbol for anarchy. It is a monogram that consists of the capital letter “A” surrounded by the capital letter “O”.

The letter “A” is derived from the first letter of “anarchy” or “anarchism” in most European languages and is the same in both Latin and Cyrillic scripts. The “O” stands for order and together they stand for “society seeks order in anarchy” (French: la société cherche l’ordre dans l’anarchie), a phrase written by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book What Is Property?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_symbolism

I haven’t seen any sort of order emerge from riots and anarchical outbursts, and Donald trump certainly doesn’t seem capable of doing anything to repair the damage he has done in three and a half years let alone centuries of racism and oppression.

Of course there’s no justification in opportunist looting and destruction of property, but it’s what happens when authority is challenged and put under severe pressure.

As usual blame has been spread across the political spectrum. It’s a complex situation with many emotions and motivations involved, but it’s normal for humans to blame people or groups they don’t like for problems and ignore or make excuses for those they are sympathetic to.

The greatest blamer and divider ever is as bad as ever.

Blaming everything on ‘the media’ is getting lamer, and calling oneself GREAT on Twitter doesn’t make oneself so, especially when his country is in chaos.

Perhaps trump thinks that media shouldn’t have reported on another killing by cop. the media didn’t kneel on a handcuffed defenceless man’s neck for up to eight minutes, until he died.

“The World is watching and laughing at you…” is typical flaming and blaming, but at this time I don’t think the world is laughing even at Trump, more like shaking their collective head in despair at how poorly a supposedly strong nation deals with this crap.

In the short term force of law will prevail, but it is unlikely that anything much will be resolved, especially with the moral vacuum at the top.

Queen’s Birthday Honours

I’m not really into doing stuff about gongs but in case anyone else wants to discuss the Queen’s Birthday Honours go for it.

RNZ: Three new dames and two new knights in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours

The first thing i say on Twitter this morning was that a health official hadn’t got a gong. I saw this suggested weeks ago.

I think it takes quote a while for ‘honours’ recipients to be nominated, accepted (if not rejected), officially dealt with and then announced. So probably far too soon for someone doing his job dealing with Covid over the few months.

And people tend to only get awards after they have finished their jobs anyway, like pooliticians and public servants and business people. All Blacks and Black Sticks (there has to be gender balance these days) don’t get gongs, only ex-All Blacks and ex-Black sticks.

One year we could get really radical and honour the Queen on he actual birthday, which i think is some time in April. They could be called the Easter Bunny Honours.

Open Forum Monday

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).

Health and statistics reasons for staying at level 2 for yonks, but…

“…it would take anywhere between 27 and 91 days of no new cases for there to be a 95% probability that the virus is gone from New Zealand”.

In practice it is getting increasingly difficult for the Government to justify staying at Covid-19 Alert level 2. Based on their current stance it could be another three weeks before they decide whether to change alert levels again, while daily we have been seeing no new cases for more than a week now, and we are down to just one (known) active case.

There are purely health reasons, based on statistics, for staying at level 2 for longer.

Siouxsie Wiles: Many want to go to alert level one right now. I get that. But we’d be fools to rush

There are several reasons why holding at alert level two for a little longer is the right thing to do. The main one is that a run of several days with no new cases doesn’t mean that there are no undetected active cases of Covid-19 out there. Recent modelling by Professor Nick Wilson and his colleagues at the University of Otago estimated it would take anywhere between 27 and 91 days of no new cases for there to be a 95% probability that the virus is gone from New Zealand.

The lower estimate was based on the assumption that most people showing symptoms would go and get tested. The higher estimate was based on fewer people getting tested. In other words, those estimates are the difference between shrugging of that runny nose as an allergy or going to get tested for Covid-19 just in case.

I get why so many people want to move to level one, I really do. These last few months have turned our lives and our economy upside down. Just as they have right around the globe. We’ve made big sacrifices and we feel we’ve earned it. But surely none of us wants to risk going back to alert level three. Alert level one will come. Let’s not squander what we’ve achieved.

That’s from an academic who presumably doesn’t have their job at risk.

But there is increasing pressure (with justification) for lowering the level for social reasons, for non-Covid health reasons, and particularly for economic and employment reasons.

More and more jobs are being lost (37.500 were lost in April), and when the 3 month wage subsidy runs out next month there are likely to be many more people who lose their jobs, and businesses who have to shut up shop.

As well as being devastating financially, that will impact on mental health and general health.

Health officials and academics with secure jobs and incomes may prefer to play ultra safe with Covid, but the rest of us have a lot of other things to consider and to be worried about.

The Government may be worried about what effect a second wave of Covid cases may have on their election chances.

They should also be worried about what effect a second wave of job losses and business failures might have, not just on their election chances, but also on the health of the country.

Messy start but Muller still has opportunity to make a mark

Todd Muller’s first week as leader of the National Party was messy and in some ways mucked up, but he still has an opportunity to make a mark as leader of the Opposition, and maybe rescue his party from a downward slide, and just maybe give Labour some real competition in this year’s election.

Some of the maelstrom faced by Muller was due to media getting bored with Covid coverage (“breaking news” of no more cases wears a bit thin day after day) and looking for some controversy and drama. They managed to manufacture some, and Muller and his team made that easy.

But most of it was a lot of noise about bugger all. No journalist is expected or required to be at their best in their first week on the job, it takes a while for them to make drama out of dregs.

Of course some on the left revelled in the ruckus making, that’s they way politics works (unfortunately) – it’s a game of dumping on opponents.

Some of the criticism of Muller came from the right as well, but Mike Hosking and the guy Richardson dissing Muller was hardly a damning indictment.

And Damien Grant, barely a middling journalist promoted several rungs above his level of competence thinks that Todd Muller confirms himself as a middle manager promoted several rungs above his level of competence.

The debacle over the MAGA cap, the lack of diversity in the front bench and Muller’s failure to articulate not just an economic agenda but even an idea confirmed what many of his detractors, this columnist included, had already concluded; he was a middle manager promoted several rungs above his level of competence.

The MAGA cap was largely over hyped crap, I’m surprised Grant seems to think that the front bench should represent everyone who doesn’t vote for National (I suspect he would grizzle about anything seen as ‘token’ appointments), and expecting to Muller have a comprehensive economic agenda ready to publish and promote on day one is just plain nuts.

We have a major problem with lazy journalists wanting instant stories.

Demands for an instant miracle from journalists would be better directed at their own industry, which is in much worse condition than Muller’s leadership and National’s current poll dip.

There is time for Muller to find his feet as leader, work out with his caucus and party their key policy priorities to promote in time for the election campaign.

Not much time, but there is time. Muller may still turn out to be a failed muppet, but he should at least be given a chance to prove himself.

Andrea Vance has a much better look at the current situation in Could middle-of-the road Muller come out a winner?

By the end of last week, Todd Muller was looking like one of the losers.

The Wellington commentariat had largely decided his first week as National leader was uniformly awful.

These conversations reverberated around the square mile of Pipitea, and Muller was found wanting.

It is perplexing why Team Muller had such a clumsy start, after plotting for months, and assembling a artful team of insiders that includes PR practitioner Matthew Hooton and dark-arts kingmakers Crosby Textor.

But the subjective judgements of a handful of Beehive pundits on perceived performance flaws, are now more insignificant than ever.

An economic shock has ricocheted around the world. Voters are consumed with worry about their jobs, mortgages and how to pay their bills.

In a political environment where most people would struggle to name the Cabinet, it’s hard to see people getting too exercised about the make-up of the Opposition’s front bench, or which keepsakes a leader displays on his shelf.

Most people would struggle to name the first five ranked Cabinet Ministers (I can’t), or even the first three (I could only guess at number 3 but at least I will know a little of them when I find out).

There was no discernible Muller vision. No priorities for his first few months in office. And no bold, alternative ideas for the post-coronavirus economic recovery.

And there is no reason why Muller should have had this level of detail ready to spoon feed journalists from day one. That’s a ridiculous expectation.

What actually is Jacinda Ardern’s vision?

What are her priorities for the next few months, apart from keeping us in level 2 and winning the election?

What are her bold, alternative ideas for the post-coronavirus economic recovery? If journalists should be looking anywhere for these right now it should be from Ardern and her Government.

While trust in Ardern is high, Labour still strive for economic credibility, after a decade of doubt over their fiscal capability.

So why expect, demand this of Muller in his first week in the Opposition leader’s office?

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.

If National can play on that doubt: and convince centre voters they must make a choice between which priority they value the most, then middle-of-the road Muller may just come out a winner.

Unfortunately a lot may depend on how much slack they keep giving the Government because of their admiration of Ardern. And how much nit picking of Muller they over-dramatise.

But that’s the nature of our politics and our media.  Like it or not Muller and National have to find a way of dealing with that semi-successfully.

SpaceX launches two men up above us a bit

I’ve just been watching the launch of the SpaceX/NASA manned rocket that is the first time people have been launched into Earth orbit from the US since the shuttle programme ended in 2011.

After a few minutes the rocket, minor the largest stage that had successfully landed off the coast of Ireland, was orbiting Earth at 200 km and travelling at 27,000 kilometres an hour.

The capsule is now heading on a 19 hour trip to the Space Station.

“This is a historical day”. “A day for the history books”. “America is back”.

This is a big achievement. Any successful launch of people into Earth orbit is a big achievement.

But it shows how much rocket and expense is required to get a couple of people floating around our own planet. There are plans to get back to the moon again by 2024. There is talk of getting manned missions to Mars some time in the future.

And this is fifty years on from the original moon missions.

I happened to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time a couple of nights ago. That was from the 60s, before the first successful moon missions. It had large moon bases, and huge spacecraft travelling to Jupiter in 2001. But we are still nowhere near this.

It’s a big deal getting a small capsule just up above us a bit. They (US and Russia) gradually built up the Space station, but that’s only in Earth orbit.

It takes about 3 days to travel to the moon.

It takes 6-8 months to travel to Mars.

Fifty, seventy years after Mount Everest was first climbed there are lines of people queuing up to get to the top of the mountain each year,

The US had their original space flight missions, followed fairly quickly by their Apollo moon missions that began in 1961, made it with men to the moon in July 1969, and then continued with five more successful missions until 1972.

The Space Shuttle programme began in 1982 and continued until 2011, but that was only for earth orbit missions and the Space Station.

So this new phase, fifty years after the moon landing, is just a new beginning of significant but relatively modest space flight achievement.

Minor space flight seems to be almost at the limits of our technology and human ability. What has been done is marvellous, but by today’s standards quite modest.

Space flight science looks like mostly remaining fiction.