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.

 

Alert Level 2 again – stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy!

We were in Covid-19 Level 2 semi-lockdown for a couple of days from 21 March before ramping up to Level 3 for another couple of days leading in to seven seeks of level 4 lockdown from 26 March, restricting most of us to our homes most of the time.

In that seven weeks I went out briefly just twice, once for a regular blood test and the other time for a flu vaccination. Both of those trips were into the Dunedin CBD for less than an hour and I didn’t enjoy visiting a partial ghost town.

Today won’t be much different for me, work from home as usual. I will probably resume working from the office next week.

Tomorrow I will visit some relatives, seeing them for the first time for months. I’m looking forward to that.

Visiting other relatives is currently on hold as one of them is waiting for the results of a Covid test (Update – fortunately negative). I think it is unlikely that that will be positive but to be sure the test had to be done, and as a precaution contact with that family is on hold.

It is most likely just a cold or flu, but anyone else catching either cold or flu has to get tested, just in case, and should voluntarily isolate – a child won’t be welcome at school with a runny nose or cough, and I would be obligated to stay away from work if having any symptoms that could possibly be Covid.

I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the weekend. I will be staying away from shops and cafes and restaurants even though some will presumably be opening. I see no reason to take the risk of mingling with a possible surge of people getting ‘back to normal’.

First outing will be to a beach. Picking one that will be less crowded will be a bit of a punt. Other than that I don’t know what I’ll do. Fortunately the weather forecast is looking very good, both Saturday and Sunday are predicted to be clear sunny autumn days.

Otherwise I will be easing cautiously into Level 2. I see no need in taking unnecessary risks.

Obviously everyone will make their own choices over the next week or two.

Stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy!

New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

While the Government claims that restrictions under Alert Level 4 and 3 were legal they are still introducing a bill into Parliament today aimed at providing a new law “providing a legal framework for Covid-19 Alert Level 2”.

They say they don’t want to rely on a National State of Emergency for the lower level, but they didn’t back in March when we first went into lockdown in Marchh. See Prime Minister’s statement on State of National Emergency and Epidemic Notice

Having considered the advice of the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management, the Minister of Civil Defence declared a State of National Emergency for the whole of New Zealand under section 66 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 on March the 25th 2020 at 12.21pm.

Also, under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, yesterday I issued an Epidemic Notice, nationwide, to help ensure the continuity of essential Government business due to the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic, COVID-19, which is likely to significantly disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand.

This Epidemic Notice came into effect today, the 25th of March 2020, just after midnight and it will remain for three months with ongoing review, and from which, now further Epidemic Management Notices and Epidemic Modification Orders can be given…

We went to Alert Level 2 before that, on 21 March, and then to Alert Level 3 on 23 March, before the state of emergency was announced and before the Epidemic Notice was issued.

Things had to be done urgently, but they also should have been done legally.

From the Beehive: Covid-19 response: New legal framework to be debated tomorrow ahead of Alert Level 2

The Government intends to pass the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill through all stages on Tuesday 12 May so that it can be enacted by Wednesday 13 May.

“As I announced on Friday, the changes will ensure controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable,” Attorney-General David Parker said today.

Enforceability to date has relied on the Epidemic Notice, the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

As shown above, apparently not under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act for the first level 2 and 3, and also not under the Epidemic Notice.

“There will be fewer restrictions under Alert Level 2 but those remaining still need to be enforceable. We don’t want these narrower controls to rely on a National State of Emergency. “

This suggests that the first restrictions under Alert Level 2 and 3 were not legally enforceable.

“However, the regulatory backup provided by the new law allows us to address behaviour at Alert Level 2 that is particularly harmful to the public health objective, and to demonstrate to those who are complying voluntarily that non-compliance will not be tolerated,” he said.

“We need the legislation in place before Level 2 starts.

“The Government has assessed there is not time for the usual select committee process but we do want a necessarily brief opportunity for comment on the bill. Therefore we have released a disclosure draft of the Bill to the Opposition and experts, and have invited comment on it by 10am, Tuesday 12 May.

Parliament re-opened last week, and they should have foreseen the need before the last minute (last day). Perhaps the judicial review filed in the High Court last week has prompted an attempt to make the lower alert levels legal.

“I reiterate there has been no gap in the legal underpinning or in the enforcement powers under the notices that have been issued under Level 3 and Level 4. This bill does not retrospectively change them.”

The dates above suggest otherwise, and it also puts into further question the legal underpinning of the enforcement powers for Alert Level 2 (and 3) back in March.

It’s good to see them getting the legal side of the lockdowns tidied up, but Parker shouldn’t have claimed it was fine from the start.

Covid-19: 4 level alert system with guidance on current level 2

  • Four stage Alert System for COVID-19 announced
  • New Zealand moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 – Reduce Contact
  • New Zealanders over 70 and those with certain medical conditions told to stay at home as much as they can to reduce risk of contact with the virus
  • Workplaces to implement plans to reduce person-to-person contact, including work from home where possible
  • Limit all non-essential domestic travel

New Zealand has been moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2, Reduce Contact, in an escalation of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“Protecting New Zealanders from the virus is our number one objective, and we must take decisive action to prevent the worst occurring here,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“New Zealand is fighting an unprecedented global pandemic. We must fight by going hard and going early with new measures to slow the transmission of the virus.

“Today I am announcing a four stage COVID-19 Alert Level system, with escalating restrictions on human contact, travel and business operations.

“The international situation is changing rapidly and we need to clearly sign-post the changes New Zealanders will be asked to make as we step up our efforts to limit the spread of the virus. The alert system means people can see and plan for the kinds of restrictions we may be required to put in place, which may be required rapidly.

“Based on expert medical advice and international evidence I am moving New Zealand to Alert Level 2, Reduce Contact. This will have a significant disruption on how we go about our daily lives, but it is necessary to protect lives.

“People over 70 years of age, or people who are immunocompromised or have certain pre-existing conditions, need to stay at home as much as they can from now on.

“I’m asking everyone to support our older New Zealanders by doing things like keeping in contact with them and dropping off food or other supplies.

“I am also asking businesses and workplaces to play their part. Many workplaces already have plans for staff to work from home or to distance themselves in the workplace. We are now asking you to put those plans in place.

“Health and emergency professionals, transport and delivery staff, supermarket and food production workers, and other essential people will be continuing on at their place of work at this alert level.

“It’s also important to note that at every alert level supermarkets around New Zealand will remain open.

“We are also asking New Zealanders to limit all non-essential domestic travel. We need people to significantly reduce the number of interactions they have at this time and that includes visiting people in different parts of the country for non-essential reasons.

“These measures are being taken in the national interest. We know people, business, and sports events will be impacted, but these are short-term disruptions for the overall health of our people and country.

“I know many New Zealanders are anxious. The alert system is designed to offer certainty around future action and the ability for people to plan and prepare for any future eventuality. Please be strong, be kind, and unite against COVID-19,” Jacinda Ardern said.


COVID-19 alert levels [PDF, 50 KB]

Arden has just said ‘this won’t be for just weeks, this will be with us for some time’.