Where is all the money coming from?

Businesses and economies around the world will take a severe hit from the costs and effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

New Zealand has already announced $12.1 in spending to prop things up. It equates to about 4% of our GDP.

That amount is likely to grow substantially, and will add to borrowings. But that’s only small change in the international finance pond.

Across the Tasman: What Australia’s $189bn coronavirus economic rescue package means for you

The government has announced a second major economic rescue package worth $66bn, on top of an initial $17.6bn package and more than $100bn in emergency banking measures to prevent against a credit freeze.

Framed as a “safety” package, the second wave of stimulus ramps up support for small business and also includes a major boost to welfare recipients and for people who lose work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In total, the government has now committed economic support worth $189bn – almost 10% of GDP – and has also flagged more packages as the crisis unfolds.

UK Government: Support for those affected by COVID-19

On 17 March, the Chancellor announced an unprecedented package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses, making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of GDP.

This was on top of a series of measures announced at Budget 2020, the government announced £30 billion of additional support for public services, individuals and businesses experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19, including a new £5 billion COVID-19 Response Fund, to provide any extra resources needed by the NHS and other public services to tackle the virus.

Just announced in the US: Senate, White House reach $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout

Senate leaders and the Trump administration reached agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus package to rescue the economy from the coronavirus assault, setting the stage for swift passage of the massive legislation through both chambers of Congress.

National Post: Trump and his children banned from applying to US$2 trillion stimulus plan

Together with Fed intervention, the proposed legislation amounted to a $6 trillion stimulus, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, or about 30 per cent of annual GDP.

The package will likely more than double a U.S budget deficit that was already set to hit $1 trillion this year before the outbreak. It also may not be the last infusion of government spending in response to the spread of the virus.

The US has had growing deficits and growing debt since the GDP in 2008:

As of February 2020, federal debt held by the public is 17.23 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $6.02 trillion, for a total national debt of $25.3 trillion

 

At the end of 2018, debt held by the public was approximately 76.4% of GDP and approximately 29% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreigners. The United States has the largest external debt in the world.

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

When the US package was announced the country was heralded as ‘the greatest country in then world’, as they tend to do. That may refer to the greatest debt in the world. That’s one thing trump has been biggest and best at, growing debt.

There’s some big numbers here, and this is just four countries.

Where will all this support package money come from? Are loans already secured?

 

Covid-19 climbs around the world, last day before NZ lockdown

Cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus and deaths continue to climb around the world, with many countries having significant increases.

Currently (JHU data):

  • Total confirmed 407,485
  • Total deaths 18,227
  • Total recovered 104,234

 

The February spike will be China, but the rest of the world is now picking up.

The toll across the United Kingdom rose by 87 in the last day to 422 (a 26% increase) and confirmed cases were up 21% to over 8,000. They are still having problems with crowded trains.

Spain has had more than 500 deaths in a day, making a total of 2,800 who’ve died from its 39,676 cases.

Germany has had a relatively low number of deaths from 31,991 cases but have jumped recently to 149.

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Either the spread or detection is slow in most parts of Africa.

Conspicuous is the lack of reported cases and deaths in Russia.

Official: Russia has no ‘clear picture’ of extent of Covid-19 outbreak

Russia, which shares a border with China and has a population of 144 million, has so far reported 495 cases of the coronavirus but no confirmed fatalities.

“The problem is that the volume of testing is very low and nobody has a clear picture” of the situation in Russia and the world, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting.

“The picture that is unfolding is serious,” said Sobyanin

This photo from a store in Moscow suggests it is a major concern of not a problem there.

A man, wearing a protective mask, walks past empty shelves in a store, due to the fear of Covid-19 outbreak in Moscow March 17, 2020. — Reuters pic

JHU data shows 519 cases in India and 10 deaths, which seem very low for such a densely populated country.

India’s 1.3b people to enter ‘total lockdown’

India is to impose a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced.

The restrictions will apply from midnight local time and will be enforced for 21 days.

“There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said in a televised address.

The US could soon become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic after a ‘very large acceleration’ in cases, WHO warns

  • The US could soon become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation warned Tuesday.
  • A WHO spokeswoman, Margaret Harris, noted that there had been a “very large acceleration” in cases in the US in recent days.
  • In the past 24 hours, 85% of all new coronavirus cases were in the US and Europe. In the US, 553 people have died from COVID-19.
  • President Donald Trump has refused to impose a national lockdown, however, and has instead insisted the US will soon be “open for business.”

Current John Hopkins data shows 49,768 cases in the US (third to China and Italy and ahead of Spain) and 600 deaths.

Despite this Pence says White House not considering a nationwide coronavirus lockdown (a number of states are in lockdown) and:

Trump, during Fox News coronavirus town hall, calls for re-starting economy by Easter: ‘We have to get back to work’

President Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News virtual townhall that he wants the country’s economy re-opened by Easter amid questions over how long people should stay home and businesses should remain closed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking from the Rose Garden alongside others on his coronavirus taskforce, Trump said he “would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” The holiday this year lands on April 12.

Trump argued he doesn’t want “to turn the country off” and see a continued economic downfall from the pandemic. He also said he worries the U.S. will see “suicides by the thousands” if coronavirus devastates the economy.

“We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off,” Trump said during the interview.

“We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We don’t call up the automobile companies and say stop making cars. We have to get back to work.”

That’s contrary to how most countries are handling Covid-19, and also major US states.

And contrary to US officials:

During a coronavirus town hall with U.S. forces around the world, Defense Secretary Mark Esper estimated it could take up to 10 weeks, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley went a little further saying he expected the military to be dealing with the virus for the next three months.

Currently in Australia there are 2,139 confirmed cases and 8 deaths.

Many New Zealanders who have suddenly lost jobs in Australia and will get no Government assistance there are trying to come back here.

Australian states have taken different actions, but some restrictions have been applied to the whole country. Official information:

  • Tight new restrictions on weddings, funerals, fitness classes, beauty salons, arcades and play centres will be implemented from 11:59pm, 25 March. An international travel ban (with some exemptions) will also be introduced. Read more.
  • Some states and territories are closing their borders, meaning anyone entering will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Currently, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia have announced they will close their borders. Essential services are generally exempt from this requirement but some states require undertakings and/or evidence be provided to prove that entry into the state is essential.
  • School closures (both government and non-government) are a matter of the respective state and territory education authorities. Read more.
    (Schools aren’t being closed yet in Queensland but parents can choose to keep their children at home).
  • All pubs, licensed clubs and hotels (excluding accommodation), places of worship, gyms, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, casinos must be closed. Restaurants and cafes can offer takeaway options. Supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services can remain open. Read more.

Cases in New Zealand (confirmed and probable) jumped to 152 yesterday. We go into full lockdown (except for essential services, shops and petrol stations) at 11:59 pm tonight.

A state of emergency will be declared in Parliament today. A UBI is being considered as one option.

People needing to travel on domestic flights, trains and Cook Strait ferries to get home before the country moves into level 4 lock-down tomorrow night will be able to continue using the passenger services until midnight on Friday.

 

Community spread must already be occurring, further action implored

Nearly all confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand have been linked to international travel, and there has been no confirmation of contracting the virus via community transmission – but this may be happening undetected.

Epidemiologist Doctor David Skegg – NZ’s Covid response: We need to be more open

The New Zealand Government should be congratulated on many aspects of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is an urgent need for more openness about the current situation and the options for controlling further spread of this disease.

Community transmission

For some weeks I have been concerned by repeated statements that the probability of community transmission of the coronavirus in this country is low. Not nearly enough testing has been carried out so far. Since testing has been heavily skewed towards people who have been overseas recently, it is hardly surprising that most of the cases detected had links to overseas travel.

All the epidemiologists I talk with expect that community transmission is already occurring, at least in some places. Why should the virus behave differently in New Zealand than elsewhere?

Authorities have argued that decisions about testing are left to the expert judgement of clinicians. Yet some clinicians have complained about difficulty in arranging tests.

There have reports that even people with possible Covid-19 symptoms are not being tested because they don’t have links to anyone who has travelled internationally.

I know a nurse who works in an aged care hospital who was off  work with symptoms last and tried to have a test, but was told she didn’t need one as she had no travel links.

US Senator Rand Paul tests positive for Covid-19

Republican US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus…Paul has no symptoms and was tested out of “abundance of caution” given his recent travels

How many people with no symptoms are carrying and possible spreading the virus?

If this is common practice then community transmission won’t be detected because they are excluding that from testing.

People are surprised when I tell them that, allowing for population size, the epidemic of COVID-19 in New Zealand appears to be running only about 8 days behind that in the United Kingdom – a country that had no border controls.

The UK currently has 5,071 confirmed cases and 233 deaths.

We seem to be tracking a little behind Australia on spread, and they are making major moves this week, with NSW, Victoria and Queensland moving into lockdown on Tuesday.

ABC: NSW, Victoria and ACT jump the gun on PM’s indoor venue crackdown with early state-wide shutdowns

The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and ACT beat the Prime Minister in flagging a host of closures across their states on Sunday, hours before the Federal Government’s crackdown on indoor venues.

In their announcements earlier on Sunday, the three states said schools would remain open on Monday, but Victoria’s school holidays would be brought forward to start on Tuesday.

Queensland set to follow NSW and Victoria in shutting down non-essential services.

Western Australia and South Australia have joined Tasmania and the Northern Territory in requiring visitors to isolate for 14 days upon arrival, effectively closing the borders.

ABC: Crackdown on social distancing sees pubs, indoor sporting and religious venues to close

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says parents can keep their children in school, but licenced clubs, pubs, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and places of worship will close from midday Monday.
The following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:
  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Australia currently has 1,353 cases and 7 reported deaths.

Things are escalating in Auckland – Seven Auckland schools shut

Students of seven Auckland schools will be staying home today due to Covid-19 cases and precautions.

Glendowie College is closed until Thursday after a student tested positive for Covid-19.

Marist College for girls in Mt Albert, where a teacher has the virus, is closed, as is the next door Marist Primary as a precaution. It’s expected to reopen Thursday.

Mount Roskill Grammar School where a parent has tested positive for Covid-19 is also closed, however, this is a scheduled closure. The parent, who returned from overseas March 12, attended a school event the same evening.

A Randwick Park Intermediate School student is a “probable case” and the school will be shut for 72 hours.

Tests on a Pukekohe High School student and a Pukekohe Intermediate School students were both negative however, the schools will remain closed until Tuesday. The decision was made as a precaution to avoid difficulty communicating to parents over the weekend if tests were positive.

Another school in Auckland alerted parents Sunday evening a teacher, who is a close contact to a confirmed case, is now in precautionary self-isolation. The teacher does not have symptoms and the school is remaining open.

In a letter from the Ministry of Education parents were told the risk was low.

“The latest evidence shows that, unlike influenza, there is a very low risk that a person is able to transmit the virus before they have symptoms.”

At present the Government’s stance is that shutting schools down isn’t necessary as there is not widespread community transmission here.

There’s concern preemptively shutting schools could mean grandparents. who are vulnerable due to their age, would end up caring for children.

That’s exactly what I’m doing. A grandson is ‘immunne-compromised’ – he has type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease. We are taking him in and setting up in virtual self-isolation. I can do this because I can work from home. And we will talk to his high school about keeping him at home.

We see this as prudent because his other family contacts pose a greater risk – his father is still working which involves personal contact, he has siblings at two other schools, and his other grandparents work in exposed jobs – in a supermarket and as a taxi driver that does airport work.

The official stance on level 2 is that as a country we are not yet in lockdown – but the sooner that happens the more we can reduce spread of the virus.

The petition calling for moving immediately to Level 4 and a mandatory social lockdown has jumped to 55,000 signatures.

Stuff: Major benefits and dire consequences to lockdowns, expert says

The Ministry of Health says it will only encourage lockdowns in New Zealand if the local coronavirus situation changes dramatically.

But a public health expert believes a lockdown is critical sooner rather than later to fight the pandemic and save New Zealand from the catastrophic path of some other countries.

For now, appeals for people to self-isolate and follow social distancing remain pivotal to Government coronavirus strategy. But outrage is brewing about people who flout self-isolation guidelines and can’t seem to take social distancing advice.

As shutdowns loom in Australia, a comprehensive local lockdown now would offer New Zealand a “clear path forward”, Professor Michael Baker told Stuff on Sunday.

“All I can do is convey the epidemiological rationale for doing it very rapidly,” said Baker, from the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health.

“The alternatives are pretty dire.”

Enforcing limits in social movement could essentially suffocate the virus’ ability to spread, Baker said.

Baker expected Government leaders were already preparing for lockdowns.

He believed it was a matter of timing and taking into account logistical challenges, but said the sooner lockdowns came, the better.

Baker said he’d “be delighted” if a lockdown was announced immediately.

I want to avoid direand am concerned that Covid-19 may already spreading in communities.

I’m going to effectively lock down now – it will be enforced soon anyway, and protecting lives must be a priority. We all have this choice now.


Stuff: Close schools immediately, Teaching Council pleads

The Teaching Council has called for all schools and daycare centres to shut down immediately.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, Teaching Council chief executive Lesley Hoskin made the call which she said was on behalf of 130,000 teachers.

The closure should be immediate, she said.

“As the voice of teachers, the council, on behalf of all teachers, implores you to act now and to move to Alert Level-4, closing early childhood centres and schools.

 

Prepare for lockdown

Rumours were rife in Australia on Tuesday that an internal lockdown announcement was imminent. That didn’t eventuate.

Here in New Zealand on Thursday afternoon internal lockdown rumours swirled – see Covid-19: Rumours, lockdowns and anxiety-fuelled social sharing – but media didn’t go public with the information. The  borders only were locked to anyone except New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Australia followed suit.

But it looks likely we are headed for some degree of internal lockdown. From an interview on RNZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern…

…reiterated her message to be prepared, saying New Zealanders should be prepared to work from home and be prepared to cancel non-essential travel.

She said more than that, clearly implying the regional lockdowns were distinct possibilities, as was a national stay at home order, as has happened in a number of countries already, and has just been announced in California.

And Scott Morrison is signalling similar for Australia: PM flags further internal travel restrictions

Mr Morrison said Australians should “reconsider the need for unnecessary travel”.

Mr Morrison said further advice is being taken to the national cabinet next Tuesday night and will be available before people go on school holidays.

“I am just flagging that for next week, when we consider those issues on a broader scale,” he said.

So we have plenty of warning that we may be largely confined to our homes, possibly in the near future.

Most people I have talked to at work this week have been preparing for working from home.

I have been able to work from home for years so don’t need to do much more, but I guess need to mentally prepare for a major change in work and lifestyle.

It is being made clear that we all need to prepare for the possibility, if not likelihood, that we will be confined to home some time soon, and potentially for an extended period of time.


Jacinda Ardern is on Seven Sharp tonight to ‘answer questions’.

She has reiterated:

  • Prepare to work from home.
  • Prepare to not travel.

 

Simon Bridges whistles Australian deporting but laws already allow it

Another policy announcement by Simon Bridges, deporting Australian criminals that may not do much more than raise the level dog whistling. National to look at reciprocal deportation law

Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says a National Government will look at amending the law to allow Australians convicted of serious crimes in New Zealand to be deported.

If elected, National will explore a policy based on amendments to Australia’s Migration Act in 2014 which allows for people to have their visas cancelled on character grounds.

“It’s the legal right of the Australian Government to deport Kiwi criminals, however we have the same rights and it’s my view that New Zealand needs to explore how a reciprocal policy could work here.”

And especially as under current law Aussie criminals can already be deported.

Newshub: Jacinda Ardern knocks ‘naïve’ Simon Bridges for mulling reciprocal deportations for Australians

The Opposition leader said if National’s elected he will explore a policy based on amendments to Australia’s Migration Act in 2014, which allows for people to have their visas cancelled on character grounds.

Bridges told Magic Talk: “I simply say fair is fair; why wouldn’t we do the same to them? Our laws are much more lenient than the Australian laws… When the Aussies are over here, we should reciprocate in New Zealanders’ interests.”

The Opposition leader said if it’s right for Australia then it’s “worth exploring whether it’s also the right position for New Zealand and our interests”.

The Prime Minister…

…has rejected Bridges’ stance, telling reporters on Monday: “Personally, I think Mr Bridges’ position is naïve.”

Ardern has repeatedly labelled Australia’s policy “corrosive” to the trans-Tasman relationship in the past, raising the issue with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in early 2019, but she later ruled out retaliation after meeting with him again in July.

The Prime Minister pointed out that New Zealand already deports criminals back to countries from which they hold citizenship, but that with Australia it’s a “matter of principle and a matter of proportion”.

“My view is, if we think this policy is wrong, why would we then repeat it?

“My position is that we must do and continue to do everything we can to make the point that what Australia is doing is wrong and the best way I can continue to make that is not by replicating something that I don’t agree with.

In terms of proportion – Ardern said there are roughly 62,000 Australians living in New Zealand compared to around 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia.

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler responds: “The law already allows convicted Australians to be deported.”

The current version of the law is here: legislation.govt.nz/act/public/200

The 1987 version of the law is here: legislation.govt.nz/act/public/198

The test could be lower. We could grant fewer reprieves. But the idea of deporting permanent resident criminals is not new.

I doubt that appearing to get tough on Aussie criminals will attract many more votes for National.

The best known (notorious) Australian criminal in New Zealand is Brenton Tarrant, but he is being kept here to face multiple (51) murder charges plus attempted murder charges, as he should be. Bridges would more likely loose supported if he suggested Tarrant should be deported at this stage at least. And I’m sure New Zealanders convicted of crimes in Australia are charged and imprisoned there.

Coronavirus concerns

There are worldwide concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in China as it spreads to other countries, including Australia.

Reuters – Coronavirus contagion rate makes it hard to control: studies

Each person infected with coronavirus is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at current transmission rates, according to two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic.

Whether the outbreak will continue to spread at this rate depends on the effectiveness of control measures, the scientists who conducted the studies said. But to be able to contain the epidemic and turn the tide of infections, control measures would have to halt transmission in at least 60% of cases.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 41 on Saturday, with more than 1,400 people infected worldwide – the vast majority in China.

Reuters – Hong Kong bans entry of visitors from China virus province

Residents of China’s Hubei province, where the new coronavirus outbreak was first reported, will be banned from entering Hong Kong from Monday as China tries to halt the rapid spread of the outbreak.

Health authorities around the world are racing to prevent a pandemic after more than 2,000 people were infected in China and 56 have died.

A handful of cases of infection have been reported in other countries, including Thailand, Australia, the United States, France and Canada. No fatalities have been recorded outside China.

The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because much about it is still unknown, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

The World Health Organization this week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health experts question whether China can contain the epidemic.

Reuters – Latest on the coronavirus spreading in China and beyond

Here is what we know so far:

** As of midnight in Beijing (1600 GMT) on Jan. 25, the death toll in China had risen to 56, authorities reported. Some 1,975 people in China had been infected with the virus.

** The coronavirus transmission ability is getting stronger and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said.

** China temporarily bans wildlife trade nationwide in markets, supermarkets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms, authorities said.

** The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan.

** Thailand has reported eight infection cases; Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia have reported four; the United States, France, Japan three; Vietnam and South Korea two apiece and Canada and Nepal one.

** No reported fatalities outside China

** The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that while the outbreak was an emergency for China, it was not yet a global health emergency.

** Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

** China says the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.

** Two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic say each person infected is passing the disease on to between two and three other people.

** Those most affected are older people and those with underlying health conditions.

** Three research teams have begun work on developing potential vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said. Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months’ time.

** Beijing will delay reopening the city’s kindergartens, schools and universities, state-owned China National Radio (CNR) said on its official Weibo page.

** China may “appropriately” extend the Lunar New Year holiday, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a working group meeting hosted by China’s premier Li Keqiang.

** Taiwan further tightens restrictions on visitors from China, suspending entry for many apart from business travellers and a few other exceptions.

** Hong Kong’s popular amusement parks Disneyland and Ocean Park are closed from Jan. 26, state media CCTV reported.

** Wuhan, a city of 11 million, is under severe travel restrictions, with urban transport shut and outgoing flights suspended.

** Tourist access to Beijing’s Forbidden City closed and large gatherings cancelled, including two Lunar New Year temple fairs, and closed part of the Great Wall.

** Hong Kong has declared an emergency and will extend school holiday closures until Feb. 17. The city also cancelled all official Lunar New Year celebrations and official visits to mainland China.

** Airports around the world have stepped up screening.

** Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.

RNZ – Government alert to coronavirus but not alarmed, says Minister

Health staff will meet flights arriving in New Zealand from China tomorrow, looking for signs of the Wuhan strain of coronavirus, after four confirmed cases in Australia.

Health Minister David Clark announced this afternoon that public health staff will be on the ground in Auckland and Christchurch International Airports to take the temperature of incoming passengers who felt unwell.

David Clark said he had been advised the risk of an outbreak in New Zealand remained low and said the government was active and alert, but not alarmed.

“At this stage we have said that we are very alert to any potential risks. The evidence is that so far there have been no cases of communication person to person outside of China but this is a rapidly developing situation and that’s why we’re taking such a cautious and prepared approach.”

He said anyone displaying symptoms will be appropriately contained and any contact with others will be traced.

Dr Clark said the checks were a precaution, but public health staff would remain at the airports for the foreseeable future.

He is urging people to reconsider any travel plans to China and said unnecessary travel to areas of infection should be avoided.

Dr Clark will take a paper to cabinet on Tuesday, to make the novel coronavirus a notifiable disease.

The Ministry of Health said New Zealand laboratories should be ready to test for the novel coronavirus later in the week.

Stuff – What does the coronavirus epidemic mean for New Zealand?

This epidemic is already having an impact on New Zealand that is likely to grow over time. There is grief and worry for those at the centre of the epidemic in China.

There is the risk of imported and sustained disease in this country. And also the economic impact that is already being manifested in financial markets and may impact on tourist flows to New Zealand.

Of these concerns, the threat of importing disease to New Zealand is probably receiving most attention, as it is one risk that we have the ability to manage. It is stating the obvious to say that we live in a highly connected world with most countries just one or two flights away from China.

If spread continues to occur we are likely to see imported coronavirus cases in New Zealand, just as such cases are being detected in Australia and a growing number of other countries.

The future course of this epidemic is unpredictable. New Zealand is fortunate in having a number of advantages in combating this threat.

Another protective factor for New Zealand is timing. Respiratory viruses of all sorts are highly seasonal and conditions in summer (eg people spending less time indoors) reduce their transmission.

New Zealand has an established pandemic plan and experience with rolling this out during the last influenza pandemic in 2009.

One limitation is that the ‘keep it out’ component of our pandemic plan remains under-developed. Our very small national and regional public health capacity could be easily swamped if a coronavirus epidemic became established here.

Another major challenge for New Zealand is to ensure it does not export this coronavirus to Pacific Islands, where it could be devastating. Now is the time to be thinking about how to minimise this risk.

One good thing in our modern world is this information and scrutiny of what is happening gets around very quickly, with protections and precautions able to be put in place to contain the spread.

But with a lot of rapid world wide travel something like this could be difficult to contain.

And the coronavirus is having an impact here before any known cases in New Zealand.

RNZ – Coronavirus will have impact on Queenstown tourism, says mayor

The deadly coronavirus outbreak has come at the worst possible time for tourism operators in the middle of summer and the Chinese New Year, Queenstown’s mayor says.

Chinese tourists accounted for more than $220 million of spending in the Queenstown Lakes District in the year to October.

Tourism operators are already reporting cancellations as China suspends overseas and domestic group tours as the outbreak worsens.

Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said it was too early to know what effect the outbreak would have on tourism in the area but it would be significant.

“The timing couldn’t be worse because this is probably the biggest week of the industry with Chinese New Year. I guess it’s not a complete disaster because a number of them are already here but the issue will have a significant effect on the tourism industry,” he said.

New Zealand Chinese Travel and Tourism Association chair Simon Cheung said he woke this morning to find tours from China had already been cancelled and other operators would be in the same boat.

Impact on travel and tourism and business is an unfortunate side effect, but limiting the spread is more important – if there was an outbreak of coronavirus in Queenstown or anywhere in New Zealand the impact would be far greater.

Stuff – China arrivals to be checked

Public health staff will begin meeting flights from China from Monday to look for signs of coronavirus.

 

Signs of disastrous Australian bushfires evident here

Bushfires continue to wreak havoc in Australia, with the death toll and property damage climbing. It has been a calamitous end to the year in a horrible fire season.

ABC:

My son is visiting – he has talked about how hard it can be to predict the fires. He was close to being caught in one in Western Australia three years ago (four people were caught and killed, one was a farmer going around warning people of the fire).

People on a beach against a dark orange haze.

PHOTO: People in Batemans Bay evacuated to the coastline amid the fire threat. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

Stuff: Naval ships, aircraft ready for Australia bushfire rescues as thousands jump in water to flee flames

The scenes at Mallacoota on Tuesday morning.

 

MARISKA ASCHER
The scenes at Mallacoota on Tuesday morning.

 

And the signs of the fires are reaching us here in New Zealand. It is overcast this morning in Dunedin but the light is eerie – this is likely due to smoke drifting across the Tasman.

Stuff: Massive currents of smoke from Australian fires reach New Zealand

Bushfire smoke from Australia is blowing across the Tasman Sea towards the South Island.

 

Silver Ferns win Netball World Cup

Defying form over the last couple of years, and also seedings and predictions, New Zealand’s Silver ferns have won the 2019 Netball World Cup, beating Australia in the final in Liverpool by just one goal.

 

I even felt a bit emotional watching the final minutes, seeing the reactions to the result, and then the presentations and the national anthem.

Coach Noelene Taurua and everyone else involved in the campaign deserve a lot of credit too.

I’m not a great netball fan, but this is a great effort and a great result.

Netball New Zealand: Silver Ferns win Vitality Netball World Cup

 

NZ troops to be withdrawn from Iraq

Beehive:  New Zealand to withdraw from Iraq in June 2020:


New Zealand will conclude its non-combat Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission at Taji Military Complex in Iraq in June 2020, when full responsibility for basic training will be handed over to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark announced today.

New Zealand currently deploys up to 95 personnel to the BPC at Taji. Following recent Cabinet decisions this will reduce to a maximum of 75 from July 2019 and 45 from January 2020, before the mission’s completion by June 2020.

New Zealand and Australia have been jointly delivering training to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at Taji since 2015, when New Zealand first deployed to Iraq as part of the multinational Defeat-ISIS Coalition. Over 44,000 ISF personnel have been trained at Taji since 2015.

“Four years ago New Zealand made a commitment to the Iraqi Government and to the Coalition to train the ISF at Taji and lift their capability to defeat and prevent the resurgence of ISIS. Over the next 12 months, New Zealand will be able to wind down and conclude that commitment,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The New Zealand and Australian troops at Taji have worked hard, not only to provide training, but also to ensure that the ISF are well placed to take over this commitment at Taji in the near future. The goal of any training mission is to ensure that it becomes a sustainable programme.”

“Significant progress has been made in this area, which will allow the mission to reduce in numbers and conclude within the next year, having successfully achieved what we went in to do. This is an encouraging evolution and a success not only for us but also for the ISF personnel who have trained hard to gain the skills to become a modern military force,” said Ron Mark.

Alongside the deployment to Taji, the New Zealand Defence Force will continue in a reduced number of support roles within the Defeat-ISIS Coalition in the region. Cabinet will consider these positions again by next June.

New Zealand will however increase its stabilisation funding contribution to Iraq to approximately NZ$3 million per annum for the next three years (from NZ$2.4m in 2018-19) to help affected communities recover and rebuild following the conflict with ISIS.

Stabilisation funding will come from within MFAT’s overseas aid and development fund, and will contribute to what has been estimated to be a US$87 billion rebuild of Iraq.

“Despite its territorial defeat in Iraq in December 2017 and Syria in March 2019, it is clear that ISIS remains a threat and Iraq requires ongoing international support as it moves towards recovery and stabilisation,” said Winston Peters.

“As large numbers of Iraqi people return home and begin to rebuild their lives and communities, New Zealand’s targeted funding support can make a meaningful contribution towards this.”


National have sort of supported this – with a catch.

RNZ: National supports troop withdrawal – if partners do same

The National Party is on board with the government pulling Kiwi troops out of Iraq next year – on the condition Australia and the United States also withdraw.

National Party defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell said the decision to leave was the right one, providing everyone went at the same time.

“It looks okay with us, it would be dependent on whether it’s in line with what our partners are doing – especially the Americans and the Australians,” he said.

Australia is yet to make a formal announcement but Mr Mark told media yesterday the New Zealand decision was part of a carefully planned exit strategy alongside partners.

“We took a role of about a third/two-thirds contribution in partnership with Australia. This reduces down to a quarter/three-quarters and we will be downsizing alongside them and working with them, not just walking away from the mission,” Mr Mark said.

In a statement Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia and New Zealand “consult closely on their respective deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

“Australia is proud to support the Iraqi Security Forces, alongside its New Zealand counterparts. We will continue to work closely with New Zealand as it gradually draws down its footprint in Iraq,” she said.

“Australia regularly reviews its overseas operations, taking into account the needs of the Iraqi Government and the operational context on the ground.”

Whether National backs the withdrawal probably won’t make any difference, as the drawdown will have largely happened by next year’s election.

I doubt there is much public support for staying in Iraq, and there will be much stronger support for a withdrawal.

 

Populism falters in Australia, threatens Europe

Populism seems to be the latest political term in favour, but it is being applied across the political spectrum.

The unexpected defeat of Labor in the election Australia, after promoting  ‘populist’ type policies (like in dealing with climate change), has been seen as a setback for populism.

Washington Times: A populist surprise down under

Political trends, like the common cold, are contagious. Revolutions are often not confined to one country. The Communist revolution in Russia soon spread across the first half of the 20th century. The rise of fascism occurred in tandem across wide swaths of the world.

The period beginning in our own century might loosely be called the Age of Populism.

Gallup now says 4 in 10 Americans have embraced populism, perhaps not knowing everything about populism. The list of nations that have seen the birth of populist movements is a long one, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Israel, Hungary, the Philippines, Mexico, India, and Brazil. Ten thousand miles away from America, a populist revolution has exploded in Australia.

Scott Morrison won his first full term as prime minister of Australia, confounding expectations that the country’s voters were ready for a change after six years of tumultuous leadership.

But Australia’s “quiet voters,” as the prime minister called them, had a different idea. Mr. Morrison’s victory — his Liberal party is in fact the small-c conservative party in Australia — took an outright majority in parliament.

Australian voters rallied to the prime minister’s bold, Trump-like message.

I thought that lack of boldness was a feature of Morrison’s campaign, compared to Labor who thought the time was right for left wing populism. Bill Shorten was seen by voters as a threat to middle Australia’s future.

I don’t think that Scott Morrison is generally seen as a populist leader. He won more because he was the least unpopular.

New Zealand contrasts with this, as popular leader Jacinda Ardern is widely praised, even though her government keeps watering down or avoiding dealing with populist policies.

Blomberg editorial: The Populist Threat to Europe’s Future

The European Union is under siege. In elections from Sweden to Spain, right-wing populists continue to gain strength, while support for traditional parties withers. Populist groups expect to make sizable gains in this week’s elections for the European parliament — giving them more power than ever before over the institutions at the heart of the EU.

Europe’s cohesion hangs in the balance. Though the Brexit fiasco has diminished the appeal of leaving the EU, populists remain determined to undermine it from within. They want to halt the momentum of European integration, curtail the authority of Brussels and limit the EU’s ability to force member states to adhere to democratic norms.

European leaders need a coherent strategy for fighting back. That requires they come to grips with the scale of the populist surge and address the legitimate grievances populists have exploited for electoral gain. At the same time, they must resist the urge to placate the demands of agitators on both the right and the left.

But Europe consists of many countries. While operating under the EU umbrella there a a variety of issues in different countries.

The landscape of populism is as diverse and cacophonous as Europe itself — from the yellow-vest protesters in France to the far-right Alternative for Germany to Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement — but common threads help to explain its appeal.

Populist leaders harness public frustration with political elites, who they cast as corrupt and indifferent to the daily struggles of voters. They draw support from citizens with low levels of formal education and those living in regions that have suffered from globalization. And populists play on cultural anxieties, blaming the loss of national identity on immigrants, asylum seekers and the faceless bureaucrats of the EU.

Both right wing and left wing activists think they can tap the support of ordinary citizens, assuming they will support their ideals. This is often flawed thinking.

Political insurgents have also benefited from the erosion of voters’ loyaltiesto traditional parties. In countries with fractured electorates, like Belgium and Sweden, the mere process of forming a government can take months, and sometimes years. As ruling coalitions become more ideologically diverse, their ability to govern effectively declines — which only strengthens the populists’ anti-establishment message.

This isn’t happening here. One of the biggest criticisms in New Zealand is that the two major parties, Labour and National, are barely distinguishable with what the do in government, especially on economic policy.

If pursued at both national and pan-European levels, political and economic reform can restore confidence in mainstream parties and blunt the appeal of populism. That work won’t be easy, nor yield results overnight. But for the sake of Europe’s future, it needs to start now.

That’s as unlikely as what is proposed is idealistic.And it’s vague – the left and the right are trying to pull economic and social reform in different directions, while governments are getting more messed up in the middle – Britain’s attempt at reform via Brexit is a continuing disaster.

Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’, but hasn’t achieved much, especially what could be called reform. His biggest claim to fame is reshuffling the swamp monsters, and tweeting nonsense.

Australia has just chosen more of the same politically and economically, with no sign of anything looking like reform. Australians voted for the status quo.

New Zealand is continuing largely the same, with even modest tax reform and social reform both being rejected by the government this year.

Populism is more popular in social media than in politics, but it is amplified by small minorities who keep getting disappointed by voters and governments.

A simplistic label like populism doesn’t fit the real world, which is far more diverse than simplistic reforms can deal with.