Post-Covid idealists may have to wait a while for the people to rise and fix the world

Obviously the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s wider effects on health and the economy are far from over, here in New Zealand and world wide. It seems unlikely our borders will reopen to Australia let alone the worlds will re-open this year.

We are yet to see the full economic impact here, with wage subsidies still propping up jobs for another few weeks but already there have been many lost jobs and business closures.

In Dunedin the Warehouse has announced the closure of their city store, department store H & J Smith have announced they will close permanently in January (when their mall lease expires), and K-Mart hasn’t opened since the lockdown. The latter two are the major tenants in Dunedin’s biggest mall.

But idealists still seem to think that Covid can be used as a catalyst to reforming and saving the world.

Anne Salmond: Life after the Pandemic

Around the world, millions of people are still in lockdown, trying to avoid the worst consequences of a global pandemic. It’s been a shocking, bizarre time, with people locked in their houses, unable to go to work (except online) or visit many of their nearest and dearest, even in the extremity of illness or death.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the suspension of life as usual has been short compared with many other countries, and the loss of life blessedly limited.

To be fair she may have written her column before this week’s debacle unfolded.

In our small, relatively close-knit island nation, over the past few months ‘the team of five million’ has been galvanised by the pandemic to work towards common goals. Fortunately, the idea that the lives of friends or family should be sacrificed for ‘the economy’ had very little traction in New Zealand, and the risks posed by self-serving individuals to others became stark.

There’s a sense that the ground beneath us is lurching. The global economy is fragile, with the climate crisis, mass extinctions and collapsing ecosystems looming like black clouds on the horizon. Around the world, leaders are being tested, perhaps as never before, and some are failing in spectacular style.

In New Zealand, we’ve been lucky. With the support of most people, our leaders took this small, remote country through months of isolation and sacrifice to eliminate Covid-19, at least for now.

As many commentators have observed, in many ways, Covid-19 is the least of our worries.

Many commentators? Or a few who keep repeating themselves?

After decades of fostering radical inequalities, and ravaging soils, rivers, forests and harbours in the name of profit, our life support systems are faltering, and the links that bind us together are being corroded. If our leaders fail to tackle these challenges head on, they will put the lives of their own children and grandchildren at risk.

Our leaders have failed to even do the basics in keeping Covid out.

It is my hope and belief that the same collective good sense and astute leadership that helped us get through the pandemic (so far) will shape our future in New Zealand. In the aftermath of Covid-19, its time for the team of five million (literally) to play the game of their lives.

But we are not anywhere near through the pandemic yet.

Rod Oram: Politicians still leaving it to us on climate

…But this Government, along with its predecessors over the past 20 years, has failed to deliver any meaningful complementary measures because the politics of them have been so dysfunctional.

Last July, for example, the Labour-led Government proposed a comprehensive policy to incentivise the purchase of lower emissions, more fuel efficient and electric vehicles. The policy would have also set fuel efficiency standards for New Zealand by 2025. We are the only developed country to lack them. But it dropped the plan in February because its coalition partner, NZ First, vetoed it.

Both NZ First and National attacked the policy, claiming it benefitted higher income and urban people while penalising lower income and rural people. Their argument was flat-out wrong, which was perfectly clear from the analysis on which the policy was based. Meanwhile, fuel hungry twin-cab utes retain their exemption from fringe benefit tax, which is an incentive to buy them.

Similarly, this Government’s Covid recovery stimulus spending is remarkably light on infrastructure projects that also deliver environmental and climate benefits. The ones announced this week were pitifully few and small.

The global revolution in food and farming is familiar to regular readers of this column, with my most recent update seven weeks ago.

I suspect that most people don’t care about global revolutions at the moment, just personal survival.

Politicians were just as disappointing this week, led by National voting against the ETS legislation. It said it supported the bill but Covid-hit households and business couldn’t afford the resulting increase in carbon costs.

They make a valid point.

If it wins the election and leads the next government, it says it will delay implementing the ETS reforms for a year. But if a dollar or two a week per household really is too much now, then it will always be and National will never agree to it. Yet with every year we delay, the cost of acting on the climate crisis, and repairing the damage it does, only escalates.

So, once again the only course for action for the public is to take personal responsibility and action on the climate, work with others, push politicians ever harder to act, and vote for the parties showing the least denial.

So Oram is basically campaigning against National here.

And he is probably out of touch with most of us who see some fairly big challenges right now. Taking “personal responsibility and action on the climate” is not likely to be high on most people’s priority lists.

Salmond and Oram may be financially secure enough to make token sacrifices, but many of us are more concerned about personal survival, health-wise and financially.

Hydroxychloroquine no longer authorised by FDA to treat Covid-19

Hydroxychloroquine has received a lot of attention as a possible treatment for Covid-19, particularly due to Donald Trump promoting it and using it.

But the US Food and Drug Administration has revoked approval for its use for Covid.

Financial Times: US regulator ends emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for virus

The US regulator has revoked its emergency approval for hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that was lauded by US president Donald Trump and has been used to treat Covid-19 patients across the world.

Shortly after the pandemic engulfed the US, Mr Trump hailed hydroxychloroquine as a “game-changer” and played down its risks, saying at a press conference: “What do you have to lose?”

Later, he said he had taken the drug himself, trying it as a potential preventive measure to stop him developing Covid-19 after several White House officials had contracted the infection.

The Food and Drug Administration said new data from trials showed the drug did not improve the condition of patients or have an antiviral effect, so the benefits did not outweigh the risks.

Denise Hinton, chief scientist of the FDA, said that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, a similar drug, were no longer authorised to treat Covid-19 patients, as of Monday.

“The FDA always underpins its decision-making with the most trustworthy, high-quality, up-to-date evidence available. We will continue to examine all of the emergency use authorizations the FDA has issued and make changes, as appropriate, based on emerging evidence,” she said in a statement.

In a letter to the director of medical countermeasures at another branch of the health department, she wrote that earlier observations that it decreased the shedding of the virus had not been consistently replicated — and recent data from a randomised clinical trial showed no difference between hydroxychloroquine and the “standard of care”: drugs usually used to treat hospitalised patients, such as those administered in intensive care.

It always seemed a long shot that hydroxychloroquine may be some sort of miracle treatment or cure. It may still be found to have some benefits, but I think that rushing into using unproven drug treatments is fairly silly and risky. Even drugs that work well usually have adverse side effects.

Meanwhile the worldwide number of Covid cases continues to increase, and while the death rate seems to have slowed total official deaths are now at 438,000 and likely to be under-reported.

And in the US relaxing lockdowns is still a contentious issue as case numbers surge in some states. See:

And while Trump Campaign Touts 1 Million Ticket Requests for Tulsa Rally the number of cases is also increasing there – see https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/

NZ developed personal Covid-19 early warning app

A New Zealand developed app has been developed that works with many available wearable devices (like fitbit) to provide an early warning if someone develops early symptoms of Covid-19.

Called ëlarm, it overcomes one of the greatest obstacles to protecting our communities from the Covid-19 virus – that it’s spread by people who don’t know they’re infected.

‘With ëlarm, you can know you’re sick before you feel sick,’ says app developer Paul O’Connor of the data analytics company Datamine.

It’s model is clinically developed  and calibrated for Covid-19 symptom. There’s a chance it will detect symptoms of other illnesses similar to Covid but allows action to be taken to confirm this.

This can allow for isolation and treatment before Covid is spread to other people. It is targeted particularly at vulnerable people or people living close to vulnerable people.

ëlarm

ëlarm is an early warning indicator for COVID-19 and other infectious viruses. It monitors the changes in your body that happen two or three days before you are aware of any symptoms – so you can keep yourself and the people around you safe during COVID-19 and beyond.

It’s designed for anyone with a wearable device. ëlarm is compatible with multiple brands of wearable devices.

If you get sick, ëlarm aims to let you know early and give you more time to act.

Peronsalised app

Available worldwide it costs $US4.50 a month (currently one month free to try it).

Datamine worked with medical specialists in New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Europe and the USA, to build robust models that analyse a person’s health data to detect hidden symptoms of the virus – the biometric changes that occur as the body begins fighting the virus, such as heartrate, heartrate variability and skin temperature.

‘Research shows that wearables are able to predict Covid-19 up to three days before a person develops noticeable symptoms such as fever, fatigue and breathing difficulties – with over 90% accuracy,’ says Mr O’Connor.

‘ëlarm will be of particular benefit to the vulnerable people in our communities, to front-line healthcare workers, and also to businesses desperately trying to operate safely in this difficult environment,’ he says.

Collaborating with clinicians here and overseas, over the past three months a Datamine team of data engineers, analysts and software developers built a prototype.

Professor Michael Baker, one of New Zealand’s leading epidemiologists, while not involved in developing the app, is intrigued by the potential of this technology, noting this is just the first step:

“I think it’s very encouraging that New Zealand is producing exciting innovations in the area of new surveillance tools for tracking people who are potentially infected by Covid-19 and other infectious agents. There are many potentially useful applications for this technology. More field testing is obviously needed with this tool to assess its effectiveness and ensure it is applied to the most pressing and relevant problems.”

If ëlarm proves to be effective it could provide a simple way to detect Covid and other infections early. That improves medical outcomes by treating people before it causes more problems – Covid can affect a numb er of organs including lungs and the heart, and would help limit the spread of the virus.

It’s overall effectiveness will depend on how many people use it, but it could give some peace of mild and protection to more vulnerable people.

The value of wearable devices in tracking health information is widely acknowledged. Other teams around the world have been working to find a way of using them in the fight against Covid-19. Some wearable companies are developing apps that work within their own platform. But no other team has developed an app that can successfully detect indicative symptoms, and that works across multiple wearable devices.

ëlarm is available to anyone, anywhere, who owns or purchases a supported wearable device.

ëlarm is an agnostic app, compatible with multiple brands of readily available wearable devices such as Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Oura, Garmin, Huawei, Samsung, and can interface with Google Fit.

For the past two years, Datamine has worked with health business clients to develop a health platform, part of which is a ‘health vault’ – a place where people can safely store their personal health data. During that time, the company also worked with wearables data, storing that data and analysing the data streams.

The app is available anywhere in the world and can be purchased through the website: www.elarm.health


Note: I know someone involved with ëlarm and was emailed a media release on this app. It is the first time i have heard of it. I checked the website, and thought it looked like a worthwhile New Zealand product to be publicised. As with all posts on Your NZ it is not paid for, and I have no financial or other interest in ëlarm.

 

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.

Cape Reinga closure “cultural mumbo jumbo” as authorities puihi foot

Cape Reinga has remained closed (with a gate across the road) since lockdown, with some local Māori saying the area needs to be blessed and cleansed due to Covid-19, because after death people’s spirits travel there to depart to the afterlife.

Tourists are being blocked from visiting Cape Reinga by local Iw, with the puihi footing support of DOC and compliance of NZTA.

Earlier this week National MP Matt King tried visiting the Cape with his wife and parents and a man threatened to “knock him out” if he tried to get past the gate.

NZ First MP Shane Jones has called the claims ‘rubbish” and “cultural mumbo jumbo”.

On Wednesday (1 News):  National MP in confrontation with members of local iwi after being refused access to Cape Reinga

Dozens of tourists are being turned away from Cape Reinga by local iwi, despite tourism and hospitality in the region trying to encourage visitors to the area.

Northland MP Matt King made a video of a confrontation that took place with iwi as he tried to access the location.

“It’s my customary rights and I’m prepared to knock you out if you pass that gate,” a person blocking access says in the video.

Mr King talked to 1 NEWS about his experience.

“This is not about Covid-19, they gave me a range of reasons as to why the road was blocked. One was that DOC was doing maintenance up there, then they said it was their land.

“Northland is a beautiful place with beautiful people in it and we’ve got a lot to offer and I just want to see the roadblocks taken down and us just getting back to business”.

Ngāti Kuri says that is what it wants too, but first the sacred site must be cleansed. Māori tradition holds that after death spirits travel there to depart.

“There is a responsibility and obligation and opportunity to move us through to Level 1 by having an appropriate opening so spirits can move toward te rerenga wairua,” Harry Burkhardt of Ngāti Kuri says.

NZTA say its working with the iwi and the Department of Conservation who are restricting access until facilities are cleaned.

“Working with” appears to be allowing the road block to continue as long as those involved from Ngāti Kuri choose.

DOC fully supports Ngāti Kuri’s management of the area and says it’s working to undertake physical safety checks at the site, including walking trails, campgrounds and facilities.

A reopening ceremony will take place on May 29.

Also from NZ Herald:  `This isn’t about Covid 19′

Northland MP Matt King set off for Cape Rēinga, with his wife and parents, on Tuesday, but he didn’t get there. State Highway 1 was blocked several kilometres south of the cape, and the four people manning it had no intention of letting him past.

“I got them to admit that it was about Māori land. They told me they owned the land, and they weren’t going to let me past.”

One of those manning the gate, he said, had threatened to knock him out, while another said one phone call would bring 500 reinforcements to the gate, and that they would “eat me alive”.

A police officer was present, but did not intervene, and left when King did, following him south. (Police have given an undertaking that officers will be present at every Covid-19 checkpoint).

“He said he had been told not to take action, so he was in an impossible position, but his role had been to keep the peace. If he hadn’t been there it could have become quite ugly.”

King said he had been contacted by numerous people, including tour operators, who were concerned and upset by the road closure.

Most of them were afraid to speak publicly, so he was speaking for them.

Shane Jones never seems afraid to speak, even when criticising Māori.

Saturday (1 News): Shane Jones calls iwi’s reason for barring access to Cape Reinga ‘cultural mumbo jumbo’

“Cape Reinga has been hijacked by Ngāti Kuri and their cultural mumbo jumbo,” says Shane Jones.

“This notion that the spirits need to slumber post Covid is rubbish, this notion that the spirits are travelling to Cape Reinga to hibernate.”

The MP is of Te Aupouri and Ngai Takoto descent and says the Cape belongs to the nation and has significance to all Māori tribes.

“It’s a place of national significance that’s being tainted by people that don’t know what they’re talking about and who have no mandate.“

Jones says the iwi organisation overseeing the closure is like, “children without books, they haven’t learnt anything.”

The closure coincides with Northland industry leaders calling for people to come and visit the region.

Police wouldn’t comment on the road block instead referring the matter to the New Zealand Transport Authority which says it’s working with the Iwi and the Department of Conservation who are supporting the restricted access.

Authorities puihi foot around the issue.

If Matt King had referred to the road block as ‘rubbish’ and the need to let spirits slumber as ‘mumbo jumbo’ he would likely have been condemned by some Māori. These days it seems that only Māori  can be critical of Māori actions and cultural beliefs.

Ngāti Kuri have said they  will reopen the road with a ceremony on May 29.

Public Health Response Act belatedly referred to select committee for review

The Government has belatedly decided to allow a select committee in Parliament to scrutinise the controversial Public Health Response Act

One of the controversial things about the Bill/Actt  that was rushed through Parliament under urgency this week was that it affected civil liberties, giving police greater powers to enter homes, and that it hadn’t been subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament.

NZ Herald: Human Rights Commission ‘deeply concerned’ about Public Health Response Bill

The Human Rights Commission says it’s “deeply concerned” about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process for the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill.

The bill, which set up the legal framework for future alert levels, was rushed through most of its legislative stages under urgency, with the support of Labour, NZ First, the Greens and Act.

But the Human Rights Commission says that despite the Government knowing for weeks that New Zealand will be moving to alert level 2, it has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of the alert level 2 legislation.

“There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders, which is deeply regrettable,” said chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt.

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.”

The Human Rights Commission is “strongly of the view” that the legislation must include a provision to ensure those making decisions, and exercising powers, under the new law, will do so in accordance with national and international human rights commitments and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“Given our concerns expressed to the Attorney General yesterday about the two-year sunset clause in the bill, we are pleased to see that Parliament will be changing this to 90 days,” Hunt said.

“However, given that the legislation encroaches on the civil liberties of New Zealanders we have serious concerns about whether the powers are proportionate.”

The Government has reacted to criticism and pressure and decided to allow a select committee to review the Act (albeit after it has been in force).

Legal framework for COVID-19 Alert Level referred to select committee

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, which set a sound legal framework ahead of the move to Alert level 2, has been referred to a parliamentary select committee for review.

Attorney-General David Parker said the review of the operation of the COVID-19 specific law would be reported back to the House by July 27, in time for the House to consider whether to renew the Act in line with the 90-day review specified in the law.

“That will allow the House to take into account the advice of the committee before it makes the decision whether to continue with the law for another 90 days – or longer if the House decides,” David Parker said.

The Police can only use their enforcement powers under the Act if the Government has authorised a COVID-19 Alert Level notice.

The post-enactment review, which has been recommended by legal experts and academics, will be conducted by the Finance and Expenditure Committee, which will have MPs from all parties in Parliament on it.

David Parker reiterated that the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act ensures controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable. The new Act narrows the Police powers compared with those which applied under Level 3 and Level 4.

This is better than no review, but the Government should have made time for proper process before dumping the bill on Parliament under urgency last week.

Pandemics and their ends

When will the Covid-19 pandemic end? It depends on what sort of end.

A social end to a pandemic is when people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease. There are signs of reaching this point in New Zealand now, but that doesn’t rule out a resurgence at some time in the future.

A medical end can be difficult to determine, and only after it has ended. Id it ends at all, some diseases just carry on, like the common flu.

MSN/New York Times: How Pandemics End

According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.

Endings “are very, very messy,” said Dora Vargha, a historian at the University of Exeter. “Looking back, we have a weak narrative. For whom does the epidemic end, and who gets to say?”

Will that happen with Covid-19?

One possibility, historians say, is that the coronavirus pandemic could end socially before it ends medically. People may grow so tired of the restrictions that they declare the pandemic over, even as the virus continues to smolder in the population and before a vaccine or effective treatment is found.

“I think there is this sort of social psychological issue of exhaustion and frustration,” the Yale historian Naomi Rogers said. “We may be in a moment when people are just saying: ‘That’s enough. I deserve to be able to return to my regular life.’”

It is happening already; in some states, governors have lifted restrictions, allowing hair salons, nail salons and gyms to reopen, in defiance of warnings by public health officials that such steps are premature. As the economic catastrophe wreaked by the lockdowns grows, more and more people may be ready to say “enough.”

To extent that has been happening in New Zealand over the last two weeks. Reports of a rush back to shopping yesterday, the start of the first weekend since we lowered to Level 2 restrictions that allowed all shops to re-open, suggest a getting back to normal. I drove through town yesterday and traffic was a busier than a normal Saturday, And I went for a trip right along the west side of Otago Harbour. It was quiet mid-morning but it was busier than normal by the middle of the day.

“There is this sort of conflict now,” Dr. Rogers said. Public health officials have a medical end in sight, but some members of the public see a social end.

The challenge, Dr. Brandt said, is that there will be no sudden victory. Trying to define the end of the epidemic “will be a long and difficult process.”

Many attempts are being made to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year, but it’s like to be months away at least. The Covid-19 virus is certain to continue, even if the fears subside.


Pandemics from history

Bubonic Plague

Historians describe three great waves of plague, said Mary Fissell, a historian at Johns Hopkins: the Plague of Justinian, in the sixth century; the medieval epidemic, in the 14th century; and a pandemic that struck in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The medieval pandemic began in 1331 in China. The illness, along with a civil war that was raging at the time, killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the population of Siena, Italy, died.

That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred.

One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone.

It is not clear what made the bubonic plague die down.

Smallpox

Among the diseases to have achieved a medical end is smallpox. But it is exceptional for several reasons: There is an effective vaccine, which gives lifelong protection; the virus, Variola minor, has no animal host, so eliminating the disease in humans meant total elimination; and its symptoms are so unusual that infection is obvious, allowing for effective quarantines and contact tracing.

But while it still raged, smallpox was horrific. Epidemic after epidemic swept the world, for at least 3,000 years.

It is thought to have been present in India as early as 1500 BCE, China 1122 BCE and Egypt 1145 BCE.

In 18th-century Europe it is estimated 400,000 people per year died from the disease, and one-third of the cases resulted in blindness.

It is estimated to have killed up to 300-500 million people in the 20th century. Two million died from smallpox in 1967.

The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977.

1918 (Spanish) Flu

This raced around the world at the end of Word War 1, killing 50-100 million people.

After sweeping through the world, that flu faded away, evolving into a variant of the more benign flu that comes around every year.

There were about 9,000 deaths in New Zealand, 2.500 of them Māori.

Hong Kong Flu

In the Hong Kong flu of 1968, one million people died worldwide, including 100,000 in the United States, mostly people older than 65. That virus still circulates as a seasonal flu, and its initial path of destruction — and the fear that went with it — is rarely recalled.

Swine flu

This was a variant strain of the 1918 Spanish flu. It is estimated to have caused somewhere between 150,000 and 575,000 deaths, and it is estimated that 700-1500 million were infected. Fortunately most people were only mildly affected.

Ebola

In 2014 more than 11,000 people in West Africa had died from Ebola, a highly infectious viral disease that was often fatal.

Covid-19

This has spread around the world and in about five months over 308,000 people have died, but this total is likely to grow quite a bit yet – the death toll has doubled over the last month.

In New Zealand the last of 21 deaths was on 6 May, and cases have just about stopped – the peak daily cases were from 24 March and had dropped to 29 by 11 April.

Virtually shutting down the borders has stopped the re-introduction of Covid. But how long will we keep our borders closed? While we may socially think the health problem is over some significant restrictions could persist for months.

We are no longer shut in our homes but we remain shut in our country.

But we have the benefit of modern health care and modern science.

A $20 billion target for election lobbyists

On of the most unusual features of the budget announced yesterday was twenty billion dollars in the $50 billion Covid Recovery Fund “remaining for future investment”.

Investments totalling $13.9 billion have already been made from the fund to fight the virus and cushion the blow. Cabinet has agreed a further $15.9 billion of investments to continue the immediate response and kickstart the economy, leaving $20.2 billion remaining for future investment.

This is a huge amount sitting waiting for spending decisions to be made, on top of already large amounts of expenditure..

It hasn’t taken long for political lobbyists to see this as an an opportunity.

Yesterday the government announced their budget for 2020 and what we learned is that the Finance Minister has set aside $20 billion in the Covid-19 recovery fund that is yet to be allocated.

With an election coming up, those of us wanting something different out of yesterday’s budget have a clear window of opportunity to demand it.

In the last seven weeks, we’ve been challenged to reflect on our values, how we care for one another, and what’s important. The $20 billion left in the Covid-19 recovery fund is an opportunity to take what we’ve learned and use it to reshape our economy, democracy, the way we care for our environment, and the way we care for each other.

Let’s create this vision together, then work collectively to bring it to life:

  1. We will combine the power and wisdom of thousands of ActionStation members to choose the big ideas via this survey.
  2. We’ll launch the results as a people-powered community vision called The People’s Regeneration Plan .
  3. Together we will campaign to build the pressure and people power needed to make our vision a reality.

Now is the time for the ActionStation community to collectively decide what type of Aotearoa we want to build beyond this crisis, and that’s why we need to be clear about what we’re asking for.

ActionStation isn’t looking at Covid specific initiatives, but rather seem to see it as an opportunity to promote their political wish list.

A screenshot of the survey responses. A link to an accessible survey is provided below.

I didn’t think that was the sort of thing the Covid Recovery Fund was intended for but others obviously see it differently.

Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill ‘appears to be consistent’ with Bill of Rights Act – MoJ

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency.

The Ministry of Health advice is that the Bill ‘appears to be consistent’ with the Bill of Rights Act.

We have considered whether the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill (‘the Bill’) is consistent with the rights and freedoms affirmed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (‘the Bill of Rights Act’).

We have not yet received a final version of the Bill. This advice has been prepared in relation to the latest version of the Bill (PCO 22923/4.2). We will provide you with further advice if the final version includes amendments that affect the conclusions in this advice.

We have concluded that the Bill appears to be consistent with the rights and freedoms affirmed in the Bill of Rights Act.

It seems that Andrew Little is Acting Attorney General because the Attorney General, David Parker, introduced the Bill and someone else had to advise him on it.

Click to access COVID-19-Public-Health-Response-Bill.pdf

Government release of documents relating to Covid-19 decisions

The Government have done a Friday data dump of documents they call Proactive Release, despite having being asked for information that informed their Covid-19 decision making for weeks.

At least it’s out there now – or at least everything they haven’t withheld.


Details of this release

This release includes the papers, minutes, and key advice for the decisions the Government has made relating to COVID-19 up to 17 April. Where a final decision has been made after 17 April this will be released in a further update.

A small number of documents and some parts of the released documents would not be appropriate to release and, if requested, would be withheld under the Official Information Act 1982 (the Act). Where this is the case, the relevant sections of the Act that would apply have been identified. Where information has been withheld, no public interest has been identified that would outweigh the reasons for withholding it.

Some information has been withheld in full, from this release in relation to the relevant section(s) of the Act:

  • Section 9(2)(f)(iv) — confidential advice
  • Section 9(2)(ba)(ii) — information provided to the Government under an obligation of confidence
  • Section 6(a) — international relations
  • Section 9(2)(j) — commercial negotiations.