Ardern’s leadership

Post from Gezza:

A fan-girl piece by Suze Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Executive Development at Massey University:

As someone who researches and teaches leadership – and has also worked in senior public sector roles under both National and Labour-led governments – I’d argue New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is giving most Western politicians a masterclass in crisis leadership.

Imagine, if you can, what it’s like to make decisions on which the lives of tens of thousands of other people depend. If you get things wrong, or delay deciding, they die. Your decisions affect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, resulting in huge economic disruption, mass layoffs and business closures.

Imagine you must act quickly, without having complete certainty your decisions will achieve what you hope. Now imagine that turning your decisions into effective action depends on winning the support of millions of people … success or failure hinges on getting most people to choose to follow your leadership – even though it demands sudden, unsettling, unprecedented changes to their daily lives.

Three communication skills every leader needs
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker … said New Zealand had the “most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world at the moment” – and that New Zealand is “a huge standout as the only Western country that’s got an elimination goal” for Covid-19.

American professors Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield’s research into effective leadershp … highlights “direction-giving”, “meaning-making” and “empathy” as the three key things leaders must address to motivate followers to give their best.

Being a public motivator is essential – but it’s often done poorly. The Mayfields’ research shows direction-giving is typically over-used, while the other two elements are under-used.

Ardern’s response to Covid-19 uses all three approaches. In directing New Zealanders to “stay home to save lives”, she simultaneously offers meaning and purpose to what we are being asked to do. In freely acknowledging the challenges we face in staying home – from disrupted family and work lives, to people unable to attend loved ones’ funerals– she shows empathy about what is being asked of us.

The March 23 press conference announcement of New Zealand’s lockdown is a clear example of Ardern’s skilful approach, comprising a carefully crafted speech, followed by extensive time for media questions.

(In contrast, Boris Johnson pre-recorded his March 24 lockdown announcement, offering no chance for questions from the media, while framing the situation as an “instruction” from government, coupled with a strong emphasis on enforcement measures. Where Ardern blended direction, care and meaning-making, Johnson largely sought “compliance”.)

[And Trump … yesss … well … all over the place – in typical Trumpian chaorder. – Gez] )

Ardern has used daily televised briefings and regular Facebook live sessions to clearly frame the key questions and issues requiring attention. Also she has regulated distress by developing a transparent framework for decision-making – the government’s alert level framework – allowing people to make sense of what is happening and why.

Importantly, that four-level alert framework was released and explained early, two days before a full lockdown was announced, in contrast with the prevarication and sometimes confusing messages from leaders in countries such as Australia and the UK.

More …
… … … …

This article has made me reflect on Jacinda’s leadership.

Even though I have expressed some criticisms on YNZ of what I perceive to be some oversights, unforeseen adverse consequences, & other minor failings in Jacinda’s “Go hard & go early” Covid-19 “lockdown response – overall I agree that Ardern has done a remarkably good job as the country’s leader at this time of global health emergency.

I also agree that she stands out from many other democratic country leaders in the strength & determination she has demonstrated, AND in the relative clarity & consistency of her Pandemic Response Team’s communications to businesses & the public of what the different alert levels & restrictions are (an excellent Our Plan – the four alert levels a detailed & well-laid out A3 poster-style leaflet delivered to all households, & a variety of other targeted information material, including notices for Rest Homes, for example).

Yes, there was some early confusion over policing of the lockdown (more a reflection on senior police leadership & the difficulties for them, caught on the hop, of clarifying & codifying actual vs police management’s preferred responses to situations “on the ground”, & then internally communicating up-to-date & comprehensive guidelines for front line staff, than on Jacinda).

And there were/are occasions where Jacinda’s press briefing assurances on what airport checks, self-isolation follow ups, & Covid-19 testing were being done that were just not matching what was actually happening out there in Kiwiland.

But even some of Jacinda & the coalition government’s most constant critics on this blog have noted their satisfaction at times with at least some aspects of the Pandemic Response, & of Ardern’s willingness to front for the strategy – to take the (mostly) bouquets, AND any brickbats for the government’s actions & the rather draconian restrictions now imposed on all New Zealanders & visitors, unparalleled in a century for a non-wartime situation.

One thing’s for sure; it’s a lot easier to criticise the PM than to be in the job & be the one who will be held responsible for how it all works out longer term for New Zealand, when the crisis & the emergency are over.

Some have predicted we are headed for an economic disaster. Certainly according to the economic pundits national & global economies will be facing major disruptions & a recession – perhaps even a depression – & New Zealand will no doubt find itself having to do a rejig. People have lost their jobs, although significant interim measures have been taken to encourage as many good employers as possible to keep locked down workshop workers & office staff on payrolls.

A few have even predicted the start of a new world order, as it were. The demise of Capitalism and /or the last gasp of finacialism, corporatism & the 1 %, in favour of a more inclusive, sharing society – perhaps one based around a UBI.

I dunno. Personally I doubt it. Although around the world maybe there might be an increased focus on whether it is worth implementing policies that encourage increased local manufacturing – by thinking smarter, minimising costs to remain competitive enuf with trade partners to allow small scale local production to be economically sustainable – so that future trade & economic shocks don’t leave governments too captive to overseas suppliers, without any capacity to manufacture needed goods & equipment in the event there are global shortages or supply chain disruptions?

My feeling at the moment, though, is that things will remain largely the same as they have been, with perhaps a few tweaks & improvements here & there, once the country & the workforce gets back up & running again & jobs become available. Maybe new jobs for folk who discovered new interests & marketable talents during their enforced break from their old ones?

I don’t know why, exactly, but I’m feeling quite positive about the future. Maybe it’s because this government is showing itself to be very agile? It certainly seems to be listening, adjusting, & prepared to be pragmatic. And to be now looking forward & starting to plan for the end of the crisis & the resumption of normal life & work.

And maybe also because of Ardern’s agreeing to the establishment of the Epidemic Response Committee, stacked with opposition members and chaired by the leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, as a mechanism for holding the government AND the bureaucracy to account. From my perspective anyway the Committee has been doing a sterling job. We may end up with better politicians & senior public servants overall as a result of the functioning of this Committee.

I think I agree with something Parti said the other day. Not about a brave new world along the lines of Frank E. Warner’s dream. But that Jacinda Ardern is possibly going to be recorded very favourably in future history books. Maybe even one of our greatest PMs? Who knows – it’s very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future 😉.

David Clark demoted after admitting driving to beach

Already under scrutiny for a mountain bike ride near his home, David Clark has admitted also driving to a beach and offered to resign. He admitted driving his family 20 km to the Doctor’s Point beach (a really nice beach for families) but that was a clear breach of the lockdown rules and also contrary to multiple requests from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

He also admitted driving his family to a walking track 2 km from his home and going for runs, within.

And it sounds like he didn’t advise Ardern until last night of the additional activities. Ardern must be furious, or she should be.

Statement from David Clark

Last night as part of my preparation for the Epidemic Response Committee, I provided the Prime Minister with a complete picture of my activity outside my home during Alert Level 4.

That included the fact that on the first weekend of the Alert Level 4 lockdown I drove my family approximately 20 kilometres from our house in Dunedin to Doctor’s Point Beach for a walk.

This trip was a clear breach of the lockdown principles of staying local and not driving long distances to reach recreation spots.

As the Health Minister it’s my responsibly to not only follow the rules but set an example to other New Zealanders.

At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I’ve let the team down. I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me.

I’ve apologised to the Prime Minister for my lack of judgement and offered her my resignation.

In the interest of full disclosure, since the lockdown began I have also driven my family to a walking track approximately 2 kilometres from our house for a walk and gone for occasional runs, all of which were local and within the rules, and one bike ride which is already in the public domain.

Ardern has said the country can’t afford the  “massive disruption of changing Minister of Health during the Covid-19 crisis, but has stripped clark of another of his portfolios, Associate Minister of Finance, and dropped him to the bottom of Cabinet ranking.

Statement from the Prime Minister on Dr David Clark

“Yesterday evening the Health Minister advised me of his trip to a beach during the lockdown and offered his resignation,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Under normal conditions I would sack the Minister of Health. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses.

“But right now, my priority is our collective fight against COVID-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role.

“But he does need to pay a price. He broke the rules.

“While he maintains his Health portfolio, I am stripping him of his role as Associate Finance Minister and demoting him to the bottom of our Cabinet rankings.

“I expect better, and so does New Zealand,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Clark was ranked 10 in Cabinet before this demotion. He may find it hard to get back up much from there.

This is now more than ‘a mistake’. It looks like blatant repeat disregard for the rules required of all of us. Clark appears unsuited to the responsibilities of being a Cabinet Minister, but keeps his main job for now.

Why has it taken him this long to front up? The bike ride news broke last Thursday and he knew he was under a lot of scrutiny. He refused to give interviews over the weekend, despite Ardern and Grant Robertson saying he was always available.

And according to his statement he didn’t advise Ardern until last night. This is as bad as the breaches of rules and Prime Ministerial requests.

In an interview with RNZ Clark says that he has made “an error of judgement”. This is more than that, it is a series of errors of judgement.

He just said “I went back and discovered something else”. What?

Ardern confirms full 4 week lockdown, uncertain after that

In a media conference today Jacinda Ardern confirmed what seemed obvious, the initial lockdown period of 4 weeks is the minimum, but gave only general ideas of what might happen from there.

RNZ Live Covid-19 updates:

PM doesn’t want New Zealand to be at level 4 any longer than needed but there is no plan to lift it earlier than the four weeks it’s set out for.

All actions we have taken to date are to minimise the amount of time we are at level four, she says.

We are determined to make sure that we stamp out Covid-19. That means broader testing and in particular surveillance testing, more and faster contact tracing and strong enforcement of the lockdown rules and border controls.

PM says country be at level 4 for four weeks because it takes time for symptoms to be seen and some people may have passed on Covid-19 before the lockdown and those symptoms will only just be starting to be seen now.

Because of the time lag in the virus “rearing its head” the PM says four weeks is necessary at level four lockdown.

PM says we need to be absolutely sure we’re not missing ‘silent outbreaks’ and this is why surveillance testing is important.

Four weeks of lockdown is so important – “we need to stay the course”.

Down the track some regions may experience outbreak while others aren’t. That means New Zealand needs to have the flexibility to move between the alert levels in different parts of the country once lockdown lifts.

On quarantines:

On whether there should be mandatory quarantine of all overseas New Zealanders returning, the PM says she’s already asked for this work to be done.

She says the country will only continue to see border controls ramp up but the government needs to make sure whatever is done can be sustained for a long time.

PM says, as soon as we’re ready you’ll hear me say more about it.


Ardern urges businesses to think ‘what next’ – but doesn’t say what or when

The Prime Minister is urging businesses to think about ‘what next’ for their business but at this stage many businesses don’t even have any idea when they might be able to start operating yet.

Except for some businesses who have already chosen no ‘what next’ in New Zealand, like the Bauer Media Group and Virgin Airline.

PM: Too early to tell if four weeks of lockdown is enough

Ardern said “intensive planning” was being done for whenever New Zealand moved out of lockdown, but the exact exit criteria was still being worked on.

When it was worked out she expected to publish it so businesses and Kiwis would know whether or not the country was likely to extend its four-week lockdown or end it.

“I do expect to be quite transparent around that, because people need to know what it is we’re looking for, and as we have been transparent with the alert levels as they stand,” Ardern said.

So the Government hasn’t worked out (or at least told us) what’s next yet.

But at the same PM urges businesses to think ‘what next’

Businesses should plan how they will operate in an environment where intensive contact tracing would be needed post-lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today.

The Government was working on additional guidance for the move to Level 3 to aid that, she said.

“What I would ask though is that it’s not Government alone that has a role to play in that.

“I ask all businesses to look at the alert level framework, think about how your business could successfully operate within each,” she said.

“We will need to, for many months to come, contact trace all New Zealanders who come into contact with one another and workplaces have a role to play in that.”

The Government has decided which businesses are essential enough to continue operating, but there is no obvious plan for phasing other businesses back into action, which businesses will be able to start up again under level 3, which may have to wait until level 2.

And there is not information on when restrictions may scale back apart from ‘wait and see’.

This is a very difficult time for businesses, and the self employed, and employees, with a huge amount of uncertainty.

All we know for sure is that some businesses are already closing up, some more won’t survive, some will choose to cease operations, and those that try to continue will be working in a very different business environment to what existed just two weeks ago.

Trying to keep a business afloat for a month with little or no business happening will be difficult enough for some. Trying to last 3 months or 6 months will obviously be a lot more difficult.

And there will be a vicious debt circle – as some businesses are unable to pay their bills this will impact on others who will have difficulty paying all their bills, let alone staff.

Without any idea of timeframes or how businesses will be allowed to operate some businesses will just say ‘too hard’, cut their losses and bail out for good.

Some will have no choice, especially those involved in travel and tourism who have bleak futures probably for a year or two.

If businesses are to seriously think about ‘what next’ the Government has to give them much clearer indications of what is going to be allowed and when, at least approximately.


David Clark not doing interviews despite assurances from Ardern and Robertson

Minister of Health David Clark was a no show on Q+A today and has refused other requests for interviews despite the Prime Minister and Grant Robertson claiming he is always available (and knowing he is refusing).

On Thursday Stuff reported Robertson as saying “He’s available to front anytime”.

But as Jack Tame pointed out he reneged on a scheduled Q+A interview for today so wasn’t always available as stated. RNZ Live referred to it as “a no show’.

Also from RNZ Live:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was grilled by journalists as to why Health Minister David Clark has declined some interviews this weekend. She said others had fronted, he was at home at lockdown and he would continue to be available for interviews.

Tova O’Brien reported:

Dr Clark refused Newshub’s repeated requests for an interview, instead sending a short statement.

So according to Robertson and Ardern, Clark is “available to front any time” and “would continue to be available for interviews”, but according to journalists he isn’t.

The Minister of Health, during the biggest health crisis for decades, is remote from the centre of Government and Ministry of Health activity (working from home in Dunedin) and is not giving interviews despite the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance saying he is available (but knowing he isn’t doing interviews).

Something is obviously not right here. Actually probably three things, Ardern, Robertson, and Clark’s application to his job.

It looks like journalists are onto the Missing In Action issue now.

Daily Covid update – Sunday

Today’s update from Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield:

Increase of 89 cases, 48 confirmed, 41 probable  – total 1039

15 in hospital, 3 in intensive care, 2 of which are critical – so a deterioration here.

156 recovered

3,093 tests yesterday, total tests 36,209

12 significant clusters with a new cluster in Canterbury (unknown origin, 10 cases) and another in Auckland (unknown origin, 13 cases) but no details given.

As at 9am, 5 April 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 872 48
Number of probable cases 167 41
Number of confirmed and probable cases 1,039 89
Number of cases in hospital 15
Number of recovered cases 156 29
Number of deaths 1

View full details of the confirmed cases.

View details of significant COVID-19 clusters.

Signalling initiatives in the coming week on mental health and wellbeing, and a Maori response action plan.

The positivity rate with expanded testing has remained fairly stable which is a good sign.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

She doesn’t want to draw too many conclusions but the growth in cases has been steady rather than exponential.

She talks about modeling and possible outcomes including possible 4,000 cases by this weekend – we are only a quarter that, probably in part due to the lockdown.

Our case rate and death rate are comparably much better than many other countries, helped by our distance and delayed transmission here.

Our sacrifices are making a difference, but Ardern tells us to stay focused, but their are still concerns about people (a minority) who flout the rules. She refers to some as idiots.

What sort of public health response is best for the economy? Fight the virus. History (eg 1918 Spanish flu) shows that actively and strongly fighting a virus leads to better economic outcome sin the longer term.

Media question: Would you call David Clark an idiot? “I have expressed to him I am very disappointed with him” and “he needs to be a role model”. She expects him to continue to do his job, but when asked about not being available for interviews this weekend she diverts. “Would you expect the key minister to be available for questions?” Yes, but diverts from Clark’s availability.

She said others had fronted, he was at home at lockdown and he would continue to be available for interviews – except that he hasn’t been available.

No plan for a Level 5, “this is as tight as it gets’.

As long as we stick to the rules we should be able to maintain access to the outdoors (on a limited basis).

The alert levels may be reduced in some regions before others, depending on how many cases are in each region – we need to watch the signs (regional and national case trends) that may allow a reduction in restrictions to Level 3 (which isn’t a huge reduction)

Summary of the David Clark bike ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it has highlighted two things.

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

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

Also, a comment from The Standard:

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

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

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

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

And maui:

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

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

stunned mullet:

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

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

stunned mullet:

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

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

and there are no doubt additional examples..

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


As for making mistakes- sure we all human.

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

The last word is from Corey Humm:

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

Imagine what this pm could achieve with competent ministers.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominant Ministry of Health, weak Minister – and weak Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Reddell is more blunt in Choices

Choices that matter are often hard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Press editorial: Mountain bikes out of molehills

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

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

Again, much of this seems petty and contrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More in the next post.

Why were we slow to increase Covid-19 testing?

A number of Governments around the world have been criticised for their lack of testing for the Covid-19 virus. This may have helped the virus spread undetected in communities.

Some countries like Italy and Spain had so many serious cases to deal with they didn’t have sufficient resources to test.

The US and UK were both slow to ramp up testing.

It is apparent in some places that the horse had bolted before comprehensive testing at the stable was started.

The spread of the virus and the actions taken by countries including here has been a rapidly changing situation, perhaps governments have struggled to keep up with demand, or perhaps governments are just too slow to act in emergencies like this (although the modern world has not experienced a virus like Covid-19).

New Zealand was also slow off the mark, limiting testing to people with Covid symptoms AND some link to international travel. Last week testing rates were increased, but only yesterday it was announced that the criteria for testing would be widened.  But even the highest risk group, travellers coming into the country, were not all tested (I suspect that there were too many too handle at the time).

This is despite medical experts and academics calling for far more testing.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been criticised for possibly misleading the country over testing. Her first official release on Covid-19 was Saturday 14 March (just two and a half weeks go).  From Major steps taken to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19

  • Every person entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, excluding the Pacific [i]. ‘
  • These restrictions will all be reviewed in 16 days’ time.
  • Existing travel ban retained for China and Iran
  • Cruise ships banned from coming to New Zealand, until at least 30 June 2020
  • Strict new health measures at the border for people departing to the Pacific
  • A range of measures to assist those in self-isolation to be announced next week
  • Government will work closely with the aviation sector to encourage airlines to remain active in New Zealand, limit impacts on the tourism sector and exporters
  • Directive on mass gatherings to be announced early next week

There was no mention of testing in her statement.

Tuesday 17 March she did mention testing in Economic package to fight COVID-19

“We will be investing in more health staff, more virus testing, more medicines, facemasks, extra intensive care capacity and equipment at hospitals, and more money for GPs. If we can manage the virus we can mitigate the damage to the economy.

The same day in Parliament from 2. Question No. 2—Prime Minister

Hon Simon Bridges: Why are people being denied coronavirus tests when they are displaying symptoms?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I reject the assertion they are. I want to read—

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, they are.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would like to read from the case notes provided to doctors. Under the case definition, it says, “Note”—this is for clinicians—”that due to the ongoing changing global and domestic situation, clinical judgement should apply as to whether someone who doesn’t quite meet the current case definition should be tested or not.” Any person who a clinician thinks needs a test should get a test.

Hon Simon Bridges: So does she deny the email to me from a Wellingtonian and his partner who had all the symptoms and were denied the tests yesterday?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve just said, that decision sits with doctors. I will read, again: “due to the ongoing changing [environment], clinical judgement should apply as to whether someone who doesn’t … meet the … case definition should be tested or not.” I cannot be clearer. Any person a doctor believes should be tested can and should be tested. We have the capacity to do up to 1,500 tests a day. My understanding is that we have hundreds of tests currently being processed for which we will have the results tomorrow.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why doesn’t she just guarantee that those who show the clear symptoms will get the testing, as Prime Minister of our country?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve just given you the exact advice that is for doctors. Doctors make those decisions, not politicians, but what they have been told is that anyone who they believe should be tested should be tested. I cannot be clearer than that. I cannot make those judgments, but they can, and they should.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why is she only suggesting ramping up tests now after the World Health Organization has called for countries to test, test, test?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is utterly incorrect. We’ve had the capacity to test up to a thousand a day for a very long time.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that a comparable country like Norway has tested 8,000 people and we’ve tested less than 600?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the member seems to be upset about where our global standing currently is in terms of case profile. We have, currently, a small number of cases, that have been confirmed through testing. But I expect that we will have many hundreds more tests conducted. In fact, I understand we have hundreds currently being processed this very day.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t the reason we only have a dozen confirmed cases and not dozens and dozens and dozens because under her Government, since the start of the year, we just haven’t done many tests?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is an appalling, appalling statement to make. The implication that tests are being determined by politics is appalling. Doctors are making the call, and they are being told that if they believe they should test, they should. I cannot be clearer about the advice that has been provided by the Ministry of Health; it is in black in white—in fact, it is in bold.

Hon Dr David Clark: Is the Prime Minister aware that Norway currently has 1,200 confirmed cases of the virus, and is in Europe, which has been described as the epicentre of the outbreak?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. In those cases, you would expect, therefore, that the contact tracing and symptoms would therefore lead to the other testing outcomes that they have. It seems extraordinary to me that the suggestion seems to be that there is disappointment about where we are. Hundreds of tests are being processed today. Very unfortunately, we will see—[Interruption] We will see more—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I just ask members on both sides—this is a very serious issue, and petty calling back and forth from both sides ill behoves the House.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that the reason, say, Norway has many more confirmed cases is because they have done many, many thousands more tests, and that’s where we needed to be weeks ago.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, I reject that, and I again confirm I have just been advised there are 500 tests currently being processed. That capacity has always existed, but we have allowed doctors to make that decision, not politicians.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will she apologise to New Zealanders who have been previously denied a test under her Government last month, the month before, and as little ago as yesterday?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No one who a doctor believes should be tested should have been denied a test.

Ardern said “there are 500 tests currently being processed”. The average tests over the past week is 1,777 daily as of yesterday when more testing was called for by Ardern.

That same day from Question No. 10—Health

Dr Shane Reti: Does New Zealand coronavirus testing align with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to test all older people with symptoms who also have heart conditions; if not, why not?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member will have heard from the Prime Minister earlier in today’s House session that all primary-care workers who are so qualified are being encouraged to test if they have any clinical suspicion.

Dr Shane Reti: What is the weakest point in the health system for coronavirus management, and how can we help?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: It’s misinformation, and members of the Opposition can help by making sure that they are pointing people toward the Ministry of Health website, where the most up-to-date and correct information is on hand. They can share that widely, and I would appreciate it. Thank you.

Two days after that a nurse I know who works in an age care hospital had flu-like symptoms and south a test but ws told she didn’t need one, and could return to work the following Saturday.

Also on 17 March – Jacinda Ardern urges clinicians to do more COVID-19 testing: ‘We have the capacity’

The Prime Minister is urging clinicians to conduct more testing for the coronavirus COVID-19 insisting New Zealand has the capacity to do 1500 tests per day.

“Our capacity is significant. We’re ramping up the ability to have up to 1500 tests per day,” Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. “That test number you’ve been seeing per day happening in the community is growing day on day.”

It comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) pleaded for countries to ramp up testing of every suspected coronavirus COVID-19 case as it warns children are dying of the illness.

Several more media releases by Ardern didn’t mention testing, including the big announcement on Saturday 21 March – Nation steps up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2

Two days later on Monday 23 March from Prime Minister: COVID-19 Alert Level increased:

We will continue to vigorously contact trace every single case. Testing will continue at pace to help us understand the current number of cases in New Zealand and where they are based. If we flush out the cases we already have and see transmission slow, we will potentially be able to move areas out of Level 4 over time.

Ardern made several more media statements since then with no mention of testing.

Wednesday 25 March from Returning New Zealanders will be tested for Covid-19

New Zealand borders will be open for returning New Zealanders but all of them will be screened at their port of arrival, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

“All incoming passengers will be tested and anyone found systematic will be quarantined in a facility. All others will be asked to go into self-isolation. The Police will monitor them and anyone found violating the order will be fined and quarantined,” she said.

Yesterday (31 March) – Covid-19: More testing needed, Ardern says

The number of tests for coronavirus is set to ramp up, with health officials relaxing the testing criteria as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for more testing to be done.

New Zealand’s testing regime has been under scrutiny for some time, with people complaining of being turned away despite medical recommendations they get tested.

The matter was at the fore during the inaugural meeting of the epidemic response committee earlier on Tuesday, where Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield indicated a change was coming.

Now, Ardern has confirmed the technical advisory group overseeing the case definition of Covid-19 had agreed to expand it to include people who had symptoms potentially indicative of the virus, but without a link to overseas travel or a close contact who had tested positive.

The new advice would be circulated to Healthline, GPs and community clinics, with the Prime Minister expressing a desire to see testing levels ramp up further.

“I want more tests, we’ve built the capacity for more tests, more tests will only allow us to get a better picture of the spread of Covid-19.”

However, she pushed back when asked why the Government had not made such a change earlier, saying New Zealand had already been conducting a high level of tests relative to other countries.

The rapidly spreading and dangerous Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health emergency and has been very difficult for governments to deal with. One thing we should get is open and honest information. Questions remain about the slow lift in testing for the virus.

3,500 tests are now being done per day with plans to lift it to 5,000 a day but we may need more. This is being discussed now on RNZ:

Michael Baker, an epidemiologist from the University of Otago, tells Morning Report that although the shutdown has been very tough on people, it’s the right move from the government and they acted in a nick of time to get Covid-19 under control.

Prof Baker says that as we start to test more, we could see the number of cases rise dramatically.

He said more about testing, may have to wait for the audio.

Minister of Health David Clark is just being asked about this on RNZ,

The Minister of Health David Clark tells Morning Report the government asked the Ministry of Health to revisit their criteria for testing.

“We need to continue to ramp our testing, absolutely, and we are,” David Clark says.

He acknowledges there are valid questions that need answers about testing but that should be directed at clinicians who decide on who should be tested. He is waffling around the question.

He said current testing capacity is 3,700 per day.

Clark is already being questioned about the number of ventilators, he doesn’t sound assured or confident answering but says we have the capacity for about 500 ventilators with about another 200 ordered.

Public and private hospitals have about 750 ventilators between them.

It is a relatively low number per capita – with only 4.7 intensive care beds per 100,000 people compared to 35 per 100,000 in the United States and 29 in Germany.

Doctors have warned if Covid-19 pushes up demand so that 3000-4000 patients need ICU treatment at any one time, current capacity would be overwhelmed.