Plans for re-spread of Covid in New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has a week long break from media conferences but was back yesterday, giving a lengthy speech. The key points made were on plans for what will happen if Covid-19 spreads in the community again – this is probably inevitable sooner or later.

She promoted the Government tracer app, but that has been a bit of a fizzer, and now with most people not bothering to use any tracer app.

The Alert Level system will remain, but if there are any new outbreaks Alert Level lockdowns could be applied in a regional or local basis.

Her speech:

Today I am setting out our plan in the event we have a new case of community transmission of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

I will take a bit of time to do that…

She did. eventually:

So in the event of new community cases we would move immediately to implement our “Stamp it Out” approach again.

There are two key things to remember.

Firstly, the simple approach of limiting the ability for the virus to move from human to human to break the chain of transmission remains the foundation of our response no matter what.

That’s why our key public health measures remain important for protecting ourselves and each other from the spread of disease. They are:

  • wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • don’t go to work, socialise, or be out in public if you are sick
  • Keep a digital diary of your whereabouts by downloading and using the COVID Tracer app.

These principles are key to the second ongoing tool in our response.

Rapid contact tracing, testing, and use of isolation and quarantine for those exposed to COVID. That is why the Covid tracer app, and whatever other means of recording where you have been remains vital. Every time you step into the world I want you to ask this question “if I come into contact with COVID today, how will I know, and how will others know”.

If you are in or near a situation of community transmission this will be an exceptionally important tool for contact tracing, and for finding you.

The Government tracer app has been a bit if a fizzer. It was released late, as the public had largely moved on from being in isolation. I used a different tracer app (which was available earlier) a handful of times and then didn’t bother, from about when the Government app became available. I haven’t seen anyone using the apps for a month or more.

From the Ministry of Health yesterday:

  • NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 596,000 registrations.
  • The number of posters created is 77,928.
  • The number of poster scans to date is 1,428,943.

The number of registrations is low and going up slowly. On average each person registered has only used it 3 times, which suggests that most are hardly or not using it.

Alert levels may be applied locally:

The alert level system and framework remains in place. But in the event of cases, rather than apply the framework nationally, we would look to apply our Alert Level system at a localised or regional level in the first instance.

“Our ‘Stamp it Out’ approach is scenario specific meaning that our actions will depend on the severity of the situation.

…there are three broad starting scenarios we can plan around.

1. A case or a number of cases in a community.

We would be looking at applying strong restrictions but only applied locally in a neighbourhood, town or city to contain the virus and stopping it spread.

2. A larger number of cases or cluster in a region

Here, a significant increase in testing would be the priority. We would look to undertake much wider community testing, on top of testing any contacts or potential contact of those with the virus.

We would also take steps to stop the spread to other parts of the country so a regional shift in Alert Level would likely be applied that restricted travel. This would mean travel in or out of the city, town or region could be stopped, people in that place asked to work from home, and local restrictions on gatherings implemented.

3. Multiple clusters that have spread nationally

In this scenario we would most likely apply a nationwide increase in Alert Level to stop transmission.

So that is a significant change, but if it can be managed effectively on a local or regional basis it makes sense.

From the Covid website

Click to access Stamp-it-Out-one-pager.pdf

 

Kiwirail electrification contract awarded to overseas companies

A $371 million contract for the Papakura to Pukekohe rail electrification has apparently been awarded to overseas companies from China and South Africa. Apparently cost was the deciding factor.

Winston Peters, Minister for State Owned Enterprises:

“KiwiRail cannot be influenced by ministers in their tender process, and must follow government procurement rules, which at this time do not allow them to discriminate against foreign-owned companies.”

Obviously government procurement rules have to be followed, but this is a bit awkward for Peters who has promoted New Zealand business.

Neither Labour nor NZ First have done anything effective to change the rules.

And now the Government is currently trying to promote local business to aid recovery from the economic impact of Covid-19.

NZ Herald: NZ firms Fletchers and Downer ‘fuming’ as $371m Govt KiwiRail contract goes overseas

Construction companies Fletcher and Downer are reportedly “fuming” after a $371 million Government rail contract has been awarded to overseas companies – costing the Kiwi firms hundreds of local jobs.

Three sources within the companies have told the Herald on Sunday they were unsuccessful in their joint bid for the Papakura to Pukekohe rail electrification contract in South Auckland.

Construction companies Fletcher and Downer are reportedly “fuming” after a $371 million Government rail contract has been awarded to overseas companies – costing the Kiwi firms hundreds of local jobs.

Three sources within the companies have told the Herald on Sunday they were unsuccessful in their joint bid for the Papakura to Pukekohe rail electrification contract in South Auckland.

The source said the contract would have saved many of the 1000 local jobs slashed late last month in response to Covid-19 economic losses.

KiwiRail chief operating officer of capital projects David Gordon would not confirm the contract was already decided.

Gordon admitted price estimates were a factor in judging the applications.

Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Winston Peters, would not be drawn on the wisdom of the KiwiRail electrification contract going overseas, but pointed out the unsuccessful firms could still win another $315m Auckland rail project soon.

“KiwiRail cannot be influenced by ministers in their tender process, and must follow government procurement rules, which at this time do not allow them to discriminate against foreign-owned companies,” Peters said.

Newshub in 2017:  The comprehensive list of Winston Peters’ bottom lines

Mr Peters wants all Government carpet procurement to be sourced from New Zealand woollen carpet manufacturers. It also applies to all other Government procurements: buy NZ-made products first.

LIKELIHOOD: HIGH. This is an easy win for Mr Peters, with both Labour and National unlikely to fight him on this one. It could mean higher costs for Government departments though.

 

It’s also embarrassing for Labour who kicked up a big stink about KiwiRail contracts not being kept local when they were in opposition.

Labour leader Phil Goff in 2011: Labour policy to retain jobs

Kiwi jobs will not keep disappearing overseas if Labour gains power, party leader Phil Goff said in Dunedin last night.

Launching Labour’s procurement policy before Hillside Engineering rail workers and others, Mr Goff said government departments would be required to look at the wider economic benefits when tendering contracts.

Keeping work local contributed to the tax base, while building workers’ skills and creating job opportunities.

Local firms would miss out only where there was an overwhelming economic case for tenders to go off-shore.

Labour leader Andrew Little in 2015: Labour will use buying power to create jobs

Labour will use the government’s $40 billion in buying power to create jobs and back local businesses by requiring suppliers to make job creation in New Zealand a determining factor for contracts, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“Labour will require Government organisations to design contracts so that companies focused on job creation have a fair chance of winning them, and then oblige them to report on the value of contracts they have awarded based on this criteria.

“It’s time to put Kiwi jobs and businesses first,” Andrew Little says.

Five years later it’s as important than ever that local business is supported. Awarding a rail contract to overseas companies may be a reality of economics, but if this was a National government it’s likely that Labour and Peters would have been making a noise about it,

Labour and local versus national

Michael Wood came across very well on Q & A, articulate and confident.

Andrew Little not so much.

He sounds convinced that Labour efforts and successes in the local body elections and the Mt Roskill by-election will translate to the general election next year.

He seems convinced they are getting it right about campaigning on issues ‘that matter to new Zealanders’.

But he is repeatedly asked about Labour’s poor poll results – and he confirms their internal polls is a smidgen better than the recent Colmar Brunton 28% last week – but keeps avoiding that lingering problem.

Little and Labour seem convinced that what they are doing now is the right strategy for the election next year.

Having faith that local political strategies – people tend to vote on local issues in by-elections – will work for them in the big one next year is a big risk.

In the current turbulent political environment world wide anything could happen.

Little is getting more practiced at switching questions to his rehearsed lines. That approach didn’t work for Hillary Clinton in the US. It could work here, but at the moment Little is not working very well.