More Trump ignorance on Covid testing

Donald Trump has been again combined contradictory and ignorant claims about Covid testing with an attack on media.

The US has done more testing than any other country, but Israel, Russia, Singapore, UK, Denmark and a bunch of small countries have done more testing per head of population (US is 19th on the WorldInfo list).

Testing is a critical means of controlling Covid, but the raw number of tests doesn’t say much anyway. Here’s some percentages of other numbers

USA has:

  • 4.26% of the world population
  • 17.28% of Covid tests
  • 22.93% of Covid deaths
  • 26.45% of total cases
  • 28.48% of serious/critical cases
  • 37.63% of active cases

Those are numbers are only based on recorded statistics so won’t be 100%, but give an obvious indication that the US is struggling with Covid.

Testing matters, but the quality of testing, the timing of testing and the use of the results of the testing are more important than raw numbers.

Testing in the US showed that Covid was still widespread in the US when Trump and some states pushed for relaxing lockdowns. Covid got worse – deaths have been trending back upwards there through July, and this week were the highest since May.

Tests are important but it’s how you use the tests that matter.

Note that New Zealand is included and rates very well on these charts.


New Zealand’s testing rate of 93,574 per million is much less than the US rate of 177,883 per million, but we have 4 deaths per million compared to the US rate of 475 so we don’t need to do as much testing.

Our testing peaked at over 10,000 per day in June – when we came out of lockdown and wanted to make sure Covid was under control – and is now peaking at 3,000 per day. We need to make sure we don’t have community transmission, but because fewer people have symptoms or concerns, fewer get tested.

Reuters: U.S. records over 25,000 coronavirus deaths in July

U.S. coronavirus deaths rose by over 25,000 in July and cases doubled in 19 states during the month, according to a Reuters tally, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of quickly reopening the economy.

The United States recorded 1.87 million new cases in July, bringing total infections to 4.5 million, for an increase of 69%. Deaths in July rose 20% to nearly 154,000 total.

The biggest increases in July were in Florida, with over 310,000 new cases, followed by California and Texas with about 260,000 each. All three states saw cases double in June.

Cases also more than doubled in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the tally.

The United States shattered single-day global records when it reported over 77,000 new cases on July 16. During July, 33 out of the 50 U.S. states had one-day record increases in cases and 19 set records for their rise in deaths in 24 hours, according to a Reuters tally.

We have virtually no restrictions because we have Covid under control here.

And Covid isn’t the only worrying statistic in the US.

The news that more states could be hard hit by the virus comes a day after the U.S. reported that gross domestic product collapsed at a 32.9% annualized rate in the second quarter, the nation’s worst economic performance since the Great Depression.

We may be able to keep Covid out of New Zealand, but it will be difficult to avoid the economic impact.

Odd tweets about testing doesn’t address the problems the US still face.

Vaccines are being fast tracked but at best it will be some time before they limit the Covid damage.

Reuters: U.S. makes deal for 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, deaths expected to rise

Two major drug companies will supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, the Trump administration said on Friday, as the nation’s top health agency predicted that fatalities would rise in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Friday forecast between 168,000 and 182,000 total fatalities by August 22, predicting that deaths will rise fastest in Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and Washington state.

The CDC also released a study that said COVID-19 had spread to nearly half the staff and campers at a sleep-away camp in Georgia over a week and a half ago.

The investigation demonstrated “that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission.”

Coronavirus deaths in the United States are rising at their fastest rate since early June. Roughly one American died about every minute from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Wisconsin joined 21 other states that have seen a surge in new cases.

The COVID-19 outbreak “is not in good control” in Wisconsin said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

This isn’t fake news. Many US states are having very real problems with Covid.

While the president keeps fiddling with twitter his country burns.

A million new Covid cases in 5 days

In New Zealand we fret about each of a handful of people arriving in the country not staying in isolation for 14 days while life has returned more or less to normal for most of us.

But Covid-19 is causing a lot of concern with a surge in cases around the world.The World Health Organisation chief warns that it will continue to get worse unless many countries change how they are dealing with the virus.

There has been a million new Covid-19 cases in five days, with now over 13 million cases in total recorded.

The death toll has flattened (but is showing signs of rising again following the surge in cases), suggesting a number of possibilities – health care and prevention of deaths has been improved, infected populations are younger and less vulnerable, newer strains of virus are not as lethal – but still the current death toll is 573,000 and going up by thousands a day.

There is an obvious concern that the death rate will follow the case rate upwards, but the daily toll is bad enough as it is.

Reuters:  WHO sounds alarm as coronavirus cases rise by one million in five days

The number of coronavirus infections around the world hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days.

The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months, and World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there would be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future, especially if preventive measures were neglected.

“Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” he told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

“If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way.”

Parts of the world, especially the United States with more than 3.3 million confirmed cases, are still seeing huge increases in a first wave of COVID-19 infections, while others “flatten the curve” and ease lockdowns.

Some places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne and Leicester in England, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Melbourne surge means that trans-Tasman travel will remain off limits to Kiwis for some time, and reopening borders to the rest of the world looks to be months away at least.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 23,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect a smaller proportion of total infections. Experts say official data probably under-represents both infections and deaths.

Covid is affecting the United States more than most countries, with a third of the new cases there. And the health problems aren’t limited to Covid.

Reuters: New U.S. health crisis looms as patients without COVID-19 delay care

A Texas man who waited until his brain tumor was softball-sized; a baby who suffered an ear infection for six days; a heart patient who died: The resurgence of COVID-19 is creating another health crisis as hospitals fill and patients are fearful or unable to get non-emergency care.

With U.S. coronavirus infections reaching new heights, doctors and hospitals say they are also seeing sharp declines in patients seeking routine medical care and screenings – and a rise in those who have delayed care for so long they are far sicker than they otherwise would be.

After the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March, many states banned non-essential medical procedures, and the number of patients seeking care for other ailments took a nosedive. Hospitals and medical practices were hit hard financially.

Emergency department use dropped by 42% during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic despite a rise in patients presenting with symptoms of the coronavirus, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. In the same period, patients seeking care for heart attacks dropped by 23% and stroke care by 20%.

This is a real problem but with no easy solutions. If Covid was even less contained people with other health problems would be exposed more.

…the recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals in many states, including Texas, Arizona, Florida and parts of California.

But with new COVID-19 cases swamping the hospital, sickening nearly 30 staff members and forcing it to divert non-coronavirus cases to other facilities for several days, Wolcott fears that again patients with heart conditions and other illnesses will stay away.

“We won’t know for years how many people lost their lives or lost good years of their lives for fear of coronavirus,” he said.

While individual states are responsible for a lot of their handling of Covid it doesn’t help that the country’s leadership has been hopeless. Donald Trump remains intent on reopening businesses and schools and abusing those trying to deal with the pandemic.

Reuters: Trump swipes at Fauci, CDC as U.S. coronavirus cases rise

President Donald Trump on Monday took swipes at health experts in his government leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, as his relationship further frayed with top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci.

In the early morning, Trump retweeted to his 83 million followers the accusations of a former game show host that “everyone is lying,” including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust,” Chuck Woolery wrote Sunday night without citing evidence.

The White House did not respond to questions on whether the president believed the CDC was lying.

Tensions with Fauci have risen with the decline of Trump’s popularity in the polls over the president’s handling of the outbreak. Fauci’s plain-spoken assessments during White House coronavirus briefings have made him a household name.

Trump told the Fox News Channel on Thursday that “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.” Fauci said in a Financial Times interview the following day he has not briefed Trump in two months.

Trump appears to be finally losing trust and support with the US people as he slides in the polls, with the highest disapproval levels for two and a half years. He is more concerned with his own re-election chances than people getting sick and dying, but poorly as he is lagging and slipping further behind an old, lacklustre Joe Biden.

He is even turning on his favoured Fox:

But that is a sad sideshow. Covid is a crisis that doesn’t look like going away, with major immediate effects and major longer term implications.

At least here in New Zealand Covid is well under control. We just have to hope the impact on business and jobs isn’t too harsh as we observe from a distance as many other countries struggling with far greater problems.



Early immigrants – class war refugees from the English countryside

While a lot of attention is now given to the oppression of Maori by colonialism, many of the early immigrants to Aotearoa New Zealand were oppressed landless rural people from Britain.

The first big immigration to New Zealand from Britain was in the four decades from the 1840s to the 1870s.

Initially many immigrants came via various organised schemes, until a surge in the 1960s of those chasing fortunes the gold rush – many of these moved from gold rushes elsewhere, particularly Australia but also the United States.

Scott Hamilton (@SikotiHamiltonR) has pointed to an interesting reference to last of these four decades:

As well as learning more about Polynesian history, Pakeha need to recover their repressed pasts. Rollo Arnold’s essential book shows that many who migrated here in the 1870s were refugees from class war in the English countryside. The settlers soon buried their old identities.


Rollo Arnold (1981)


From the preface:

THE PEOPLE OF New Zealand are predominantly of British stock, the descendants mainly of immigrants of an initial founding period extending over the four decades from 1840 to 1880. The foundation stock came overwhelmingly from humble origins in the old country, with rural labourers and village artisans providing the main elements.

The majority had been ‘selected’ for assisted passages to the colony, in the earlier years by the settlement associations inspired by Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theories; in the 1850s and 1860s under various schemes sponsored by the provincial governments, and in the 1870s under an ambitious and highly successful scheme undertaken by the General Government.

This book is a study in some depth of one major group of assisted immigrants, the recruits of the 1870s from rural England.

In the 1870s, however, as a result of the Revolt of the Field, the English rural labourer became articulate as never before, so that a large and probably unique body of first hand reportage on the immigration experience has been preserved from this decade.


ENGLAND’S FARM LABOURERS had been coveted by New Zealand right from the founding of the colony, but repeated endeavours had failed to recruit them in anything like the numbers desired. Genuine agricultural labourers formed too small a proportion of the assisted emigrants which the New Zealand Company sent out in the 1840s as the pioneer settlers of its new colonies.

When the New Zealand provincial governments from time to time entered the immigration field in the 1850s and 1860s, they found that agricultural labourers were the ‘most difficult to get and the most difficult to move when they are got at’. A strong flow of immigration was an essential element in Vogel’s ambitious plans of 1870, and some members of parliament were hopeful of a large importation of the bone and sinew of rural England.

We must now examine the village world of rural England over these earlier decades, in order to gain some understanding of these labourers who were in such demand in this new community on the far side of the world. We need also to understand why they were so undervalued in the land of their birth.

Why, too, were New Zealand’s raw colonials so convinced that the English rural labourer could better himself by forsaking ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ for the lonely emptiness of their treeless plains and the blackened ugliness of their bush-burn forest clearings?

And why was it that after decades of ill-rewarded wooing, New Zealand suddenly found herself to be the ‘promised land’ of many an English village, with farm labourers flocking to her shores in their thousands. A large part of the answer to these questions lies in the conditions which led to, and the consequences which flowed from, the great Revolt of the Field which broke upon English rural society in 1872 and stirred a score of counties to the core.

The name of Joseph Arch, the Warwickshire hedgecutter who spearheaded the movement, was soon a household word in Britain, and New Zealand’s fortunes were so closely linked with rural England that in a very short time it was scarcely less well known in that distant colony.

The wages of Joseph’s father, John Arch, never rose above ten shillings a week, and it was a saving of perhaps three pounds a year in rent, together with the produce of their large garden, which enabled the family to escape the humility of soup kitchen charity, and the degradation of poor law relief, to which many of their neighbours were reduced every winter. Nevertheless, Joseph’s parents paid a price for the independent line which they followed and taught to their children.

In his autobiography Joseph tells of a duel between his mother and a despotic parson’s wife, following the latter’s issuing of a decree that all girls at the village school were to have their hair cut round like a basin. For refusing to allow her two daughters’ hair to be cut, Hannah Arch was subjected to petty persecution, and never forgiven.

Rural England in the nineteenth century presented to the world a unique social arrangement in the three-tiered system of landlord, farmer, and landless labourer. Throughout the rest of the world the bulk of the rural population owned or occupied the land they tilled — in other words, they were peasants.

If many of them were peasant serfs, this merely meant that they were obliged to meet feudal obligations of work on their lord’s property, as well as farming their own holdings. But in England most of the land was owned by the gentry, rented by the farmers, and worked by landless labourers.

This pattern was the product of the centuries, but it had become more marked and widespread in recent times, partly through the continued decline of the yeoman, the owner-occupier of a small holding, who formed an intermediate class, and partly through the further extension of enclosures of open fields, commons and wastes, which removed the labourers’ claims of property in the land. A combination of social and economic changes had, since the middle of the eighteenth century, turned the majority of village labourers into servile, demoralised men.

The measured words of Professor Hobsbawm are not too strong to describe the tragedy of this transformation:

“It is difficult to find words for the degradation which the coming of industrial society brought to the English country labourer; the men who had been ‘a bold peasantry, a country’s pride’, the sturdy and energetic ‘peasantry’ whom 18th century writers had so readily contrasted with the starveling Frenchmen, were to be described by a visiting American in the 1840s as ‘servile, broken-spirited and severely straitened in their means of living’ … From that day to this those who observed him, or who studied his fate, have searched for words eloquent enough to do justice to his oppression.”

There’s a lot of interesting things in the book. The index is here, with links to the content.

If you have ancestors who emigrated here check for family names – Index of Immigrant Surnames

I found this interesting, but my lot aren’t included.  A great grandfather came in the 1870s but isn’t referenced in the book. A grandmother came as a war bride with my grandfather after World War 1. And my mother’s family escaped from northern Wales in 1928, leaving most of that history behind – I heard very little of their past.

My first family of ancestors came here in 1851 and soon after as a part of the Canterbury settlements. They left a small rural village near Bedford called Turvey – “The population of Turvey was 758 in 1801, rising to 1,028 in 1851 and falling to 782 by 1901”. A chunk of that diminishing population came here.

Turvey history: From Turvey to New Zealand

The visitor’s book at All Saints Church contains a remarkable number of visitors from New Zealand who have come to Turvey in order to see where their ancestors lived. How did this come about and who are these ancestors? The article “The First Assisted Passage to New Zealand” details how Jane Davison from Turvey emigrated to New Zealand in 1842.

In 1848, The Canterbury Association was launched in England, receiving its Royal Charter on 13thNovember 1849, with the aim of systematically colonising New Zealand.

Early Emigrants

The 16thship to sail under this scheme was the “Canterbury” who made her maiden voyage from London’s East India Docks to Lyttleton, New Zealand on 21stJune 1851. Aboard were Turvey born Arthur Gibbs, a 38 year old agricultural labourer, his 36 year old wife Rachel (nee Harley), a Lacemaker, and their three children George (16), Kezia (13) and Rebecca (10).

Arthur and Rachel are my great great great grandparents. Kezia is my great great grandmother.

Wider family members also emigrated from Turvey and settled in Gibbs Town just north of Christchurch, renamed Woodend. A number of them moved from poor landless workers to landowners and business people here.

Between 1853 and 1870, the Provincial Governments, also keen to encourage immigration from the United Kingdom, began funding such schemes. At the same time in Turvey, life was hard for many working families, living in tied accommodation on often low incomes. Some families, particularly those attached to the Wesleyan Methodist Church, also sought greater freedom to follow their faith.

I have quite a few distant relatives from there but have never had any contact with them.

I have very little knowledge of my immigrant ancestors or their pasts, but it’s interesting to learn about the wider context of the immigrations to New Zealand. Most who came here were not exactly colonial oppressors themselves, they were poor people escaping from bleak circumstances – but by taking over land here they did impact on the colonisation problems.

Opening borders arguments

It’s probably almost universally accepted that New Zealand had to close our borders to non-citizens and residents to protect the population from the spread of Covid-19. Despite some mistakes and problems and with some luck that has been very successful, with Covid cases reduced to zero before returning New Zealanders started a dribble of cases – but these have been contained by isolation, quarantine and testing,

There is no doubt that keeping our borders closed is bad for business – especially tourism and international education, but it also affects many others trying to revive  or keep alive their business.

So when we open our borders again, how quickly and to whom is one of the biggest decisions to be made.

Yesterday National leader Todd Muller stirred things up – Todd Muller says keeping border shut ‘untenable’, but PM says opening up soon is ‘dangerous’

Muller was criticised but also what he said was misrepresented.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the idea of opening New Zealand up to countries where Covid-19 is “dangerous”.

Ardern was responding to comments from National leader Todd Muller, who said on Monday that keeping the borders shut until other countries are as free of Covid-19 as New Zealand was “untenable” in the long term.

Speaking to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Muller said New Zealand would be “on its knees” if it waited for a vaccine to be developed or for other countries to completely kill community transmission.

“A strategy that says we stay completely closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is simply untenable. We won’t recognise this country in terms of economic impact,” Muller said.

Ardern said the idea of opening New Zealand up to Covid-19 any time soon was untenable and dangerous.

Ardern and Muller are talking past each other. Muller said “untenable” in the long term and “closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is simply untenable”, but Ardern said “any time soon was untenable and dangerous”.

Unless Ardern sees 12 to 18 months as soon then they are talking about different timeframes.

And if the Government thinks it is untenable to open our borders in 12-18 months, then economically we are likely to have a big problem on top of the major problems we already have.

Some had hoped that a Tasman bubble may be possible in the short term but that has been put on hold after a surge of cases in Victoria – Virus resurgence in Victoria with another 75 cases

The Australian state of Victoria is experiencing a “concerning” upward trend in coronavirus infections, with 75 new cases identified overnight.

The latest cases were “overwhelmingly concentrated” in 10 Melbourne suburbs identified as community transmission hotspots, the state’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Mikakos said the 75 new cases could be broken down into the following categories:

  • 14 cases linked to outbreaks (positive results in those tested as close contacts of existing cases)
  • 37 cases found by routine testing (general testing sites set up by health authorities)
  • 23 cases still under investigation (some were found late in the reporting day)c
  • One case is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine

So even inter-state travel in Australia is still restricted:

So even though Covid is under far better control in Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory any open travel across the Tasman looks unlikely at this stage.

But Europe has just opened their borders to a number of countries including New Zealand for economic/tourism reasons: EU to allow in visitors from 14 ‘safe’ countries

The EU has named 14 countries whose citizens are deemed “safe” to be let in from 1 July, despite the pandemic – but the US, Brazil and China are excluded.

UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. Therefore, during that time UK nationals and their family members are exempt from the temporary travel restriction.

On the current “safe” list, still likely to be amended, are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The UK is currently negotiating “air bridges” with several EU member states, so that coronavirus does not totally block summer holidays – the busiest season in Europe for tourism, which employs millions of people.

So Australians and New Zealanders will be able to travel to Europe but we can’t travel to Australia.

And Ardern has said that New Zealanders going to Europe for a holiday will still have to do 14 days isolation. and may not get that provided for free – Kiwis choosing to go overseas could get Covid-19 isolation bill

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea at Monday’s post-Cabinet press conference. She has previously been asked about whether all arrivals could have to pay a share of the bill for isolation.

“One message I’m sending clearly to New Zealanders … for anyone who may be considering a non-essential trip, we will be looking at whether or not you end up being charged on your return, because you have choices.

“It’s just not fair to expect New Zealanders to pick up the tab on that.”

It’s not just the opposition calling for re-opening: Border reopening must be priority – Business NZ

The business community pinned its hopes on the border reopening as soon as possible and says the government’s failed to hold up its end of the deal.

Business leaders say billions of dollars of opportunities are on hold while the government and the army fix up mistakes most New Zealanders thought were being managed.

The government is frantically trying to plug those gaps, while at the same time the Opposition ramps up pressure for the border to open.

Almost four million international tourists typically cross New Zealand shores each year and BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said livelihoods depend on that window opening again.

But for now, the government isn’t even resuming compassionate exemptions let alone allowing international visitors in, because there isn’t enough confidence in quarantine and managed isolation facilities.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has thrown the Opposition leader’s own words back at him.

“It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19 and in some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they’re not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month or sometimes several months”.

Ardern said even considering opening the border right now was reckless.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point frankly is dangerous and I don’t think we should put New Zealand in that position”.

Apart from people whose businesses and jobs are at risk there is still probably widespread support for playing safe here.

It seems a risky political play for Muller to talk this side of the election about reopening the borders.

But the public mood can change quickly – going into lockdown was widely accepted, but once the case numbers dropped many people acted ahead of Government relaxations.

There are big and difficult decisions for the Government to make over border restrictions, but it’s something that should be openly discussed. There is a lot at stake, both in health and with the economy – and there will be many more people losing their jobs than their are getting sick from Covid.

I think it is too soon to reopen our borders now, as that risks losing a lot of what we have succeeded with over the last few months.  But we also have to look ahead at options and possible timings.

Just being told we can’t travel indefinitely is not a tenable option.

I certainly don’t want to catch Covid and risk dying from it, or risk the other health effects. But if our borders remain closed for a year or two my job will be at risk (it has been impacted already). Difficult times, difficult decisions.

Women’s Football World Cup 2023

Some good sports news – New Zealand and Australia have just been selected to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Australia and New Zealand selected as hosts of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ will be staged in Australia and New Zealand, following a vote taken by the FIFA Council during its meeting held via videoconference, the result of which was announced by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

The joint bid submitted by Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football received 22 of the 35 valid votes cast by the FIFA Council members in the first ballot, with the Colombian Football Association having obtained 13 votes. The full voting results are available below.

Following on from the astounding success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ in France and the subsequent unanimous decision by the FIFA Council, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be the first edition to feature 32 teams and it will also be the first to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand and across two confederations (AFC and OFC).

At time of sparse sports news this is a big deal,even if it is for a few years in the future (when Covid will hopefully no longer be an issue).

Who is New Zealand’s head of state?

This isn’t surprising, the Queen has little to do with Aotearoa in practical terms. Officially:

The Queen of New Zealand’s formal title is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

In the Maori language, The Queen is known as Kotuku, which means “the white heron”, a cherished bird rarely seen in New Zealand.

That’s appropriate in one way – the Queen is rarely seen in New Zealand. She has visited here ten times in nearly seventy years, the last time in 2002 (as part of the commemoration of her Golden (50th) Jubilee so it was about her, not us).

So if you want to see the Queen you have to got to the other side of the world, and then will struggle to get a sight of her.

It’s a lot easier to go to Whataroa to a White Heron Sanctuary:

We offer the only tour to New Zealand’s one and only White Heron (Kotuku) nesting site.

Located on the West Coast of the South Island 30 km north of Franz Josef Glacier, 100 km south of Hokitika, Whataroa is the start point for White Heron Sanctuary Tours.

I’ve been there, it was a great experience. You go by jet boat downriver to the coast, change over to quieter boat to go to the sanctuary where there are kotuku and spoonbills as well as shags.

I’ve never been to see the Queen, nor any of her family, I have had no interest in doing that.


Pulling down statues and changing names

There is renewed focus in different parts of the world to re-evaluate the appropriateness of statues and of place names.

This has come to New Zealand (increasingly commonly referred to as Aotearoa).

Newshub:  Bye Hamilton, hello Kirikiriroa? City mulls name change after statue’s removal

Hamilton City Council contractors this morning removed the statue of British army captain John Hamilton from the centre of town, after a formal request from the Waikato-Tainui iwi.

The removal has revived a wider debate about what should be done – if anything – with colonial-era monuments and names around the country.

Captain Hamilton died leading British forces in the Battle of Gate Pā in 1864, regarded as one of the most important battles of the New Zealand Wars.

Local man Kip Ormsby said the statue needed to be removed from public areas because it represented a painful time in history for Māori.

“I just believe it should go. Yes, it is a part of history, but for Māori people it’s not a good part of history,” Ormsby said.

“So why are we glorifying it for Māori people to see it every day? We believe he is responsible for a lot of the atrocities that happened to our people.”

Ormsby said the statue should be in a museum, with a plaque outlining his full history, allowing people to make up their own minds about what sort of character he was.

The Waikato-Tainui iwi formally requested the statue be removed last year.

It seems reasonable to me to not glorify Captain Hamilton.

The statue’s removal is only one part of a longer-term conversation the iwi is having with the council – they have been working together for more than a year on a review of culturally sensitive names and sites.

The removal of the statue of the city’s namesake begs the obvious question of whether the city should be renamed.

“We certainly favour Kirikiriroa over Hamilton,” Schaafhausen said. “Kirikiriroa was acquired as a result of the New Zealand Settlements Act passed in 1863, and that resulted in just over 1.2 million hectares of our land being confiscated.

“The name Hamilton does really confront us as the stark reminder of the raupatu – the confiscations.”

I think there are valid arguments for renaming Hamilton, perhaps as Kirikiriroa.

This of course raises issues of the names of other cities here, like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Those were all imported names, although they now refer to much wider city areas than they originally applied to.

Perhaps Dunedin could also be considered, but at least it is a Scottish name (for Edinburgh), and Scotland was also oppressed by England, so it doesn’t have the same overbearing colonial problems that some other names may have. But the Scottish were also colonisers.

Apparently the Robbie Burns statue in Dunedin’s Octagon is safe for now – No plans to remove statues in Dunedin

Dunedin statues and street names depicting historical figures with problematic pasts are unlikely to be scrapped.

A statue of Queen Victoria in Dunedin’s Queens Gardens was spraypainted with the words “Return stolen wealth Charles” and “Uphold Te Tiriti” last year.

There is also a statue of poet Robbie Burns in the Octagon.

Critics of Burns have alleged he planned to make his fortune in the slave trade before his early death.


But Te Runanga o Otakou kaumatua Edward Ellison said he saw no particular issue with any statues in Dunedin.

“Our focus is on developing our own narratives and seeing artworks that convey our stories, place names and associations, an area that has been neglected, we would suggest, for a long time.

“So while I welcome the discussion on the issue of racism and its negative legacy, how we might deal with the physical reminders, I am less focused on compared to seeing our stories being seen and told.”

Sounds like a sensible approach here.

There’s a lot of prominent street names linked to England and royalty – George, Princes, Great King and Queen streets as well as Victoria, King Edward and Prince Albert roads.

A childhood place name that seems very un-Kiwi and perhaps should be contentious is Cromwell.

Some name changes have already happened. Mount Taranaki is totally appropriate. Aoraki and Mt Cook seem to co-exist without much problem.

Of course the big one is the name of the country. I’d be happy for Aotearoa to replace the irrelevant and inappropriate New Zealand.

The country wasn’t new when Abel Tasman came here briefly in 1642 and he named it Staten Landt – it was later renamed Nieuw Zeeland or Nova Zeelandia by Dutch cartographers in 1646,  and it was later anglicised to New Zealand.

I know that people argue about the history and appropriateness of Aotearoa, but it is at last a lot more suitable than what we currenntly have.



Swedish epidemiologist admits Covid-19 mistakes

The Swedish approach to dealing with Covid-19 has received a lot of attention, both in favour and critical. Their top epidemiologist now says that more should have been done to limit deaths.

Sweden has had about 4,500 deaths to date and has a relatively high death rate per million (450).

Stuff: Swedish disease expert admits Covid-19 mistakes

Sweden’s top epidemiologist says more should have been done in his country to tackle Covid-19 at the start of the outbreak, in order to keep the death rate down.

“If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Anders Tegnell said in an interview with Swedish Radio.

Tegnell is the brains behind Sweden’s controversial approach to fighting the virus, and the government of Stefan Lofven has deferred to the epidemiologist in its official response to the pandemic.

“Clearly, there is potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden,” he said.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said earlier this week that the government would launch an inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In retrospect I think that all countries will see that things could have been done better, but it could take a year or two to get a full picture to judge actions against.

Health officials and politicians had to make big decisions during a rapidly evolving pandemic.

New Zealand (with about half the population of Sweden) has done fairly well so far with just 22 deaths and 1,504 cases, but what has been done here should also be scrutinised.

Australia as a whole has had fairly similar outcomes (102 deaths, 7,229 cases) but some states have done much better than others.

Queensland has had just 6 deaths (population a little less than new Zealand) and West Australia has had 9 deaths (population about half ours).

And of course the social and economic effects and a range of other factors need to be taken into account.

NZ climate change survey – most have some concern, 6% dismissive

An online survey of more than 2000 New Zealanders has found that most people have some concerns about climate change – about 70-80 per cent of the population believes climate change is real- with just 6% are dismissive, and they were more likely to be men over 55.


Stuff: Six New Zealands of climate change: Which one are you?

The survey confirmed what many middle New Zealanders will know already – often, people simply don’t think about climate change. While multiple studies have shown climate disturbance is already increasing severe drought, flood risk and fire risk, on average, people think any impacts on them are still 30 years away.

Boomers (aged 55-75) in the survey were six times more likely to dismiss climate change than New Zealanders aged 16-24 (Gen Z.

Gen Zers are 50 per cent more likely than Baby Boomers to consider the environment and/or climate change to be the most important issue facing New Zealand, but represent a cohort roughly half the size.

“That cohort (of Baby Boomers) is quite big and they vote a lot. They have a 90 per cent intention to vote, whereas for Gen Z, even when you only consider those who can vote, it’s more like 40 per cent,” says Winton. “That means there are roughly eight times more Baby Boomers who are likely to vote than there are Gen Zers, and they are six times more likely to vote actively against climate action.”

Women were less likely than men to be Dismissive, and more likely to be Alarmed or Concerned. That means the Dismissive are over-represented in the older male demographic that is most likely to be running company boards.


Alarmed (14 per cent): Fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it.

Concerned (28 per cent): Also convinced that climate change is happening and a serious problem, but have not yet engaged in the issue personally.

Cautious (8 per cent) and Disengaged (27 per cent): Average scores for Cautious and Disengaged people are almost identical, however the Disengaged have stronger belief in climate change and want stronger societal action, but display weaker behaviours and personal involvement.

Doubtful (17 per cent): Generally question climate change or don’t believe it is a problem, however their behaviours show they are not engaged in the issue.

Dismissive (6 per cent): Actively disbelieve in climate change and want a weak or no response from society. Actively oppose national efforts to cut emissions.

The online panel – polled in November and December 2019 – was modelled on the Six Americas survey developed by Yale and George Mason Universities. Polling company Dynata conducted a similar survey in New Zealand for a climate action start-up, the 1.5 Project. With the help of funding from fitness business pioneer Phillip Mills and the Tindall Foundation, the study took a sample of 3500 and whittled it to 2034 to get a representative mix of sex, age, location, ethnicity and income.

Respectful conversations between people with varying opinions are crucial on climate, but we often avoid them, says researcher Jess Berentson-Shaw, whose consultancy The Workshop studies how to have constructive conversations.

There is a hard-core group in opposition who are virtually unpersuadable, says Berentson-Shaw, but there’s also a huge majority in the middle who care, but don’t know what to do. This group steps back from issues they see as difficult and polarised, she says.

I don’t fit into those groups. I’m not alarmed, I’m concerned, but have taken some individual and some political action to address climate change and environmental issues generally. I guess that makes me out of step with a bunch of male baby boomers (who probably are over-represented on Kiwiblog).


More on Covid models

The early Covid-19 models that tried to predict possible death toll from Covid-19 in various countries received a lot of attention because numbers were large and alarming, but the worst case scenarios were based on limited data and nothing being done to stop the virus from spreading.

But a lot has been done to try to limit the death toll, and models have been continually refined, but there are still have quite wide variations due to not being sure how quickly or drastically restrictions will be lifted, and other unknowns.

Modelling is not very important in New Zealand now because we have very few new cases per day and deaths per day have been 0 for a few days and were never more than 4 a day. We still have quite tight restrictions with only gradual easing indicated, so we should be able to keep Covid deaths to not much more than they are now, at least for the next month or two.

Modelling is a bigger deal elsewhere as while the death toll in many countries may have flattened it is still quite high. For a couple of weeks now deaths have averaged around a couple of thousand a day in the US. The situation there is quite complex with different infection rates and different restrictions across various states, and some states are starting to lift restrictions.

FiveThirtyEight takes an interesting look at models, showing wide ranges in single models and differences between models looking ahead only for the next month (May).

Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed — And Why They Disagree

Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the devastation to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground.

FiveThirtyEight — with the help of the Reich Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — has assembled six models published by infectious disease researchers to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll.

Forecasts like these are useful because they help us understand the most likely outcomes as well as best- and worst-case possibilities — and they can help policymakers make decisions that can lead us closer to those best-case outcomes.

And looking at multiple models is better than looking at just one because it’s difficult to know which model will match reality the closest. Even when models disagree, understanding why they are different can give us valuable insight.

The article goes on to explain each of the six models and also looks at state by state breakdowns.

What this shows us is how imprecise models are.

But the US models suggest that models from a month or so ago predicting 100-200k or so deaths may have been reasonably on track, From now a lot still depends on the success or otherwise of containing the spreading of the virus, the success in particular in keeping it out of aged care and rest homes, and the time taken to find effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine.

The current official death toll in the US is about 65,000 and if the death rate continues as at present that will reach 130-140k by the end of May. Even if on average the death rate halves it will still be over 100k by then.