New Zealand doing comparatively well with Covid-19

There is a lot of debate in New Zealand over whether our relatively stringent ‘lockdown’ restrictions are justified or not. There is no way of being sure what our situation would be if we had not clamped down on people movements and business so drastically.

We have to be careful comparing with other countries because of unique conditions and different timing of the virus in different places.

But at this early stage it looks like we have been relatively successful at curbing the spread of the virus, and in particular keeping deaths down (to just one).

Currently we have 1,039 cases (to 9 am Sunday), with 15 people in hospital and 3 in intensive care.

The rate of increase in cases seems to have flattened off despite much more testing.

While cases numbers are difficult to compare we have tested 36,000 people here with a middling rate of 7,509 per million.

Australia has about 5 times our population, about 5 times confirmed cases, nearly twice our testing rate,  but a much higher death rate currently 33.  Australia has less stringent restrictions than us with more businesses still operating.

But there could be other factors.  Ten deaths in Australia are from the Ruby Princess cruise ship that ended up in Sydney. That had been in Napier, and if people had had to disembark there it could have been a major problem here instead on in Australia. Perhaps our earlier ban on cruise ships helped us but not Sydney.

Switzerland has nearly twice our population, 21,000 cases and 715 deaths with a very high 16,256 tests per million. But they border Northern Italy so will have been impacted from the huge outbreak, and they also border badly affected France.

Sweden is separated from Europe, just. They have about twice our population and have had far lighter restrictions. They have tested about half as much as us but have 6,830 cases and 400 deaths.

Scotland is also separated from Europe (just) and a slightly larger population than us. They have recorded 3,345 cases and  218 deaths. Their test statistics are part of the UK which are  low at a third ours.

Ireland has a bit bigger population (6.5 million), nearly five time the cases (about 5,000), a similar test rate and 158 deaths.

Hawaii has a population of about 1.4 million. As of 4 April they had  352 cases (in proportion to ours)  and 4 deaths which is not much different.

From this it looks like comparatively New Zealand is doing ok with Covid-19, so far. But we have a long way to go.

Boris Johnson versus Scotland’s right to choose

Nicola Sturgeon:

1/ Tories are terrified of Scotland’s right to choose – because they know that when given the choice we’ll choose independence. Tories have no positive case for the union – so all they can do is attempt to deny democracy. It will not stand.

2/ The problem for the Tories is the longer they try to block democracy, the more they show the Westminster union is not one of equals and fuel support for independence. This response predictable – but also unsustainable and self defeating. Scotland will have the right to choose.

3/ @scotgov  will set out our response and next steps before the end of this month – when we will also again ask @ScotParl  to back Scotland’s right to choose our own future.

It looks like Johnson will succeed on enabling the United Kingdom to be independent of the European Union, but opposes Scotland’s right to choose whether to be independent of England.

Japan beat Scotland, top poll and into RWC quarter finals

The outstanding performance of Japan has been the biggest talking point of pool play in the Rugby World Cup. They have done it again, beating Scotland 28-21 in the final pool match.

Japan played very well again. There forwards matched Scotland’s most of the time, their tackling and defence was epic, but the difference was their back play. A number of times they passed wide and beat Scotland down the sidelines, with both Japanese wings featuring strongly. In contrast, when Scotland were chasing the game a number of times they passed wide, they had a numbers advantage, but they failed to take advantage.

So Japan top their pool, which means runner up Ireland will face the All Blacks in one quarter final, with Japan needing to step up again, this time against one of the tournament favourites South Africa.

Quarter finals (NZ times) – Saturday 19 October:

  • England v Australia at 8:15 pm
  • New Zealand v Ireland at 11;15 pm

Sunday 20 October:

  • Wales v France at 8:15 pm
  • Japan v South Africa at 11:15 pm

The early games are well timed for watching here in the evening, and streaming the following morning will be good for the late games.


UK and Europe update

Missy is on fire again with another update from the UK.


The Labour Uncut blog is reporting that it is expected the Speaker will strip Labour of the title of Her Majesty’s Opposition, if Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership election and can’t fill all of the positions in the Shadow Cabinet. This hasn’t as yet been picked up in MSM as yet, so it will be interesting to see how much is in this story.

BMG Research did a poll for the Evening Standard which shows that 57% of the public back Owen Smith over Jeremy Corbyn, which shows that Labour will appeal to more of the voting public under Owen Smith. The problem with this poll is that it is not exclusively of Labour members, so it is difficult to extrapolate how Labour members view the candidates, though some of the polling suggests that of those that are most likely to vote Labour in 2020 the majority support Corbyn.

The High Court has thrown out the challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the ballot paper, leaving it a two horse race.

Labour are facing more controversy as it has come out today that the Labour Party NEC have said they will announce the winner of the leadership contest on the same day as the major conference for women in Labour. Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn are reported to support the requests for the announcement to be moved, but the General Secretary is refusing. This will not help the perception that Labour do not value women, and are only paying lip service to equality.

Prime Minister

Theresa May is in Europe talking to leaders prior to the triggering of Article 50. She announced in Italy that the status of EU citizens in the UK will not be determined until there is a guarantee on UK citizens in Europe – the correct decision in my opinion.

From Italy Theresa May went to Eastern Europe, where she has been told any plans to curb EU migration will be met with opposition from Eastern Europe. Of course all that should mean is that they do not come to a trade agreement with the EU, and then the UK can still put the break on migration, and the EU – Eastern Europe in particular – could be the big losers.


Scotland passed a law in which every child in Scotland would have a ‘named person’ – essentially someone in authority who would be the single point of contact for the child (and their family), to help with them getting access to services they may need, but also the ‘named person’ would help identify children at risk.

The Supreme Court has ruled that this ‘…risks breaching rights to privacy and a family life under the European convention on human rights, and thus overreaches the legislative competence of the Holyrood parliament.’ It is ironic that Scotland are so keen to do everything to remain in the EU, but passes a law that breaches EU law.


Just a quick not here. Even with the spate of attacks in Germany, and calls to put some sort of limit on the migration, Angela Merkel is refusing to make any changes to the policy.

James Kirkup at The Telegraph: Jeremy Corbyn’s deselection threat means Labour’s civil war is now a fight to the death

Jeremy Corbyn has today confirmed that the struggle underway in the Labour Party is now the political equivalent of total war. 

It’s hard to see how a Labour Party fundamentally split in such a manner would lead to anything other than a comfortable Conservative election victory. Mr Corbyn’s words this morning could well mean Theresa May is Prime Minister until 2025.

Meanwhile, those Labour MPs fighting Mr Corbyn who have been somewhat restrained or even cautious in their hostility should now have no illusions about the conflict they are engaged in. This is a fight to the political death. There will be no peace deal, no amicable settlement.  Either Mr Corbyn is beaten, or he wins and destroys the Labour Party in its current form. 

A Scottish view on Brexit

Liam McIlvanney , the Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, gives a Scottish view on Brexit.

Why has Scotland risen above the anti-immigrant mood that fuelled the Brexit vote?

If it achieves nothing else, Brexit will have taught the world that England is not the same as the United Kingdom. On the results map of the EU referendum, the rising tide of Brexit was cut off rather crisply at the Scottish border.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a convincing margin (62% to 38%) and with striking unanimity: all 32 of the country’s electoral areas returned a Remain majority.

How did this happen?

One answer is that Scotland’s revolt against distant, uncaring elites is already under way – only it’s aimed at Westminster rather than Brussels.

The Scottish independence movement, galvanised by the referendum of 2014 and boosted by the Brexit fiasco, appeals to precisely those communities that voted for Brexit in England.

Crucially, Scotland’s independence movement blames neither the European Union nor the presence of immigrants for the country’s woes.

Scotland simply “gets” the concept of pooled sovereignty – the idea that you surrender some of your sovereignty in return for enhanced security and co-operation – in a way that England doesn’t. We get it because we’ve been doing it for over three centuries in the United Kingdom. If the English never viewed the Union in quite this light, that was because, as the larger partner, they simply carried on as if nothing had changed.

Ex world powers with a strong class system take a while to adjust to power sharing.

Well, things have changed now. With Brexit, the UK is completing its retreat into sullen Little Englandism and plenty of Scots want out. Put simply, the Scots are finding the European Union less claustrophobic than the British one. It’s the difference between sharing a flat with your mates and being in bed with an elephant.

One of the elephant’s problems is that it can’t forget the past. It can’t stop recalling the glories of Empire. Post-imperial England is still struggling to adjust to its diminished role in the world. Scotland has been all too successful in forgetting its complicity in Empire, but it is mercifully free of delusions of imperial grandeur. We know that we are a small, peripheral nation occupying the knuckle end of an Atlantic island – and we value the larger context of our European family.

All this makes it sound as though Scotland is inherently less racist and intolerant than England. It’s not. As my own Irish ancestors could testify, Scotland has its own legacy of hostility to incomers. But migration has been central to the Scottish experience for centuries and maybe we find it that bit harder to regard “migrant” as a dirty word.

Historically, Scotland’s problem has been emigration and depopulation, not immigration. Persuading someone who lives in the Highlands or the Borders or the wilds of Aberdeenshire that his country is full up is not the easiest of tasks.

Until recently a significant problem for New Zealand has also been substantial emigration, and to avoid a shrinking population we have to encourage immigrants.

But there seems to be a growing or at least a more vocal intolerance of ‘different’ people coming here.

Don’t underestimate the importance of leadership. The tone of the Brexit debate in England and Wales – as set by the odious Nigel Farage and the blustering Boris Johnson – flirted shamefully with racism.

In Scotland, leaders of all parties have eschewed such tactics. When the result was announced, the first concern of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, was to reassure migrants that their contribution was valued. In the febrile aftermath of Brexit, Sturgeon spoke directly and graciously to “those who have done us the honour of choosing to make Scotland their home”.

Can you imagine the current crop of English politicians – not to mention those of Australia and New Zealand – having the courage and humanity to set such a tone?

Unfortunately too many politicians here smell votes in stoked up intolerance.

If all the immigrants who are already here were able to nominate what sort of new immigrants they wanted to exclude our population would not only shrink from a lack of immigration, it would probably suffer from an exodus of Kiwis looking for opportunities to thrive elsewhere in the world.

Joubert correct not to refer to the TMO

There’s been a lot of fuming, especially from Scottish connections, over Craig Joubert’s awarding of a penalty to Australia to enable them to win the World Cup quarter final.

No matter what the facts are it looks like a very tough call against Scotland, but the rules say that  Joubert was not able to refer the possible knock on to the Television Match Official.

According to this list at SMH – Rugby World Cup 2015: Referee Craig Joubert almost hit by bottle as decision breaks Scotland hearts:

Under World Rugby rules, the TMO can only be called into play for:

  • Determining the grounding of the ball in goal for a try, and/or whether players were out of the field of play before the grounding;
  • Determining whether a kick at goal has been successful;
  • Confirming an infringement has occurred in the build up to a try or prevention of a try within two phases of the try, and;
  • Considering acts of possible foul play.

The offside ruling does not fall into any category and therefore Joubert’s decision on the field stands.

It can be argued whether the awarding of a penalty was correct or appropriate or not, but it was correct not to refer to the TMO.

And while Scotland did very well to get so close to winning against Australia in what would have been a major upset they can also look at their own decision making in the last few minutes of the game when they had a two point lead.

  • They chose to throw to the back of the lineout, a relatively risky call in that situation.
  • They didn’t take the line out cleanly, instead deflecting the ball backwards.
  • They didn’t tidy up the messy deflection.
  • They may have knocked it on (I’m not sure if this has been proven or disproven).
  • The player who took the ball took a risk he should have known about unless he was certain it wasn’t a knock on.

As it turned out Scotland were penalised for offside and Australia were awarded a penalty, which they kicked to give them a one point lead.

Then Scotland made another poor decision – they kicked off deep giving Australia a clear shot at securing the ball and protecting it to run down the clock and take the win. Which is what happened.

Scotland could only hope for an Australian mistake, which didn’t happen.

Scotland could have kicked short to at least give them a 50/50 chance of securing possession and making play to try and find a way of regaining the lead. They didn’t.

So the penalty may have been tough but it wasn’t the only factor in the loss by a long shot.

If Scotland had not been penalised for offside at the line out there is also no guarantee that they could have prevented Australia from scoring in the last couple of minutes, or of not giving away a penalty for another infringement that they could score points from.

I can understand Scotland being devastated. But it wasn’t the referee that lost them the game. He was only one of a number of factors that are all a part of the game.

Southern hemisphere semis

A slightly surprising win to Argentina and a near shock loss to Australia has resulted in an all southern hemisphere semi final in the Rugby World Cup.

The semis will be:

  • South Africa versus New Zealand – 4 am Sunday 25 October (NZ time)
  • Argentina versus Australia – 5 am Monday 26 October (NZ time)

Results from the quarter finals:

  • South Africa beat Wales 23-19

The Springboks ground out a win against a weary looking Wales without wowing. They are still in the hunt but surely have to lift and show more enterprise to match it with the All Blacks in their semi final.

Wales were gallant and kept close but looked like they ran out of gas after some punishing pool games and an awful injury toll.

  • New Zealand beat France 62-13

The All Blacks bltized Les Bleus as individuals and the new Zealand team came into form at the business end of the tournament. The question will be whether the ABs can repeat this sort of performance again next week. And if they win that whether they can lift to that level again. They are well prepared and may, but sport does funny things sometimes. They must now be favourites.

France battled well in the first half but couldn’t match the ABs and couldn’t keep up in the second half. They have serious questions to ask about their coaching and club system.

  • Argentina beat Ireland 43-20

I didn’t see this game but the Pumas pounced after showing promise in pool play and ended up with a decisive win.

Ireland had lost some key players to injury after a punishing clash with France last week, which turned out to be both teams’ peak.

  • Australia beat Scotland 35-34

Scotland nearly had a shock win over the Wallabies with a late intercept try putting them in front but a controversial penalty two minutes from full time let Australia rescue what would otherwise have been an embarrassment.

Scotland played very well an deserve much credit. That penalty was a huge blow but they bumbled the lineout that led to the penalty. And then after the Wallabies took the lead Scotland kicked off deep, Australia took it and played out the remaining seconds. Why on earth didn’t Scotland kick short so they could contest possession instead of giving possession to the Aussies on a plate?

Australia managed to do what counts, they won, and they scored five tries, but they didn’t have a very good game in many respects. They looked lacklustre. Their scrum fell to pieces. Scotland may have beaten them on turnovers. And Foley missed his first three kicks (but nailed the one that really counted at the end).

The Wallabies will have a big battle against Argentina next week and will have to up their standards.

Already this World Cup has been a major disappointment for the Northern Hemisphere, with four teams from the south filling all semi final slots.

A tribute to Wales

Overall this has been a cracker of a world cup despite disappointing tournaments from England and South Africa – and France despite them reaching the final, and Ireland, Scotland and Argentina being not quite good enough.

We’ll find out tonight which of New Zealand and Australia crash, they will probably mostly judged on this result.

I’ve enjoyed watching the second tier teams in most of the games they have played.

But I’d like to pay tribute to one of the shining stars of the tournament – Wales. They weren’t rated highly coming into the tournament, but they showed on the field that they had the preparation and attitude to make a mark, and they did.

Wales earned much rugby respect in New Zealand, deservedly. Many in the team contributed to this, notably up and coming flanker and captain Sam Warburton, and the team as a whole. Warren Gatland and his coaching team also deserve much credit.

I would have liked to see Wales playing in the final, against the All Blacks of course (through hope rather than expectation), but it’s not to be. A heavy pre-game shower of rain, a momentary tackle mistake, some off target kicking, and the French not quite playing badly enough to lose meant a very creditable but one week early exit for Wales.

Apart from the All Blacks the Welsh team is the only team in the 2011 Rugby World Cup that has not been outplayed in a game (just beaten by a narrow points margin a couiple of times).

I don’t usually feel empathy for the country of origin of my mother’s family, but I almost feel some pride in the boyos. Whatever – I salute some great sportmen and a nearly great team. I think this team’s time will come as long as they learn and grow from this experience.

Why do Kiwis support “anyone but England”?

Last night’s rugby world cup match between England and Scotland demonstrated strong support for “anyone but England”, in this case Scotland. This is partly support for the underdog, and it partly demonstartes a strong Scottish cultural influence in New Zealand. But there is also a strong English cultural influence in the old colony.

Both Scotland and Ireland get strong support from Kiwis. There are many Kiwis with Scottish and Irish ancestry, but that’s only part of the reason – there is a lot of English ancestry here too. There’s even a few Kiwis who still support maintaining links with the Queen of England.

Why do many Kiwis have little or no support for old mother England?

I really don’t know. And I’m an example of this phenomenon.

On my father’s side of the family my grandmother came from Chelsea, a great grandfather emigrated from Liverpool, and a great grandmother was part of the very English emigration to the Canterbury settlement. But I don’t feel like I have any connection with England apart from a historical curiosity. I don’t feel any empathy with England.

I don’t have any known Scottish or Irish heritage (but my granddaughter has a cool Scottish dad!) – but I would normally side with them over England. I don’t know why.

My mother’s parents came from Wales, arriving in New Zealand a couple of years before she was born. However my Welsh empathy only  amounts to a little more historical curiousity  than my Englishness.

My mild natural support for Wales over England is on about the same scale as my natural wish for Ireland or Scotland to beat England.

What has England done to deserve this? A Kiwi disdain of the English arrogance and self appointed superiority? Many UK immigrants to New Zealand wanted to get away from the English class system, maybe it’s a residual of that feeling. Kiwis are more likely to have a favourite “working class” football team than they are a more toffee rugby club (not me though).

England, we don’t hate you, maybe we just like to feel our independence as Kiwis and “anyone but England” is one way of doing this.

Scotland the brave, England the slightly better

England have confirmed a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals after beating Scotland last night in their final pool match. It was not a pretty game, as expected it was a dour arm wrestle.

Scotland put up a brave performnce. They won the first half with a brave committed performance, missing less shots at goal than England. They held on grimly through most of the second half but just couldn’t finish off, lacking penetration and not getting enough shots at goal.

England had another poor start, making basic errors at the breakdown and missing a number of shots at goal – Wilkinson is not as reliable as he used to be. But whatever they were told or whatever was in what they drank at half time worked, just. They gradually gained a small amount of dominance in the second half, managed to kick a few points and claw back on the scoreboard, and scored the game’s only try near the end which was the clincher.

A couple of morals:

  • brave is hard to sustain for eighty minutes without enough penetration
  • even in dour, close fought matches tries can still be the difference between winning and going home early

So Scotland leave the tournament, and England move on to the quarters to try and grind their way forward.

England is noticeably different depending on which first five (fly half) they use. Wilkinson means a kicking game, even though his radar has been wobbly all tournament – he can’t blame last night on the indoor Otago Stadium. He is also a staunch defender, being prominent in cover. Flood is goal kicking better but the England backline also looks far more likely to excite – and score – when he’s in the pivot position.

Englands knockout tactics will be obvious by their first five selection.

Bad luck Scotland, you had many Kiwi hearts and hopes on your side.

Good on you England, you did just enough.