Covid 19 coronavirus: Bill Ralston – NZ blissfully unaware were on the edge of disaster


It is hard not to feel that the Government and much of the country are somehow, incredibly, asleep at the wheel. Eighteen months into a deadly pandemic, we are balanced on the edge of a precipice and yet New Zealand seems to be blissfully unaware.

A recent public poll by the Government showed 44 per cent of us were “neutral” towards the country’s Covid-19 situation and 75 per cent said the country was going in the right direction on the pandemic.

Is it the right direction that an important line of defence against another Covid-19 outbreak, our underpaid, overworked and exhausted nurses, are forced to go on strike to get decent pay? The Government has borrowed billions to spend on anything it fancies, but nurses are told there is nothing left in the district health board piggy bank to pay them better. How does that work?

Has anyone noticed that Fortress New Zealand, our bastion against infection, has some huge holes in its crumbling walls? A stubborn number of border workers have still not been inoculated. Months have passed and the Government has been reluctant to force them to do so because of its concerns about personal freedoms.

The queue for MIQ is so long and difficult for returnees to navigate that at least one shyster is making a fortune helping distressed folk try to work with the broken system. Is that the right direction?

The vaccination roll-out is pitifully slow. We are near the bottom of OECD countries in terms of the speed at which we are being inoculated. More than half of people in the UK are fully vaccinated. Here, at the time of writing, only 10 per cent of the country has been. That means 3.6 million of us are vulnerable to the highly infectious Delta variant, which is 40-60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. At this rate, most over-16s – roughly 1.2 million Kiwis are aged 16 or under and therefore not currently eligible for a vaccine – will be getting an inoculation as a Christmas present. Have some Pfizer with your turkey.

We’ve been lucky so far, but what if we experience, as various states in Australia have, a sudden resurgence of the virus in the community, this time the Delta variant?

The Government has tried to put a gloss on the vaccine figures by announcing contracts it has signed for millions of doses, but those numbers are simply undelivered orders and their arrival here is basically a hopeful forecast.

The Government is winging it. It issued a roll-out timetable based on age groups, but the reservation date you might get for a jab depends entirely on the delivery of the product from overseas and the competency of your local health organisation in getting the job done.

Many of you, like me, will have received a letter from health authorities saying you can apply for a shot from the end of July. That has served to placate many of us in the meantime, but the question still remains: when and how can you get your doses in the future?

Restaurants are closing their doors because they cannot get the foreign workers they need to operate. The Government tells them to pay more and all those unemployed Kiwis will rush to wait on tables.

Orchardists face another season of leaving fruit on the ground for the same reason, despite offering the rejected proposal of running their own MIQ facilities.

The Government refuses to give us a road map of how we can exit Covid-19. Why? Because it doesn’t have one and it doesn’t want to alarm us. Our politicians are sleepwalking through this crisis and we haven’t noticed.

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