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A two part timeline to Disaster

A two part timeline to Disaster

PART 1

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

This heading sounds very dramatic and over the top but believe me New Zealand is heading towards a disaster and the current government are the main authors behind that disaster.

In fact we are heading into two disasters with the first already staring us in the face; “ the Covid 19 Pandemic” and the second but far more serious disaster coming close behind being the “ Death of Democracy in New Zealand”.

Part 1:

First let’s look at the Covid pandemic in relation to our government and its reactions to that pandemic.

Fact: The existence of the Covid virus was totally beyond any control of our government.

Fact: Our reactions to the Covid virus were totally driven by our government due to their responsibilities and duties as our elected government.

Timeline of key Covid 19 events:

28 February 2020: First COVID-19 case reported in New Zealand.

14 March 2020: The Government announces anyone entering New Zealand must self-isolate for 14 days, except those arriving from the Pacific. 

19 March 2020: All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are to be cancelled.

Borders closed to all but New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Fact: The Government through our Prime Minister coined the phrase that we would “go hard and go early” and our country would eliminate the Covid 19 virus. They claimed that we would lead the world in dealing with the Covid Virus!

21 March 2020: The Government introduces the 4-tiered Alert Level system to help combat COVID-19. The Prime Minister announces that New Zealand is at Alert Level 2. 

23 March 2020: At 1:30pm the Prime Minister announces New Zealand has moved to Alert Level 3, effective immediately. In 48 hours, New Zealand will move to Alert Level 4. 

25 March 2020: At 11:59pm, New Zealand moves to Alert Level 4, and the entire nation goes into self-isolation. A State of National Emergency is declared at 12:21pm. 

A State of National Emergency was declared due to COVID-19. It was in force between 12:21pm on 25 March 2020 and 12:21pm on Wednesday 13 May 2020.

It covered all of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands, Stewart Island and other offshore islands.

The declaration was made by the Minister of Civil Defence Hon Peeni Henare in consultation with the Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern following advice from the Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

The State of National Emergency was distinct from the COVID-19 Alert System.

29 March 2020: New Zealand reports its first COVID-19-related death. 

31 March 2020: The State of National Emergency is extended at 9:27am.

Further extensions are made at: 

  • 9:25am on 2 April 2020   
  • 12:21pm on 8 April 2020  
  • 12:21pm on 15 April 2020 
  • 12:21pm on 22 April 2020 
  • 12:21pm on 29 April 2020  
  • 12:21pm on 5 May 2020. 

Extensions to state of emergency

Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, a state of emergency expires 7 days after it’s declared unless it is terminated or extended.

 National Action Plan version 2 was released on the 1st April with the following objectives:

  1. Maintain public trust and confidence.
  2. Enable a phased transition between COVID-19 Alert Levels in response to epidemiological evidence.
  3. Maintain essential services and mitigate National response work-stream issues identified by the Leadership Team
  4. Identify and implement all necessary measures to support and maintain a suppression strategy while enhancing our capability to mitigate rapid case increases through isolated clusters.
  5. Identify and implement measures to preserve the capability and capacity of the health system and increase to the fullest extent possible, the capacity and readiness of the health sector in anticipation of a peak ‘Manage It’ worst case scenario.
  6. Coordinate the provision of an integrated National welfare response and ensure welfare agencies continue to provide essential services during the event.
  7. Identify and address welfare issues such as the provision of accommodation, the delivery of food to vulnerable households, financial assistance and the care of children.
  8. Assess the economic consequences and minimise impacts to businesses and households.
  9. Preserve and, where required, coordinate essential services in support of the National response.
  10. A cohesive national response enabled by an effective relationship between Government and the Private Sector.
  11. New Zealand is viewed as a global leader through an appropriate and example-setting response.
  12. Ensure the provision of open and transparent communication to the public.
  13. Provide consistent communication across national, regional, and local response levels to ensure the widest dissemination of accurate information.
  14. Maintain a functioning supply chain in support of essential services and national critical equipment.
  15. Ensure the protection of lifelines infrastructure commensurate with the response.
  16. Implement measures for the sustainment of deceased and coronial processes and increase the capacity and capabilities under a peak ‘Manage It’ pandemic scenario.
  17. Maintain law and order and take all measures within their authority or enacted legislation to protect life and property, and to assist with the movement of rescue, medical, fire and other essential services
  18. Provide direction and coordination across regional Civil Defence emergency Management (CDEM) Groups.
  19. Maintain border restrictions and provide support to the National response to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19.
  20. Coordinate New Zealand’s international engagement to effectively provide for New Zealanders overseas and international/overseas citizens within New Zealand affected by the response to COVID-19.
  21. Be prepared to facilitate New Zealand’s contribution to international efforts to responding to the pandemic, including providing assistance to partners to support preparedness as well as responding to requests for assistance from developing countries in conjunction with other countries and agencies.

 

20 April 2020: The Prime Minister announces New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 4 for an additional 5 days. New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 3 for 2 weeks, before the status is reviewed. 

27 April 2020: New Zealand moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.

4 May 2020: No new cases of COVID-19 are reported in New Zealand.

11 May 2020: The Prime Minister outlines the plan to move to Alert Level 2. 

13 May 2020: New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. The State of National Emergency expires at 12:21pm. 

8 June 2020: The Ministry of Health reports that there are no more active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. At 11:59pm, New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1.

The general feeling was that we had gone hard and gone early and that as a result we had won the war on Covid but in fact we had just won a very small skirmish and the enemy was building its forces against us. 

July 2020: The government confirmed its plan to eliminate Covid 19!

New Zealand chose a hugely ambitious path. It chose to stamp out Covid-19 at every turn.

Stamp it out: Our plan to respond to new COVID-19 cases in the community

  1. Principle: Continue to pursue an elimination strategy for COVID-19.
  2. Principle: The core of our response will be personal hygiene, staying home when sick, testing, contact tracing and isolation
  3. Principle: Where this is insufficient we will seek to control COVID-19 with the least intrusive measures, including tailored local responses, that give us confidence that we will continue to deliver on our strategy of elimination
  4. Principle: We will seek to avoid going to Alert Levels 3 or 4 if possible, although we will do so if necessary
  5. Principle: There will be strong national oversight over any response, regardless of whether the response is local or national in scale.

Vaccine Strategy

On 18 May 2020, Cabinet agreed a strategy [Cab Min SWC-20-MIN-0042] in order to secure adequate supply of a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 so we can fully re-open borders and progress with recovery. This strategy has been well received, a task force has been set up to oversee delivery and ensure pace is maintained, and work is well underway on a number of action areas.

The COVID-19 Immunisation Strategy (the Immunisation Strategy) and Programme will contribute to longer-term outcomes agreed by Cabinet as part of the Vaccine Strategy [CAB-20-MIN-0229.01 refers].

The COVID-19 Immunisation Programme is a key part of the immediate health response and longer-term economic response. It will be the biggest immunisation programme undertaken in New Zealand, the Realm and participating Polynesian countries. It is a highly complex and challenging initiative and work is underway to ensure the COVID-19 Immunisation Programme is successful. 3. In August 2020, Cabinet invited a report back in November 2020 on progress with developing the Strategy; including a ‘prioritisation framework’ and consideration of access for Pacific countries

11 August 2020: 4 new cases of COVID-19 are recorded in the community.

12 August 2020: At 12 noon, Auckland region moves to Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2.

14 August 2020: The Prime Minister announces that Auckland will remain at Alert Level 3 and the rest of New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 2 for 12 more days. 

30 August 2020: Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm, with extra restrictions on travel and gatherings. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2. 

21 September 2020: All regions except Auckland move to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm.

23 September 2020: Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 without extra restrictions on travel and gatherings at 11:59pm.

7 October 2020: Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

Again the general feeling was that we had won the war on Covid. Yet we still did not have any idea how the virus came into New Zealand and consequently any idea of how to prevent it from re-occurring. 

14 February 2021: 3 new cases of COVID-19 are recorded in the community.

Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2.

17 February 2021: Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1.

22 February 2021: Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

28 February 2021: Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 at 6am. The rest of New Zealand move to Alert Level 2.

7 March 2021: Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 at 6am. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1.

12 March 2021: Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at midday. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

23 June 2021: Wellington moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 1. 

29 June 2021: Wellington moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

The Government updated its definition of the elimination strategy on August 12.

There are four separate pillars to the strategy.

  1. Keep It Out – this is primarily about using border settings to, keep the virus out.
  2. Prepare For It – this involves, for example, encouraging people to wear masks and keep a record of where they have been.
  3. Stamp It Out – this is the key pillar. It is about using contract tracing, supported by lockdowns, “to eliminate Covid-19 as quickly and efficiently as possible from the community”.
  4. Manage The Impact – this is defined as a “foundational pillar”. It includes the vaccination programme and is all about ensuring the health system is ready for Covid.

17 August 2021: All of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 4 at 11:59pm.

31 August 2021: All of New Zealand south of Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.

Auckland and Northland remain at Alert Level 4.

2 September 2021: Northland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand (except Auckland) is now at Alert Level 3.

Auckland remains at Alert Level 4.

7 September 2021: New Zealand (except Auckland) moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm.

Auckland remains at Alert Level 4.

21 September 2021: Auckland and Upper Hauraki move to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

25 September 2021: Upper Hauraki moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm.

Auckland remains at Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

3 October 2021: Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Hamilton City and some surrounding areas move to Alert Level 3 for 5 days from 11:59pm.

Auckland remains at Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

5 October 2021: Alert Level 3 restrictions in Auckland are eased from 11:59pm. 

Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Hamilton City and some surrounding areas remain at Alert Level 3.

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

7 October 2021: Waikato Alert Level 3 boundary is extended from 11:59pm to include Waitomo District, including Te Kuiti, Waipa District and Ōtorohanga District. 

Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 with some restrictions eased. 

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

8 October 2021: Northland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.

Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3.

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Last week the Labour ministers Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins made a comment about “Covid for Christmas” after the opposition National Party released its Covid policy.

They said that this policy to open the borders at an 85 per cent vaccination rate, would be virtually giving Kiwis the virus for Christmas.

But this comment will likely come back to haunt them, as given the current circumstances there most likely will be Covid for Christmas, but it won’t have been via an open border, It will have come in spite of the governments elimination strategy.

A strategy that has failed to stamp out the Covid virus, and a strategy that we are learning was probably never going to work at eliminating the virus.

Since news broke on August 17 that Delta had arrived in the community, there was always a chance it wasn’t going to be stamped out. The risk here was that we would see high case numbers even after months of restrictions. So far this has not happened, which is good, but it has mainly come about as a result of the extended lockdown for Auckland.

Although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been careful not to actually say that the elimination strategy is dead, this is what the commentary has effectively inferred. There is no doubt that New Zealand is moving towards a goal of suppressing Covid-19, and learning to live with it.

The change from elimination to suppression will more than likely mean we will have to deal with more hospitalisations and more deaths. The rates are driven by other public health measures such as vaccination rates and how high those rates go etc.

There will most likely be some level of Covid for Christmas as prophesised by those ministers .

There are two huge issues where the Government has clearly failed, one is ICU capacity and the other is vaccinations.

After the first lockdown last year, it should have moved quickly to create a special visa class to get ICU specialists into the country. It did not.

This is an astonishing failure, given that the clear capacity constraint in the system – testing, contact tracing, isolation, hospital care – was always going to lie in providing and staffing ICU facilities.

By September 26, the Ministry of Health revealed “an estimated 81,500 in the public system stand in line for surgeries, procedures and appointments delayed due to the current Delta outbreak.”

But Labour has not only failed to ensure the system can keep up with demand, they haven’t even been able to provide the basics. In spite of the country being under threat from a world-wide pandemic, the number of intensive care hospital beds is in decline.  

According to the Herald the number of ICU beds fell from 358 in March 2020 to 284 in August 2021. On a per capita basis, New Zealand has less than one-third of the average number of critical care beds amongst 22 OECD countries – putting us in 21st place, followed only by Mexico.

With only 4.6 ICU beds for every 100,000 people, compared with 6.4 in the UK, 8.9 in Australia, and 38.7 in Germany, New Zealand not only has a dangerous shortage of ICU beds, but staff as well.

Since every ICU bed needs around five to six nurses to keep it operational 24/7, there’s an estimated shortfall of around 100 ICU nurses. In addition, the country is critically short of doctors, yet according to Immigration New Zealand, 901 registered nurses and 235 doctors are already in New Zealand waiting on the Government for residency.

The Government has had eighteen months from the time of the first lockdown to have developed and implemented a vaccination strategy but they failed to do so.

In fact they have failed to signal any coherent plan to raise the rates of vaccinations for the whole population.

The Government may have become complacent following New Zealand’s early success at eliminating the virus, which may partially explain why the government failed to develop and implement a coherent vaccination strategy for the whole population.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the nation that we would lead the world in our Covid response and that the government had guaranteed adequate supplies of the vaccines were available for all.

A leading medical expert, back in April during a TV interview branded the Government and its under-fire vaccination rollout as “incompetent”, declaring “a shambles” is too generous of a description for the flawed and slow-moving system.

University of Auckland medical professor Des Gorman has strongly criticized the Government for failing to accelerate the administration of vaccinations, noting at the current rate, it will take roughly five years to inoculate New Zealand’s population against COVID-19.

“It’s hard to reconcile that we’re a year into a pandemic and we’re having conversations like this,” Gorman said.

“This is incompetence. You should never go for complex explanations when ‘incompetence’ will describe what you’re seeing.

“This is a system that doesn’t have an operational capacity and I believe we’re also worried about the supply of the vaccine… with all due respect, get as many vaccines as you can to as many arms as you can, as fast as you can.”

Since then we have seen the outbreak of the Delta strain of the Covid virus and that has driven a marked increase in the vaccination rates but still far too little too late.

Given the spread of this virulent strain of the virus and the low vaccination rates overall particularly in the most at risk sectors of the population we are likely to see our health system very quickly reach maximum capacity should this outbreak spread widely as expected it may do.

A disaster in the making curtesy of poor government decision making!

Andy Loader

Co-Chairman P.L.U.G.

Primary Land Users Group

 This will be followed by an even bigger disaster that is unrecoverable from: See part 2.