COVID implosion update.

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As far as I can gather, there are now ten cases as the people who are flying in every day are now being tested… but the rules keep on changing from day to day. There are reports of an American woman having a period of isolation of a day and being allowed to attend a wake without testing. There are two more cases today, which is 11 new cases (one has recovered, so 10 active cases).

Both are people who traveled from High risk areas: one from India, one from the USA. The compassionate system,

It’s been a week since the Ministry of Health has been unable to say how many people were granted compassionate leave without being tested, prompting National leader Todd Muller to call it a “national disgrace”.

And he says a period of 37 days of no imported cases may be because people simply weren’t tested before leaving isolation – meaning there could be Covid-infected people in the community.
The ministry has been repeatedly asked how many people have been granted compassionate leave without being tested, but has so far been unable to answer.
The questions were prompted last Tuesday when it was revealed that two sisters were allowed to leave managed isolation on compassionate grounds without being tested, and subsequently tested positive.
This morning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will have more to say at his 1pm press conference today.
But Muller said it was completely unacceptable that a week had passed and there were still no answers.
“The fact that even today we are in a position where neither the Prime Minister, nor [Health Minister] David Clark, nor [Minister in charge of isolation facilities] Megan Woods can look at anyone in New Zealand and say exactly how many people left quarantine or left managed isolation without being tested is a national disgrace.
“We will continue to hound this Government to be honest and transparent about the degree of failure that has occurred here. Leadership is not taking the accolades when things are going well. Leadership is making hard choices when things don’t go well.”
Muller added that the ministry should be asking questions about why there were no imported cases between May 10 and June 16, while there have been nine cases since then.
That may be due to a lack of testing, he suggested, and if that were the case, asymptomatic Covid-carriers could have finished their 14-day isolation period without being tested and then going out into the community.

Megan Woods, Minister in Charge of Quarantine

I believe that until we have sorted this out we can safely close our borders. To everyone. NZ citizens included: if you have been in a hot spot — the Indian Subcontinent, South America, England, New York… you can’t come in. At all.

Yes that will be politically hard, but the current system is about as watertight as a colander, and it is being stretched.

One suggestion at a comment room today was a two tiered system: an Island (Rotoroa and Motatapu in the Hauraki Gulf have old army camps on them) run by the military for free, or a hotel in an airport zone at full rates. Makes sense.

But this is not what the government is thinking: keep the borders open, blow out the quarantine budget, and start charging people.

Woods told Morning Report that there were a range of options on the table to manage the flow of incoming travellers.
“We’re working very closely with the airlines to have a very detailed understanding of what the inflows and outflows from our quarantine and managed isolation facilities are.
“We’re working constructively with airlines, we’re saying that this is the situation on the ground. We need to manage demand at the time, we’re bringing on more capacity so we’re not saying we’re going to just manage with what we’ve got.”
Increasing capacity would be happening in the next two weeks, she said. The government is looking at enhancing capacity in the areas already being used for managed isolation, including Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Rotorua.
Woods said it was about matching demand and supply.
“What we’re working on is how we can ensure before someone gets on a plane that we have somewhere for them to stay.
“One of the complexities that we’re operating with in this system, is that we never know 100 percent for certain how many people are going to be on a plane until people walk into the plane and sit down.
“But it’s not just a case of booking hotels … this is logistically incredibly complex, it’s also very resource-heavy. In order to bring on those certain facilities, we need to bring around 150 more staff.”
She said there were no plans to stop flights bringing back New Zealanders from Covid-19 hotspots.
“We are behaving like everyone who is coming to New Zealand could have Covid. So the way in which we’re asking them to go into managed isolation facility, where there’s very strict social distancing rules … we’re asking those New Zealanders who are returning to make exactly the same sacrifice that we all made for five weeks.”
She said they were working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well to forecast arrivals, but the focus was mainly on the coming days and weeks.
There was roughly a doubling of people returning to the country last month, and modelling suggested there could be a 4 percent growth per fortnight on that, Woods said.
With increasing numbers of people arriving at the border, Cabinet will soon consider a co-payment scheme.
The budget for managed isolation is $298 million for the June to December period, with more than $80m already spent.

I think Bomber Bradbury is wrong more times than he is right. My experience of the central public service is akin to every city council office I have been unfortunate enough to deal with: rigid, unimaginative, reliably making the wrong decisions. You need a sense of nation and a sense of duty — which the neoliberal globalist ideology has eroded — and you need people of integrity running it. The civil service for most of my adult life has not rewarded this, but instead the bootlicker, the worm-tongue and the weasel. Bomber is looking to something that was burned to the ground by his generation, particularly from the parties he supports. But he is correct to look for it.

And he is trying to excuse our leaders for the disaster they are making.

However, if the incompetence goes beyond this and we actually see community spread, that is a situation that will erode Labour.

If we want to really blame anyone for these failures we need to look beyond Jacinda, Bloomfield and even the MoH – we need to look at us.

We’ve electorally championed this neoliberal state with agencies barely staffed to do anything more than meagre managership of community contracts to fulfil state obligations.

The 35 year neoliberal experiment has ploughed straight into the iceberg of a pandemic and its foundations have been revealed to be cracked to the core.

We didn’t have enough actual hands to all go on deck when an emergency struck.

Our free market response to everything has meant we have no capacity.

Based on 2017 figures, we have 295 800 State Sector employees, maybe that number needs to be 400 000?

Maybe in a job market that is collapsing and with the need for more state sector jobs, we should be talking about a vast ratcheting up of the State sector with their living wages and real worker rights.

But we aren’t hearing that debate, we aren’t hearing anything along the lines of, ‘we need a significant increase in public servants’. So entrenched is the neoliberal virus that when a real sickness strikes us, we are still too intellectually feverish to see the cause of our malaise.

Jacinda is working with the mess of a public service she inherited, if she doesn’t make fundamental change to it in her second term, she will be doomed, but damning her for its failures today is dishonest.

BLM protestors, Wellington. From Stuff.co.nz

Yeah, right. Your ilk are excusing protests while stopping ordinary families grieving. You may have to do one — and we are paying a price for the social distancing — but you then have to to the other. The issue is not the policies of the last 20 years — Bomber is pulling out the new narrative that we can’t blame our saintly PM for being a twit when she clearly has been one — but competence. David Farrar summarizes this trenchantly.

This is a simple matter of competence.

The Minister of Health should have been asking probing questions about the quarantine systems in place. You don’t just assume everything is okay.

I would expect there to be a database of incoming arrivals with each person marked where they flew from, their entry day into isolation, the dates of their Covid tests etc. And if you had that, and protocols that no one gets released unless they have had two negative tests, then what happened couldn’t occur.

This government has already driven us into a recession. They would have been forgiven if they did only one job. The trouble is, they did not.

Update: this morning it was revealed that 51 of the 55 who had compassionate exemptions had not been tested