Yesterday, the New Zealand Herald published the findings of an opinion poll it commissioned as a wave of the Delta variant oozes its way across the country, locked down now for weeks.
It will have been music to the ears of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the High Priestess of Covid eliminationism (the High Priest surely must now be Western Australia’ Mark McGowan.)
The poll indicates that, despite the outbreak, and the lockdowns and disruptions they are causing, the denizens of the Shaky Isles are unshakeable in their devotion to the elimination goddess.
Almost half of the 1,000 people polled – 46 per cent – were happy to stay in elimination mode indefinitely. Another 39 per cent want elimination measures to stay until NZ achieves a 70 per cent target of full vaccination.
In a week when Australia’s leading eliminationist premier, Daniel Andrews, suddenly defected to the ‘we can’t achieve zero transmission, vaccination is the key to ending people’s lockdown misery’ camp, Kiwis are saying ‘no bro, we’re staying under the duvet, it’s warm and womb-like and we like it – so pus off’.
Yet even a 70 per cent vaccination threshold isn’t enough for some. University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker – a tenured professor on a guaranteed salary – thought that threshold ‘too low’, and another, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, told the Herald, ‘I’m really relieved to hear that (the poll results) because it feels like we’re getting a lot of pundits from here and overseas telling us that elimination is the wrong approach’.
Could it be, however, those pundits are saying that because they’re right and elimination is wrong?
Australia too caught the Covid elimination disease badly last year but, finally, there are signs that because of the perniciousness of Delta’s spread, reality is breaking in on the elimination dream.
In New Zealand, this poll shows that there’s a long white cloud of delusion over the Land of the Long White Cloud. The Ardern government welcomed the poll as a vindication of its hard-lockdown, Hermit Kingdom strategy, and the National party opposition dared not question it either.
It seems New Zealanders, after 18 pandemic months, are still content to upend their own lives, but also shred their economy with a far narrower base than Australia’s, all in the name of zero-Covid. As the Australian eliminationist leadership starts to fragment, New Zealand is now the only nation in the developed world fully holding out against adopting ‘living with Covid’ policies that at least try to balance economic and social health with the demands of controlling coronavirus with targeted, reasonable, and effective precautions and restrictions.
And all while Delta is making a mockery of the New Zealand approach. While Kiwis think that everything’s sweet as, they risk becoming, in global terms, as extinct as the moa.
Terry Barnes is a former adviser to Tony Abbott during his time as health minister. He edits our daily newsletter, the Morning Double Shot. You can sign up for your Morning Double Shot of news and comment here.
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