Duncan Garner: We allowed COVID-19 to be walked into New Zealand

Opinion 30/04/2020

OPINION: So many accolades have been thrown the way of the Prime Minister and Dr Ashley Bloomfield for their management of COVID-19.

But the truth is, our health system was woefully under-prepared.

Have a listen to this:

"We were not adequately prepared for a pandemic, despite the recent experiences of SARS twice, MERS and so on. It's self-evident we need an explicit, tactical pandemic plan that is overseen by an adequately-resourced national agency," said Auckland University professor of medicine Des Gorman.

"I think we squandered our major advantage, which is our geography, because we did not have an early hard border closure. If the pandemic response strategy was, and is, to 'keep-it-out and stamp-it-out' - then the hard work we have had to do to stamp it out, clearly shows we materially failed to keep it out."

So the face-palm moment... Gorman, widely respected, [is] talking about 'clusters' - not the Marist variety - or even the Bluff wedding. This time, the word 'cluster' has another word attached to it - but I can't repeat it.

And because of this, we had to endure a Gestapo like approach to level 4. And a level 4 approach to level 3.

But business is suffering, Kiwis are losing jobs and if we'd had a proper plan, the damage could have been more contained.

We didn't have enough ICU beds - just three per 100,0000 people. Australia has 10, Germany has 33.

We didn't have enough ventilators, personal protection equipment and we didn't close our borders until it was too late

We squandered our natural advantage. The ocean is our moat and yet our borders remained open to the virus for simply too long.

When they finally closed the door, the virus had walked in and spread.

We allowed the virus to be walked into the country.

It even turns out the Government was formally told by Bloomfield to completely close the borders in February.

They said 'no thanks', and the compromise came way too late.

Now, for the record, the Prime Minister says, 'didn't we do well' for an underprepared nation?

I say she misses the point.

We could have been in and out of this in a much less painful way - if people had done their jobs properly in the planning stages.