Peter Williams: Level 2 is 'egregious' and 'illogical'

Opinion 12/05/2020

OPINION: By Magic Mornings host, Peter Williams.

Did you get a feeling of freedom because of what you heard yesterday or are there still things that rankle with you? Are you keen to go and eat out later this week, but how do you feel about not being able to go and have a drink after work this Friday unless the place you go to has food as well? I just can’t figure that one out. 

Then there’s the most egregious and stupidest and illogical rule of all. You can go to a movie, presumably, that means you can go to a play or a concert too and in the Prime Minister’s now immortal words - "get spaced out" - but you can’t go to church. 

Now to be fair, in this day and age that doesn’t actually affect many people because church attendance is so low, but I’m thinking that the likes of Brian Tamaki will find a way to get around this by saying they’re putting on a concert or a show, and not a church service. 

Anyway, it’s silly and anybody would think this is just another example of the government’s anti-Christian way of life - but presumably, it applies to mosques and synagogues too.   

The reality is that what we were delivered yesterday was predictable and necessary. We were getting restless and the risk of this virus spreading is, and for the last 2 weeks, has been minuscule. It is contained in some aged care facilities, and I do really feel for the health workers at the Waitemata DHB who do not appear to have the necessary support and protection to do their job, while there is an occasional overseas traveller who has it. The number of active cases is so low as to be inconsequential. There are now less than a hundred, and vast areas of the country, those covered by 8 of the 20  DHBs, have no cases at all.

But I note that there is no set time limit for these level 2 restrictions. Jacinda has put no schedule out to say when this level will be reviewed and the rules which go into place on Thursday could be with us for the foreseeable future. Without putting too fine a point on it, it’s going to be our behaviour at bars from next week which will be crucial. 

Remember two of the three biggest clusters we’ve had so far in this country originated in social settings with the Bluff wedding and the Matamata St Patrick’s Day drinks and having people relaxed and a bit loose could lead to contact which has an undesirable outcome.

But then again, if there’s no disease in most parts of the country, why should we worry?  If you go out for a beer in Taranaki or Wairarapa or Hutt Valley or through the entire Bay of Plenty you actually have nothing to fear because there are no cases in those regions - unless some random person from Auckland or Hamilton brings it in.

Still, if we’re still tracking really low numbers by the end of the month, which is just under three weeks away, it suggests that we’ll be well on top of it from a health point of view. How we deal with the economy and mass unemployment is another issue.

So how do you feel about yesterday’s new set of rules?

I have the feeling that for a speech from a politician at four o’clock on a Friday, it would have had a seriously significant audience. I was out walking, carrying a radio with me. I went into a supermarket and a pharmacy. One had the radio on, the other a TV carrying the announcement. When I was walking home I could hear the TV going from at least three other houses. Which says a couple of things, one there was an extraordinary public interest in whatever was decided, and two she took a very long time to say it.  

I also have to say there was a lot of fluff in the preamble. Why couldn’t the Prime Minister have just cut straight to chase? Give us the facts. Give us the new rules. Is it just me and my inbuilt resistance to spin and padding, but did you get the feeling we're being lectured to by a teacher at primary school during that speech?

“Thank you for all your hard work etc.” I didn’t work hard, I just used common sense and played by some pretty draconian rules. 

Anyway, now we see some normality and some freedom on the horizon. Life should be a bit more fun. But if we want the places that we used to enjoy before all this to resume offering the services we had before, then we have to go and spend some money there. The local shops and businesses, the cafes, the gyms, in my case the golf club, taking a trip out of your home patch - we now face the issue and the challenge of getting out of our non-spending habits of the last seven weeks and putting a bit of cashback into the economy.

Are you happy? Are you frustrated by the restricted size of gatherings and the seeming inconsistencies there? Do you think the country can be trusted to behave and not get too close to each other once the bars open next week?

And what about sport? There won’t be any club games for a while yet but the professional stuff can start again - but without crowds. Couldn’t they have done spacing in the stadiums so that there could at least be some sort of atmosphere? I mean Eden Park is seldom even half full for a Blues game. If you put people in every second seat, you’d still have plenty of room?