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Peter Williams: Is New Zealand destined to be a hermit kingdom?

Peter Williams 02/07/2021

OPINION: We may not be able to be part of the big wide world for years to come.

Are you beginning to think that our worst fears could be realised and that we might not be able to be part of the big wide world for years to come? I ask this in the light of what I thought was a frankly ridiculous statement by the government’s favourite scaremongers, that Te Punaha Matatini modelling lot at Auckland University run by the professor of doom and gloom Shaun Hendy. He’s the one, remember, who said in March last year 80,000 New Zealanders could die of Covid. Not many outside of the government believed him then, and I fear not many believe him now.  He says we won’t get herd immunity until 97 percent of us are vaccinated. That seems like a tactic designed to scare us all into getting vaccinated and unless we do we’ll remain a hermit kingdom locked up at the bottom of the world whereby everybody who arrives in the country will have to spend two weeks in a hotel before they’re allowed to join in. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s what this control freak government wants for the country. They like having those draconian powers. They like instilling fear. I don’t think they trust us to take care of ourselves and look after our own health. 

The big problem is that we’ve never had a 97 percent vaccination rate for anything. In fact the whole measles fiasco two years ago was because our vax rate had dropped from 90 percent - when we had herd immunity - down to a number in the mid 70s. But is the country actually serious about being part of the world again? Isn’t it ridiculous that Wimbledon can have a full house for the finals next weekend, yet we have to cancel this country’s two biggest tennis tournaments because the government won’t let vaccinated international athletes into the country without them staying in a hotel for two weeks?

And then there’s the matter of the vaccine rollout. Group 4 people, that is the general population – aged 16 years and over, getting texts to book when those in Group 3, the oldies, and pensioners and those with underlying health conditions are not getting the text.  It lurches from one shambles to another does it not? The latest excuse from Chris Hipkins about us not having enough vaccines is that it would have been unethical to pay more to Pfizer to get more here. If we had paid more it could have been seen as a bribe and Hipkins says his government doesn’t operate that way. Gee. What do you make of that? Maybe, the government actually likes the slow pace of the rollout. Maybe the government likes the shambolic booking system. Because if there’s a low vax rate, they have more control over international movements. And I think they like controlling that.

So a few questions this morning. Are you getting frustrated with stories day after day about the speed and efficiency of this rollout and are you thinking that we are not going to be allowed to join the world again for a long time yet? If you’re in the tourism or travel industry are you in despair about your future? Auckland Airport, previously one of the best businesses in the country is about to declare a loss of over 50 million dollars. Will it ever return to normal business operations? Aren’t we now, almost a year and a half  into this Covid era, ready to face some reality that we can’t keep it out forever? That some people might get the virus and get sick? That as with the flu up till last year, some vulnerable people succumb? If the rest of the world is getting back to business, why aren’t we making big steps to rejoin it?

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