The Taliban is giving pregnant single Kiwis asylum and the Ministry of Health takes a week to contact trace the Prime Minister. The hangover sets in with record (for 30 years) inflation being the most measurable cost of COVID. The...


The Taliban is giving pregnant single Kiwis asylum and the Ministry of Health takes a week to contact trace the Prime Minister. The hangover sets in with record (for 30 years) inflation being the most measurable cost of COVID. The polls cement ACT as the third most popular party in New Zealand, on track to become the rudder of a new Government.


One piece of news that was reported but not properly understood was this: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, out of Seattle, forecasts New Zealand will have between 346 and 426 deaths from Omicron.

Now, every death is a tragedy, but these figures must be put in context. Last year the road toll was 320. The Flu kills around 500 New Zealanders each year. Suicide, sadly, takes around 600 per year. Breast cancer, 700, prostate cancer, similar. Heart disease, 5,000.

These are all things that we can and do go to try to save people from, but there is always a limit to what we are prepared to give up. Road safety improvements are turned down even when it’s calculated they could save lives. Cancer drugs are not funded, because they are too expensive. Suicide prevention, such as Mike King’s program Gumboot Friday, get turned down.

Even Labour understands that it can’t do everything and must choose. But not when it comes to COVID. The Prime Minister has staked so much of her personal brand on reducing COVID deaths that we now live in an Alice in Wonderland world where the stories become more absurd every day.

A couple more interesting things about the modelling. Free Press does not know how good the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation’s work is, but even the ultra-cautious Michael Baker says it is high quality work that should be taken seriously.

There’s also the modelling we haven’t seen. Normally at this point in the COVID cycle, such as when it first appeared and when Delta was knocking on the door, the Government wheels out modelling from Sean Hendy. It tells us we are facing the greatest loss of life since Gallipoli. It never happens, and no country’s actual experience comes close, and he never accepts responsibility. This time he’s silent.

One more figure worth mentioning is excess deaths. New Zealand currently has negative excess deaths of about 500. Since January 2020, about 500 fewer New Zealanders have died than the average. If the IHME modelling is true, then by the end of 2022, the number of people who died in New Zealand from 2020-2022 would be about what we expected.

All of this leads to the question, why do we have all these restrictions? The IHME modelling tells us a few more things. For one, they are assuming people wear masks, that people keep getting boosted, and that people keep moving around as usual. Those measures are good and well, with a question mark over the type of mask, but what of the others?

There is no longer any justification for keeping the border closed. People have to be vaccinated on Air New Zealand international flights anyway, so all travellers are vaccinated. The only remaining restriction worth the difference it makes is requiring a negative test before leaving for New Zealand. If those with positive tests can home isolate, those with negative tests pose less threat if they skip MIQ and do so.

There is no justification for restricting event sizes. There is no justification for the climate of fear that the Prime Minister has cultivated since she said ‘tens of thousands may die,’ a statement she’s never rescinded even though no country’s actual experience supports it. Fear itself is now doing more to damage business in New Zealand than anything else.

The fear, though, appears to be a fear of the Government’s unworkable 24-day isolation rules (if they can trace you). Those restriction rules should be dumped for a more reasonable five-day isolation guideline as used in the UK.

One measure that would help is the widespread availability of Rapid Antigen Tests. That saga has been widely covered, and the global shortage is a problem that the Government’s restrictions only add to.

The Prime Minister says Rapid Antigen tests have variable accuracy. She’s right, but the simple solution is to allow New Zealanders to import any of the 67 tests approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Authority. We’ve been saved before by business bringing in PPE when the Government couldn’t get any. Setting people free can lead to happy surprises because freedom works.

We have reached the end of the road. The Government is keeping draconian measures to prevent as few as 346 deaths. Every death is a tragedy, but the Government is not normally prepared to do nearly as much to save a life from anything else. It’s time to get rational about COVID, remove remaining restrictions, get our freedom back, and turn our attention to the many other problems that have accumulated under this Government.

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