Appreciation, gratitude and a warning

This post first appeared in Kapiti Independent News:

A note of appreciation

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been watching the daily briefings via RNZ National and every day I’m struck by the same two thoughts: firstly, the unimaginable amount of work that is being carried out by government departments and officials to support our Covid-19 response and, secondly, the fervour of negative ‘gotcha’ questioning by some media and opposition MPs, desperate to beat-up a story and make themselves seem relevant.

Even if we had the world’s best pandemic strategy going into this, a great percentage of our response was always going to be ‘on the hoof’ — each virus/outbreak is different and needs to be understood before it can begin to be combated, the global response (or lack of it) will also always play into this, and how compliant the public will be/are also needs to be taken into account.

Just think about what has been going on behind the scenes every day: contact tracing, testing, transmission and case modelling, sourcing and supplying of PPE, business consultation and support packages, wage subsidies, economic modelling, banking measures, the provision of distance-learning packages and equipment nationwide, the formulation of social distancing measures, support of vulnerable people, clear messaging, ensuring the safe return of NZ citizens from all the far reaches of the world, protection of our borders, providing for compulsory isolation and follow-up, think-tanks on which ‘shovel-ready’ projects can be fast-tracked to get employment up and running again . . . the list goes on and on.

Have all these decisions been perfect? No.
Have some messages been inconsistent or unclear? Yes.
Has there been an adjustment of some policies over time? Yes.

But, given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic in modern times, and the ongoing learning as Covid-19 has spread and taken hold, it would be simplistic to think that any government can get the response up and running without some glitches or unforeseen ‘holes’. I’d much rather the government felt able to admit when it got it wrong and act to strengthen or adjust their response, than pretend they’ve got it right at every point. This is still an unfolding situation and the government needs to remain agile as more information on the virus is discovered.

Let’s make no mistake about this: we are in a global and national emergency and, though we must make sure our decision-makers are held to account for their policies and actions, now is not the time for opposition parties to undermine the public’s response to these measures. We only need to look across at the US to see what happens when messages are politicised, undermining confidence, and rejection of public health measures is championed by those who should be standing behind their scientific and health advisors. It’s like watching a car crash, where literally millions may be killed by the cynical and self-serving idiots at the wheel.

We are nowhere near recovering from this, and we should be cognisant of the extreme danger Covid-19 holds for billions, especially those in less developed countries or those living in countries where they have placed business above the protection of human lives.

I’m extremely grateful our leaders at this time have put people’s health at the front of all their thinking. I’m not confident at all that our opposition parties would’ve been so compassionate or have focused their approach on keeping people safe rather than business first. Over the months between now and the election, it’s important that we focus on the big picture — that our government stepped in fast and did their very best to protect us all – rather than the nit-picking misinformation we are bound to see over the intervening months.

My hope is that the government will use this opportunity to bring forward innovative projects that not only provide employment to those who need it, but will also start the process of mitigating environmental damage and building sustainable infrastructure to help combat climate change. Never have we been in a better position to start this reset. I sincerely hope the government continues to put people first and realise that the very best thing they can do for our country is NOT to proceed with ‘business as usual’.






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