Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


On The Perils Of Making Damage Control Your Top Priority

Surely, the only thing worse than making a serious mistake is to then try and minimise its implications – especially when the efforts at damage control seem highly likely to get shot to pieces. Yet somewhat incredibly, Health Ministry director-general Ashley Bloomfield did just that yesterday even after one of the two British visitors had previously misled officials by indicating that her possible Covid-19 symptoms were due to a pre-existent condition. Surprisingly, the British visitors were not tested before they were released from quarantine and set off on their now-notorious drive to Wellington where the virus was belatedly detected. Yesterday, Bloomfield chose to take at face value

the visitors’ implausible story that they’d met no-one, and hadn’t stopped at any location (petrol station, comfort stop) while en route to the capital.

Given the track record, none of the assurances given by the British duo about their contacts before and after their arrival in Wellington can now be relied upon. Presumably, this episode indicates the pressure being put on government and officialdom by the legal challenge to the government’s previously tough restrictions on compassionate entry. Under pressure, the system of quarantine for compassionate entrants seems to have buckled. As a consequence, the contact tracing system now has to find and alert an estimated 313 potential contacts of these two visitors alone.

For many New Zealanders, it has been a shock to be reminded about the fragility of our bubble of five million. Along the way, the government’s aura of Covid-19 competence has been punctured, and the Health Ministry has spectacularly failed to follow its own rules. Further up the chain of command, the hapless Health Minister David Clark is refusing to resign, but if this British duo do end up generating a full-blown Covid-19 cluster, his position will become intolerable.

The Other Bubble

One side effect will be to slow down any progress towards creating a Transtasman bubble. This week, Australia has signalled that it expects to be effectively closed to the outside world for the rest of 2020, with New Zealand being one of the few possible exceptions. Yet that exceptional status will surely depend on us being viewed as a safe origin point for visitors to Australia, and this episode with the British pair could be taken to indicate that this is not the case. In similar vein, New Zealand needs to be able to depend on Australia being a safe origin for incoming visitors to this country. Unfortunately, some of the news coming out of Australia this week has not been promising :

A trend of rising community transmission cases of coronavirus could delay the timetable for easing COVID-19 restrictions, Victoria's health chief has warned, after the state recorded 21 new cases. Fifteen of the new cases are returned overseas travellers, while the number of cases of community transmission has risen by six, the state's largest single-day increase in more than a month……

This uptick in community transmission is occurring just as Victoria moves to further relax its lockdown restrictions on social gatherings, sporting events, gyms, cafes and restaurants. Interestingly, some of the new Covid-19 infections in Australia have originated among the contractors ( security guards, hotel staff etc) who service the country’s quarantine hotels :

Since May 26, at least 16 people have been diagnosed as part of a coronavirus outbreak connected to contractors working at quarantine hotels.

It would be interesting to know just how strictly the working conditions of those servicing our own quarantine sites are being monitored. In a related area of concern, the Air New Zealand staff bringing hundreds of New Zealanders home from Covid-19 hot spots around the world every week, are reportedly

not being required to observe the same safety precautions as other airline staff (eg Emirates) either when they’re on the job, or after hours, given that they can return straight to their homes after having had prolonged contact for hours with passengers from Covid-19 hot spots. The good news : once people are in quarantine, strict rules are apparently being strictly observed.

Footnote : A thought experiment. At the end of the Covid-19 nightmare and after a vaccine has been found and is readily available…the question will arise as to what to do about the anti-vaxxers in our midst, who (arguably) will then be posing a risk to themselves, their families and everyone else. This op ed in the Melbourne Age does not advocate immunisation by force, but it does raise the prospect of social penalties being levied on the refuseniks. After Covid-19 has changed everything, anti-vaxxers could become social pariahs :

As a community, we should consider to what extent we allow organisations to prevent those who object to being vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter their premises, participate in their activities and, in some circumstances, seek their employment….. Restaurants could be allowed the right to refuse entry to those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. Businesses, especially those involved in the care or service of vulnerable communities, might be allowed the right to refuse employment to those without a COVID-19 vaccination. Organisers of mass gatherings could deny the sale of tickets on this basis.

Good to know everything is going to be heading back to normal, once we find that miracle vaccine. (At last count, the antivaxxers included Novak Djokovic, Jim Carrey and Jessica Biel.)

Load Up Those Rubber Bullets

In a Werewolf column a few days ago I quoted a former cop who had told RNZ that the Police might as well use prisoners in jail to test out their new-fangled “ sponge bullets” because according to the former officer : “I can certainly see them being used in prisons for example, where [there’s] nothing to lose, I guess.” Nothing to lose, right. At the time, I meant to footnote that column with this old track by 10cc, who - plainly - could see 47 years ago just where all of this fancy rubber bullet technology was headed :

Well we don't understand why you called in the National Guard

When Uncle Sam is the one who belongs in the exercise yard

We all got balls and brains
But some's got balls and chains
At the local dance at the local county jail…

Load up, load up, load up with rubber bullets….

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The Media Collusion With National’s Attack Lines

For most of the past week, any consumer of this country’s management of Covid-19 would think New Zealand was actually Brazil, or Texas. The media language has been full of claims of “botches” at the border, and laxness and inexcusable errors ... More>>

Gregor Thompson: Don’t Be Too Pessimistic About New Zealand’s Future.

With the first hurdle hopped our Government will be turning its attention to trying to soften the economic damage this pandemic has on our little archipelago. More>>

Eric Zuesse: U.S. Empire: Biden And Kerry Gave Orders To Ukraine’s President

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Strategic Culture On May 19th, an implicit international political warning was issued, but it wasn’t issued between countries; it was issued between allied versus opposed factions within each of two countries: U.S. and Ukraine. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Budget Cockups In The Time Of Coronavirus: Reporting Errors And Australia’s JobKeeper Scheme

Hell has, in its raging fires, ringside seats for those who like their spreadsheets. The seating, already peopled by those from human resources, white collar criminals and accountants, becomes toastier for those who make errors with those spreadsheets. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Welcome Deaths: Coronavirus And The Open Plan Office

For anybody familiar with that gruesome manifestation of the modern work place, namely the open plan office, the advent of coronavirus might be something of a relief. The prospects for infection in such spaces is simply too great. You are at risk from ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Why Thinking Makes It So: Donald Trump’s Obamagate Fixation

The “gate” suffix has been wearing thin since the break-in scandal that gave it its birth. Since Watergate, virtually anything dubious and suggestive, and much more besides, is suffixed. Which brings us to the issue of President Donald Trump’s ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Brutal Choices: Anders Tegnell And Sweden’s Herd Immunity Goal

If the title of epidemiological czar were to be created, its first occupant would have to be Sweden’s Anders Tegnell. He has held sway in the face of sceptics and concern that his “herd immunity” approach to COVID-19 is a dangerous, and breathtakingly ... More>>