Sunday, 12 April 2020

NZ's pandemic response

I posted this on fb just now in response to a comment about the science NZ is using in its response to the pandemic. It was too well thought out 😆😏😚😜 to languish on facebook so I thought I would post it here too so those of you not living in NZ can see what is occurring here and why it is working (so far, fingers and toes crossed).

We don't have it perfect, but the response here is a great example of what can be achieved with a great leader - thank you, Jacinda!!

I think there are a number of countries doing reasonably well by, as Jacinda said 'Going early, going hard' in locking down the borders, locking down movement within the country so people stay in their bubbles and only essential businesses remain open (effectively only supermarkets and pharmacies - there has been some loosening for a few companies' online sales of essentials, but not the full range of goods) and by making sure that people have certainty of income, not 100% of it but enough to cover costs, a variety of mortgage holidays, a freeze on rent increases and evictions, small business protection. In terms of income protection it is a high trust model the government is using, i.e. businesses have to commit to passing on the money for wages to staff and sign that their details can be made public. So when people report that they have not been paid, MBIE (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment) investigates and business owners can be named and shamed ... In addition, the police have an increase in powers to arrest people who breach the social distancing/gatherings instructions. They are only doing so for repeat offenders. They are turning people back at roadblocks who were 'just out for a drive' and a number of people who thought they'd take their motorhomes away for Easter (not us, by the way) and sent them 300kms back home ...

Re the science, the NZ model is to eliminate the virus here, to have it naturally die out as the infected people recover and do not pass it on because they have stayed in their bubbles during lockdown. That will mean until a vaccine is available either the borders remain closed or the continuation of strict at least 14 day quarantine is imposed on people coming in (as it is now for returning NZers who are the only people allowed in - it's amazing how many NZers were overseas when this broke out about 40,000 returned in the first couple of weeks, were allowed onward travel to their homes and went into self isolation. Now that the number has slowed, people are accommodated in Auckland hotels at the government's cost and self isolating or quarantined, depending on whether they are asymptomatic or symptomatic. Re the 40,000 Jacinda was asked a few days ago why early returners weren't isolated or quarantined in Auckland and Christchurch, our international airports. Her response then was about the 40,000 and she explained that we don't have 40,000 hotel beds across the country let alone in those two cities, so that would have been impossible - and it was a risk that had to be managed in a different way.)

As we understand it, the government had a pandemic plan in place prior to this kicking off, and is taking advice from NZ's chief health scientists who are garnering information from across the globe, and constantly assessing it based on outcomes and modelling, etc. They are taking advice from the police, from physical and mental health professionals, educators, heads of government departments - the All of Government team who get input from all spheres of NZ society, from primary industries and businesses. So the planning is massive and all encompassing - but people's welfare is at the heart of the response.

I think one of the key things that has made a huge difference here is the quality of communication with the public - we have daily briefings from Jacinda (until Easter she fronted every day's press conference but has had a couple of days off) and the Director General of Health (Dr Ashley Bloomfield - we are on first name terms with him now ...) or the National Director of Health (to give Ashley a day or two off), plus the Police Commissioner and the CEO of Civil Defence, The Finance Minister was on most days at the beginning giving details of the financial aid packages being implemented, then the Minister of Education was on to set out the plan for providing the tools for home schooling. They have all been patiently and expansively answering questions (even the same ones every day ...), setting out the thinking, being encouraging, being straight, being compassionate and attending to everyone's needs, even those of kids with Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy being deemed essential workers. 

There was a mail-drop in the first days of the lockdown with a poster for every household setting out the Alert Levels and their conditions and the expectations of us (ours is on our fridge). There has been guidance for supermarkets on physical distancing, safety for staff ... Now, more than halfway through the minimum 4 week lockdown, guidance is being given for the conditions for moving from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 - which businesses will be allowed to open, under what conditions, what do businesses need to be putting in place, how will they attend to the H&S needs of their staff, customers, supply chain, ...

The police are doing their job as upholders of the law and as well as that, making and posting funny videos, receiving and posting funny videos made by kids, visiting kids having birthdays with no presents, delivering groceries to the elderly. Their brief is to deal with the outliers who are sure the rules don't apply to them, while commending those abiding by the law and putting a human face to law enforcement.

So the science only goes so far, whatever the science is that is being attended to. (Check out
But the keys to success are:

* having a well thought through plan that addresses the priorities in risk order, and sticking with it
* making adjustments as required - in project management speak we call that 'eating the elephant one bite at a time' 

These two are achieved by:
* having an excellent team in place where everyone knows their role, is trusted to get on with it, and expected to deliver incrementally and overall
* having a gifted leader who picks the team, delegates appropriately and leads from the front, the side, behind - wherever is appropriate for the moment

Their job is:
* making sure people are protected and cared for, physically, financially, emotionally
* being honest with the public - and being firm, being clear
* making sure that all of us know we are stakeholders in this, engaging us and aligning us in the job of eliminating the virus
* being clear that there is a plan for coming out of the other side of this and putting the country back on its feet, and acknowledging that there will be some hard yards ahead
* communicate, communicate, communicate

So there you have it - my brief essay on NZ's response. I am very pleased to be here, in the capable hands of this government and its amazing leader. Thank you, Jacinda and team!


Bernice said...

Indeed we are so fortunate to have Jacinda leading us through this with care, compassion and foresight, and not afraid to make the big calls for the good of us all. I think we will be in “lockdown” of some form or another for some time to come. In the meantime, keep feeding that sourdough starter 😘

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

I don't think I will persevere with the starter for many more days, Bernice darling! I fear it will use all of my flour supplies ...