As weve noted here before, New Zealand has been held up as the model of success in the national and international media when it comes to dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden moved quickly when the virus finally reached her shores and imposed some of the most brutal lockdown conditions imaginable, essentially turning New Zealanders into a prison population for more than a month. But to give credit where due, it worked at least for a while. They reported zero cases of the novel coronavirus for nearly three months.
But then something went wrong. A new batch of cases cropped up last Tuesday in Aukland, all showing up in a single family. By the end of the week, it had spread to 30 people, all of whom had been in contact with members of that family and most of whom worked at the same food processing facility. So how did the Prime Minister respond? She immediately instituted another lockdown and followed that up by postponing the upcoming elections.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed the general election by four weeks until Oct. 17 as the nations first community outbreak of Covid-19 in more than three months worsens.
Ardern said Monday she delayed the election from Sept. 19 after consultation with other political parties, to provide certainty to voters.
A fresh outbreak of the virus in Auckland has seen the largest city locked down since Aug. 12 with people urged to stay home and consumer-facing businesses shut denting consumer confidence while making political campaigning and fund-raising impossible. The city, home to almost one third of the nations 5 million citizens, is a key battleground for Ardern as her Labour Party seeks a second term.
Ardern has buttered her political bread by branding herself as the Virus Mistress the leader who tamed the beast and kept her nation safe. But at what cost? After stopping the virus in its tracks, she was able to free her people to go about their normal affairs, unlike most of the rest of the world provided nobody left or entered the country. But her policies effectively shut down the countrys robust tourism industry. Also, motion picture studios have canceled or postponed projects in New Zealand, normally a prime place for filming big-budget movies because of the beautiful, unspoiled scenery. Even with the country almost entirely reopened, their unemployment rate remains higher than normal, despite their creative method of calculating it.
And now Arden has pushed back the elections for the entire country by at least a month over less than 30 cases of the virus, all of them located in one area. Thirty cases in virtually any other part of the world today would be considered to be a total victory over the novel coronavirus. And yet, most of Aukland the largest city in the country by far is locked down again, with everyone back in COVID jail. All campaigning for the upcoming (delayed) elections has ground to a halt.
Im not going to take a victory lap over anyone elses misery, but this is precisely the situation weve discussed here in the past and the current events in New Zealand were predicted. The rapidity with which Ardern eliminated the initial outbreak of the virus was admirable, but it also left her with a nation of 4.8 million people (1.6 million of whom live in Aukland) with zero herd immunity. The number of New Zealanders who contracted the virus and survived with some form of immunity isnt big enough to qualify as a rounding error. Meanwhile, everyone was allowed to come and go as if the virus no longer existed. All it was going to take was one person to screw up and the entire crap show was going to start over again. And now it has.
What Ardern has accomplished was never going to be a permanent solution. She cant isolate her islands from the rest of the world permanently and the virus isnt going to go away. Until she can lay her hands on nearly five million doses of a reliable, effective vaccine, shes going to be locking her countrymen down again and again. How is this a sustainable model? Arderns approval ratings are still sky high and shes described as being the most popular Prime Minister in a century, so apparently people are still willing to tolerate all of this. But it certainly doesnt sound like any way to run a country.