Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Kerre McIvor – Lockdown could be the last straw

OPINION:

Well. Here we are again. The fact it was inevitable that the Delta strain of the galloping Covids would breach our borders and that the Prime Minister had made it clear we’d be straight into a level 4 lockdown without any supper the moment it did has made it easier to bear.

For me, at least. And probably for those thousands of tradies who’ve been working flat out for the past year. An enforced break will do them the world of good.

I feel for the hospo industry, though. And the tourism operators. And all the others who’ve been hit hard by Covid.

It really is a tale of two Covids. One half of the country has been going absolutely gang busters, recording record profits, as New Zealanders who’ve been locked into the country spend the nearly $10 billion they’d have normally taken overseas. The other half of the country has been left reeling, and for some, this latest lockdown could be the last straw.

For a privileged group in the community, a lockdown is an opportunity to head to the bach in the Coromandel or to the chalet in Queenstown. For others, a lockdown is living hell, a time of hunger and violence and misery.

But really, given the low level of vaccination in this country and given the fact our ICU units are just as vulnerable as they were at the start of the first lockdown last year, what else could the Government do? If the whole point of lockdowns is to manage the spread of the virus so our public health system isn’t overwhelmed and people don’t die in their droves and our health workers aren’t put at risk, then we are going to have to keep locking down.

Nicholas Jones, from the New Zealand Herald, wrote an excellent piece yesterday, outlining just where we’re at in terms of our ICU capacity.

There are currently 284 fully staffed ICU beds across public hospitals, and 629 ICU-capable ventilators, with 133 in the national reserve if necessary. But you need the specially trained nurses as well as the machines.

Jones quoted an ICU doctor who said there might be more equipment than there was 18 months ago, but there are very few extra staff, and in some districts, fewer staff. Actual resourced bed capacity on a day-to-day basis, in terms of a bed with a nurse and a ventilator and all the monitors has not risen, to the doctor’s knowledge, in the past 18 months.

So in a year and a half, we haven’t come very far at all, in terms of mitigating the damage the virus does and in terms of treating people when the worst does happen. All the time we were rocking on at Six60 concerts and cheering on the All Blacks, there were people whispering “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. And they were right.

So we don the masks, and we hunker down in our bubbles and we head out for our vaccinations which have been cancelled then confirmed then cancelled so we just make our own appointments and we watch the case numbers rise and, as the wonderful Yogi Berra said, it’s deja vu all over again.

The overworked testing staff and lab technicians rise to the occasion once again and we wait while they analyse thousands of swabs and samples day in, day out, until they sound the all clear and we can come out of our bunkers for the time being.

There is much that has been done well by New Zealanders and the Government in response to Covid-19. But lockdowns also remind us there is much that could be done better, particularly by the decision makers at the Ministry of Health.

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