On the first day of America’s Cup racing, the Auckland Viaduct crowds told you everything you need to know about support for the latest lockdown.Auckland was still in level 2, but you might not have known it.
Revellers ignored bans on gatherings of more than 100.They ignored social distancing rules. Few – if any – wore masks.
The latest “outbreak” mattered as much to these Aucklanders as an outbreak in the middle of Africa.Aucklanders acted according to their perceived level of threat.There was no threat, and so they ignored level 2 rules.
The fact is, this lockdown was a mistake.It should never have happened.That is indisputable as soon as you count the zeros.There hasn’t been a single case in the community from the moment Auckland went into lockdown level 3 on Sunday morning a fortnight ago through to level 2 lifting on Friday at noon. Thirteen days of no community cases.In other words, no outbreak.
So, Auckland went into – and more egregiously stayed in – level 3 and level 2 restrictions for 13 days for nothing.
Putting Auckland into a lockdown in a panic on a Saturday night is forgivable, to a point.But the more egregious crime was the Prime Minister’s refusal to take Auckland out of lockdown as soon as it became obvious that the lockdown was a mistake.
And that was obvious within hours.
When the PM called the lockdown at 9pm on the Saturday night, the main motivation seemed to be that the new case (the gym-goer) had no known link to the existing outbreak.That decision is consistent with previous lockdown decisions, because there’s no knowing how big that outbreak is if you don’t know where it came from.
But by the next morning, the genome sequencing had come in and it became obvious the gym-goer caught the Covid from his mum who caught it on a walk from the first family’s mum.Which means there was no unknown outbreak.
At that point the real travesty happened, which was that the PM kept Auckland in lockdown unnecessarily.It is possible to argue that she should’ve – given her preference for an “abundance of caution” – waited another five days through the incubation period to see if the gym-goer had coughed and spluttered and infected any of his fellow exercisers.Fair enough, if you’re happy to waste hundreds of millions of dollars in economic loss just to be sure.In which case, though, she should have judged after those five days the by-then-obvious truth that there was no outbreak and should’ve ripped Auckland out of lockdown.But no.
She could have put Auckland into a short level 2 to satisfy her need for an “abundance of caution” or, even better, put only South Auckland into level 2.That’s the confident approach Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been using in New South Wales.They’ve had no statewide or city-wide lockdown this entire pandemic but only recorded 54 deaths for 8 million people.Berejiklian has shown it’s not necessary to go to complete lockdowns.
It is close to unforgivable that Ardern and her Cabinet chose to squander $45 million dollars a day in economic losses, $200m a week in wage subsidies and force disruption to at least 159 outdoor or council-run events for either pigheadedness or politics.The suspicion is that the latter was the real motivation, because Ardern’s Cabinet had already acted too erratically already by yo-yo-ing Auckland in and out of lockdowns.
Fair enough as far as optics goes.Opponents would almost certainly seize on the yo-yoing.Politically it was a smarter move to simply keep the city locked down to save face.
But God Almighty that face-saving has cost business owners dearly.Watching a bar owner cry on TV the Friday night Ardern refused to lift the lockdown despite six days of zero cases was heartbreaking.
Jacinda Ardern and her Cabinet owe Aucklanders a lot after this lockdown.There are people all over the city who have been forced to sacrifice too much to help Ardern attempt to keep up the perception that she made the right call.
She didn’t.She made the wrong call.The only proof you need is that, from the moment Ardern put us into lockdown to the moment we came out, there were no new cases.We just wasted a lot of money on no outbreak.
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