• Credit Where It’s Due

    The images and reports delivered to us by the world’s media leave us in no doubt that the rest of the world is still in the grip of a coronavirus pandemic that shows no signs of slackening, but is actually uncontrolled and picking up pace in many countries; and even countries, like Australia, which seem to have had some success in slowing its advance have seen a worrying spike in new cases and deaths.

    Against this backdrop, we find ourselves, here in New Zealand, in a curious position – or, rather, a curious state of mind.  We seem to take it for granted that we have – almost alone in the world – contained the virus and ended any community transmission, and that we have done so at the cost, by international standards, of a surprisingly small number of cases and deaths; we seem to say that our success is just par for the course, and to pay it little attention or attach much importance to it – or to give credit for it, to ourselves or to our government. 

    We seem unwilling to put a value on the thousands of lives we have saved by our prompt and effective action and the suffering we have, as a consequence, spared thousands of families.

    We take it for granted that we are now out of lockdown and that our lives have returned more or less to normal, that we enjoy a freedom of social interaction and economic activity that is the envy of virtually every other country and that we are now well-placed to take up the task of restoring the economy.  In undertaking that task, our success in controlling the virus stands us in good stead, reinforcing our reputation as a country that is competently run and where it is safe to do business.

    My sense is that individual people, in their conversations with each other, are happy to acknowledge these truths.  It is only in the public discourse, dominated as it is by politicians and commentators –  those, in other words, who have the luxury of criticising and are never put to the test themselves – that the hunt for negatives is pursued.

    With the world-wide pandemic still swirling around us (and there is little that our government can do to change that), it is of course inevitable that some of those returning to our shores from overseas will bring with them the risk of re-infection; that is simply an unavoidable fact of life.

    Once they are in the country, however, and if they test positive, they are added, – even if safely quarantined – to our (tiny) number of new cases.  The overseas media, keen to show their own countries in a better light, then proclaim that New Zealand “has a new spike of cases” – and, sadly, some of our own domestic ill-wishers, too, cannot resist casting a shadow over the fact that we have achieved a state of no community transmission.

    We have now entered a period, in other words, when sniping and taking pot shots from the sidelines is the name of the game.  Those who have done nothing – who have not had to demonstrate the sheer guts and determination that were required from our leaders as the crisis broke – now take it upon themselves to downplay our achievement and to claim that they would have done so much better.  Others go further, peddling unsubstantiated stories about quarantine arrangements in order to score political points.

    There are also those who, while recognising our domestic achievement, complain that more is not being done to offset the inevitable consequences, for the tourist industry in particular, of the worldwide dimensions of the pandemic – as though our government can defy reality and open up our borders without regard to what is happening beyond our shores.

    It is sad that political point-scoring takes priority over acknowledging our success in negotiating a huge national crisis.  We should, for once, be allowed to congratulate ourselves on a job well done, even while there is yet more to be done.

    We have shown how successful a united country can be in achieving the seemingly impossible.  Any fracturing of that unity for political purposes is both regrettable and unnecessarily harmful.

    Bryan Gould

    24 June 2020

1 Comment

  1. Jeremy Callaghan says: June 28, 2020 at 8:04 pmReply

    You are spot on with this analysis. Here in Ireland, although we are miles behind NZ, we have done reasonably well, with good people in charge and a surprising degree of public willingness. Whether or not that will continue, with partying neighbours over the water and the threat of those from further afield wanting to play their golf and visit their family roots, remains to be seen. But New Zealand has shown the way and its leaders deserve to be recognised for their courage. Whatever you do, don’t give it away now!