A British commentator has blasted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s “arrogant” zero Covid policy, while the rest of the world is getting vaccinated and moving on from the virus.
Writing in The Telegraph, Matthew Lesh, the head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, was critical of New Zealand’s policy of eliminating, rather than slowing the spread of the virus, despite New Zealand experts praising the Government’s response.
New Zealand is in alert level 4 after an Auckland man tested positive for the Delta variant of the virus on Tuesday. There are now 72 community cases in the country and more than 290 locations of interest across the North Island.
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Lesh was critical of New Zealand’s approach, writing eliminating the virus was a costly strategy with limited benefit.
“New Zealand’s zero Covid strategy has had frightening consequences. A once-welcoming nation is turning into an isolated dystopia, where liberties are taken away in a heartbeat and outsiders are shunned,” Lesh wrote.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield announces 21 new cases of covid-19 in the community with all but one being in Auckland.
“Living under the constant threat of disruptive and psychologically crushing lockdowns. Being closed off to the world, with citizens’ ability to travel curtailed and foreigners largely prevented from entering. So much for the open, welcoming liberal nation projected by Ms Ardern”.
Lesh queried the point of lockdowns and maintaining closed borders for a virus, that with vaccines in the mix, caused limited harm to people.
“New Zealand has not come to this realisation. It has fetishised ’zero risk’ for the past 17 months and show little interest in updating its strategy.
“Last week, Ms Ardern announced that New Zealand would maintain an ‘elimination, or ‘stamp it out’, strategy’ into the next stage of the pandemic, even when more people are vaccinated”.
Lesh was scathing of New Zealand’s slow vaccine roll-out with just one in five of its population vaccinated, the second lowest in the OECD.
“The implications of New Zealand’s strategy stretch well beyond Covid. ‘Zero risk’ gives the state limitless justification to interfere with our lives in the most extreme of ways.
“Individual choice, bodily autonomy and basic privacy become subsumed to the goal of taking away anything that could do us even the smallest level of harm. Fear breeds tolerance for the most extreme actions. A liberal society becomes impossible to maintain”.
Douglas Murray, also writing in The Telegraph labelled New Zealand as vying for the worst Covid-19 overreaction.
A fresh Covid-19 case of the Delta variant had plunged the country into lockdown, Murray wrote.
“There the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a fresh lockdown this week. All because of a single case of coronavirus … because of this single case the whole country is now back in lockdown”.
Murray said the “overreaction” in both New Zealand and Australia had highlighted the absurdity of the zero-tolerance coronavirus mantra.
“Either you prepare to live with minimal cases or you have to lock down a whole country when even one person gets the virus.
“That latter approach will not just kill whole economies, but kill everything else that is left of society too. No country can live like that. And if the island of New Zealand can’t rid itself of the virus entirely, then most likely nobody can”.
In a segment on GB News on Wednesday, former UK politician Nigel Farage questioned what was going on in New Zealand.
“Jacinda Ardern, the recently re-elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, held up by so many in the world to be this wonderful, fantastic, exciting woman… But now what she’s done – one case of Covid, a 58-year-old man, and she’s locking down the country.
“She’s locking down the whole country for three days, including both islands – I mean work that one out – and parts of the country for a full seven days. That means everything is closed, at least that is my understanding of it”.
Meanwhile, experts in New Zealand have been supportive of the Government’s alert level 4 response.
Massey University mathematical biology Professor Mick Roberts said he expected alert level 4 to be the new go-to response by the government now that the country was fighting against the Delta variant.
Roberts said delta was “really nasty”.
In his view, level four would need to remain the go-to for the government until vaccinations rates were far higher.
“Delta is twice as transmissible as Alpha for example, which was one of the previous.
“We need to get at least 50 per cent of the population vaccinated. If we get up there, the Delta will be about as transmissible as Alpha.”
University of Otago epidemiologist Nick Wilson was supportive on the whole of the response.
He said the swift move to alert level 4 did not repeat what he views as the mistakes of New South Wales.
Those mistakes included relying predominantly on contact tracing rather than strict lockdown measures, he said.