Introduction – June 20, 2020
Weeks after declaring itself free of any new cases of Covid-19 the virus has suddenly returned to New Zealand. Like China, which has seen a cluster of new cases, the government in Wellington claims the new cases were imported.
The authorities claim that two travellers from England were responsible. We reserve judgement on that but in reporting the reappearance of coronavirus the Guardian makes the case, subliminally, for more extensive surveillance. Of course this isn’t stated explicitly but by inference only.
In doing so the Guardian also makes the case, again subliminally, for travel restrictions. Bear this in mind as you read the following because apart from inferring the need for wide-ranging surveillance and travel restrictions, the following also prepares readers for phase II of the ‘pandemic’. Ed.
From celebration to dismay: the week Covid-19 re-emerged in New Zealand
Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington – The Guardian June 19, 2020
It had been a triumphant story of national unity and political leadership combining to vanquish a virus that still plagues most nations on the planet. But just a week after New Zealanders celebrated having rid the country of Covid-19 and the government lifted all restrictions on daily life except controls on entering the country, the one vulnerability in its defences – its borders – was dramatically laid bare.
The failure to test returning travellers before they left quarantine, and reports of slipshod standards at the hotels where they are placed in government-managed isolation, threatened political fallout for Jacinda Ardern’s government, which was heralded worldwide for having flattened the Covid-19 infection curve with a swift, early lockdown of the country.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate because that is what has been the cause of the government’s increase in their poll ratings, their competency confidence,” said Bryce Edwards, a political scholar at Victoria University in Wellington. “The public clearly thought that this government deserved support due to that competency and this is a major blow to that narrative.”
The trouble started when health officials were forced to admit that two women who had arrived from the UK on 6 June had been allowed out of managed quarantine early on 13 June with a compassionate dispensation to visit a dying parent. They were not tested for the virus, but were later found to be infected.
With health officials’ permission, the pair drove 400 miles (650km) down the length of North Island to visit their family. Without the officials’ knowledge they had also met up with friends on the way.
Suddenly, after 24 days of reporting no new cases of Covid-19, the country’s recovery was on shaky ground. Health officials had already said it was inevitable that new cases would arrive from abroad, but they promised measures stringent enough to intercept them.