Thursday, October 22, 2020

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Wild Goose Chases and the Blame Game Used to Hide the True Picture

By Cam Slater

Have a care for Chris Hipkins. He’s in the hot seat at the moment because the ‘COVID Queen’ Jacinda Ardern can’t ever be seen to deliver bad news, so it’s up to poor old ‘Chippy’.

And there has been plenty of bad news of late. The virus has got loose in the community and the genome sequencing suggests it hasn’t been here before. That’s what they keep saying. But what they won’t say out loud is that the only way it could have got here is via what is increasingly seen as a lax and porous border system.

Which is why we are now seeing a blame game in play. While poor old Chris Hipkins takes the flak as he stands in for Jacinda Ardern, he is seeking to distract from the obvious by blaming it all on frozen chooks or some other product bringing it in; rather than the bleeding obvious, that it transited with people arriving from Australia.

The Australian New Zealand Food Standards organisation says that’s rubbish that the virus could catch a lift in a chill-tainer on a slow boat from whereever.

Even the owner of the cool store says it’s rubbish:

The managing director of Americold international says he can “completely rule out” any suggestion that Auckland’s Covid-19 cluster was caused by freight from his Melbourne factory.

Americold managing director Richard Winnall said the company’s Melbourne site – which had two workers test positive for Covid-19 last month – has not shipped anything to Auckland for “months and months”.

The government needs someone to blame, because if it isn’t via freight then that means it’s through the border with people, and they’ve been at great pains to tell us all they’ve done a grand job at the border.

We now know that they haven’t of course. Which is why Chris Hipkins is throwing shade at his officials for the lack of testing.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is frustrated and disappointed the Government was misled about the level of Covid-19 testing of frontline border staff.

But he says he is working quickly to mitigate the issue and yesterday signed an order making it compulsory for all staff working at the border to be tested.

This comes after Hipkins admitted that just 60 per cent of all frontline border working at the Jet Park hotel – the country’s main Covid-19 quarantine centre – are being tested at least once a week.

“Obviously I’m very disappointed by that,” he told the Nation this morning.

“It has been frustrating – things have not moved as quickly as I would like.”

He’s frustrated and disappointed? What about the third of the population now under lockdown and travel controls who are the ones actually suffering for a failure of the very people who told us that they had this under control.

Little wonder there is a seething sentiment of anger bubbling away under the surface.

Hipkins himself was issuing press statements about how grand it all was at the border just a few weeks earlier:

Hipkins said this morning testing at the border had not been happening at the rate the Government had been asking for, or at the level the Government was told was happening.

“We were told several weeks ago that testing of all staff at the Jet Park were being tested every week.”

So sure of that advice was Hipkins that he put it in a June 23 press release, headlined: “New Covid-19 testing strategy to keep New Zealand safe”.

Clearly the ‘one source of truth’ wasn’t telling anything like the truth back then. I’m not sure why we should believe anything he or Jacinda Ardern has to say on the matter, quite frankly.

So we have freight being blamed, and officials being blamed, while Aucklanders pay the price for utter failure at the border, of which the government is in sole control.

This is why they need these distractions from what Occam’s Razor tells us must be the case. That the breach of our border protection from the virus has come as a result of human to human contact – the most likely vector for this virus. Further, that it can only have have happened as a result of a failed strategy that Jacinda Ardern led.

That’s why Fran O’Sullivan is pointing the finger at the real problem:

But if Covid is to be the defining issue for the September 19 election as the Prime Minister has intimated, Ardern’s management of the response to ensure her elimination strategy works must be tested.

The Prime Minister’s superb communication skills have oft papered over the major weakness of her Government — the ability to execute. The failed “Year of Delivery” proved that.

She is an acknowledged master of political spin.

We see that at the 1pm daily press conferences where, ever alert to Ashley Bloomfield saying a word out of line, she steps across him with an explanation, checks him with a direct look, and even proffers her own advice on issues like personal protection when the health chief ventures into tricky political territory. He should be doing that himself.

But while she is vested in the day-to-day fray, she has been caught short when it comes to ensuring that what she promotes at the press conferences is actually delivered.

That was obvious with the inept failures at the border earlier this year.

Ardern relied on the bureaucrats’ words. But until Cabinet Minister Megan Woods was parachuted in as the Prime Minister’s point person, the checking was woeful. It was Woods who got out and inspected isolation facilities to see if potentially infected people were being appropriately monitored.

Ardern is trusting. But this is basic.

And the Government still dropped the ball.

Until this week there was no compulsion to virus test those working at the border or in managed isolation facilities. Nor has there been comprehensive batch testing to check for community transmission. Even when Auckland went into alert level 3 lockdown this week, there was no compulsion on citizens to wear masks when out and about.

But the timing could not be more fortuitous for the purposes of holding an election which does canvass the important issues.

What it has done is to create the environment for a deep debate on New Zealand’s approach to dealing with the coronavirus.

Jacinda Ardern wanted an election based on her response to the Chinese plague. Well, she’s got one now, and the evidence being presented is one of abject failure on her part.

Far from ‘saving us’, she’s actually let the virus back in and they are spinning like a top to blame anyone but themselves. Which is why we’ve seen the language change from claiming to be world beaters and eliminating the virus, complete with a happy dance, to now saying that it was inevitable that the virus would come back in.

Clearly the gains weren’t locked in and, contrary to her claims that we’d avoid yo-yoing in and out of levels, that is exactly what we have now got. Whenever a politician says “We have always said…” what you are about to hear next is a lie. They haven’t always said that; in fact, they said the opposite.

So, tell me again why we should trust anything these spinners say?

Could we please have some honesty from the podium, rather than the spin we are being fed.

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