Free Press, 28 February 2022

Mon, 28 Feb, 2022

THE HAPS

For three decades we’ve assumed that the democratic west is invincible, and its members would come to each others’ aid. The events in Ukraine are horrific in themselves, but they have chilling implications for a small western democracy. Especially one that takes security so seriously it just used its defence force to keep citizens in their hotel rooms for two years.

Omicron is more infectious and harder to stop. But it’s also milder, especially when combined with boosters. The current restrictions on our freedoms are no longer justified for facing Omicron. With frustration and fatigue growing, it is time to move on and get back control of our lives.

At the start of the COVID pandemic, David Seymour said ACT is here to offer constructive criticism when necessary and helpful solutions where possible. Last week, ACT has launched its fourth comprehensive policy document on the Government’s COVID response. It can be found at www.moveon.kiwi 

After A wellbeing Approach to COVID, COVID 2.0, and COVID 3.0, Move On measures each intervention in the Government’s current approach against a simple question: Do the benefits of doing this outweigh the costs?

TIME TO MOVE ON 

Compared with Delta and previous variants, Omicron has changed the calculus of COVID in three ways. It spreads faster, making the costs of containment much higher. It is milder, meaning the benefits of containment are much lower. It is much more resistant to vaccination, especially the first two doses and more so if they were administered more than three months ago.

One by one, Move On examines the current COVID policies against Omicron: contact tracing, isolation rules, mask requirements, the booster roll out, vaccine mandates, MIQ, the Traffic Light System, and bans on Rapid Antigen Tests. It finds that almost none of them stack up, here’s why nearly all of them should be dumped immediately.

Every business is required to display QR codes and customers are supposed to sign in. The problem is almost nobody is doing it. If the last 10 people didn’t scan in, there’s little benefit in you doing it. Besides, isolation is only for household contacts now. Putting a requirement on business and citizens for no benefit is not only pointless but insulting, it should be dumped immediately.

The CDC says Omicron incubates in 2-3 days and the infectious period is on day 4-6. The streets are empty because people can’t afford to isolate for 10 days. It’s also insultingly pointless to make people do it. We should follow Singapore and make isolation for positive cases three days, and let people leave isolation as soon as they have a negative test.

Masks are extremely irritating, and there’s not data on how effective they are against Omicron. Based on previous variants, can dan do a lot to prevent spread. Their effectiveness depends on the quality and fit of the mask, but surgical masks do make a difference. Masks are one measure whose costs probably outweigh the benefits and should continue.

Boosters make a big difference to keep you out of hospital and in have some effect on spread, compared with two doses. It’s especially true if it happened a long time ago. The booster roll out is the other policy that still makes sense and should definitely continue.

Government vaccine mandates make little sense for where we are right now. With 96 per cent vaccination, segregating the other four per cent makes little difference. If you go out and meet 100 people, you’re more likely to catch COVID from the vaccinated 96 than the unvaccinated four, so excluding them doesn’t change the rate of spread much. It won’t stop the other four catching it either, at best it’ll delay them catching it. The mandates no longer make sense in an Omicron world and should go.

MIQ. What can we say. There is so much COVID in New Zealand that the rest of the world must seriously wonder why we’re trying to keep THEM out. New arrivals will make no noticeable difference to daily case numbers right now, but the costs to tourism, education, business travel, and separated families is immense. Just dump it.

Besides vaccine requirements, the main effect of the traffic light system is to ban crowds of over 100 people. When elimination was the goal, and one super spreader event could make the difference between success and failure, crowd numbers made sense. When transmission is everywhere, the main effect of limiting crowd sizes is to kill the event industry and drain the joy from life. The Traffic Light system should just go.

There is nothing more insane than banning rapid antigen test imports. It is easily the dumbest single thing that the Government has done in the entire response. The Government rages against oligopolies in petrol and groceries (with no effect). It always says we need more competition, but with Rapid Antigen tests, it's given a tiny handful of suppliers a near monopoly on selling to New Zealanders. Then Ashley Bloomfield, who is responsible for the restrictions, waggles his finger saying they better not cost too much. We are not making this up, he is as bad at economics as he is as telling the truth.  We should simply allow New Zealanders to buy any Rapid Antigen test approved in the E.U., U.K. U.S. or Australia.

We are constantly asked to follow rules that don’t make sense any more, for what purpose? There is no answer, except to dump them. It’s time to move on. If you’d like to support the Move On campaign, please sign up at www.moveon.kiwi