We are now two years into the pandemic, and still, the hysteria over Covid continues, as do restrictive and authoritarian policies. Why are we not returning to normal?
I have just looked at the NZ Vaccine Tracker on the New Zealand Herald at the time of writing. It shows that 92.1% of the eligible New Zealand population is “fully” vaccinated. I have put the word “fully” in speech marks as what constitutes fully vaccinated might change in the future, but for the moment, this means double jabbed. Nevertheless, New Zealand is still in the Covid traffic light system, with Northland in the red and the remainder in orange. In practical terms, this still means that there are very significant restrictions still in place throughout the entirety of New Zealand. Furthermore, the appalling policy that limits entry into New Zealand for New Zealand citizens and the farcical lottery for places in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) is ongoing.
The result of the ongoing measures is that those who are not “fully” vaccinated cannot lead everyday lives. In addition, vaccine mandates in some work areas continue and see careers thrown on the scrap heap. As for Kiwis overseas, many are still stranded and are effectively denied a return home, with endless potential for awful consequences. So again, the costs of these policies are appalling. And then there is the irritation and stupidity of mask mandates, which are entirely pointless and often nonsensical; a continual irritant in our daily lives, and which dehumanises the people we meet.
So, with 92% of the eligible population vaccinated, this raises the question of when New Zealand will return to normality? And there is only one normality: a world in which there are no restrictions, no vaccine passports, no vaccine mandates, and free entry in and out of New Zealand. That is the pre-Covid world, and it is the world to which we need to return.
The most worrying answer to this question is that the Labour government has no roadmap back to normality, barring a magic event where the Covid virus entirely disappears from the world. None. Nil. Nada. Instead, the best hope is that we will all be allowed to operate under ‘green’ rules in the traffic light system, including ongoing mandates and restrictions. By contrast, normality means no traffic light system at all.
If we can remember, back a little while ago, the media and government were promoting the idea that vaccination was the path to freedom. We should not forget Ardern arrogantly proposing that you need to get vaccinated if you want summer. However, even as both the government and media spewed forth their pro-vaccination propaganda, it is notable that, even then, they always held back on any promise to return to normality. Instead, the government and media dangled a vague mirage-like carrot in front of us. The purpose of this was for us to infer that normality will follow sufficient uptake of the vaccine.
Of course, there was no intention of any return to normality all along. No intention at all, and there is none now. If you doubt this, try to find any roadmap back to normal, and you will find nothing. And, as many cynics have observed, it is only a matter of time before fully vaccinated people are not fully vaccinated; boosters are on their way and will be required for the government to consider a person “fully” vaccinated.
All of the current Covid policies are taking place in the context of the milder Omicron variant. In the UK, for example, the risk of hospitalisation from Omicron was one-third of the rate for delta. But, of course, this has not prevented a panic mongering pushback from the usual suspects. So, for example, the World Health Organisation is pushing back against using “mild” to describe Omnicron. They argue that Omicron is still killing people and sending them to the hospital. This description is accurate but is also true of the flu. And, just like the flu, sometimes, even if not bad enough for a hospital visit, it is a very miserable experience. Pretty horrible for those who have the worst of it. No sane person wants to get Omicron, but nobody wants the flu either. But we do not have authoritarian policies for the flu.
Regardless of the fearmongering propaganda, Omicron is far milder than any previous variant of Covid. And previous variants of Covid were never nearly as deadly as the fearmongering narratives suggested. Therefore, (1) we have a milder version of the disease, (2) the disease was in any case never as lethal as the government and media proposed, and (3) in New Zealand, just over 92% of the population are fully vaccinated. Altogether, this should add up to a return to normal.
And yet, we still have restrictions in place. Even worse, many Kiwis consider that the ongoing Covid restrictions are a good thing and justified. One can only wonder what might make these people stop and say enough is enough. That is the fundamental problem: only when they finally realise that the hysteria must end will it finally end.
I cannot speak for readers here, but I am mightily sick of this. I suspect that many of you feel the same way. As such, let’s all do our best to nudge people still in the hysteria in the right direction. Only if enough of us do so will we have a chance to return to normality.