Death By Gingernut: Orange-Settings vs the Coronavirus

Another day. Another bout of Covid Idiocy from the New Zealand Government, as announced by Response Minister Chris Hipkins (which means at least I get to use the expression “Death By Gingernut”, but that’s a cold comfort).

Anyway, as of midnight tonight, the Traffic Light settings governing New Zealand’s Covid response will be lowered from “Red” to “Orange”. Copious media space is getting devoted to explaining what this actually means:

The change to the orange traffic light setting means there are no indoor or outdoor capacity limits and no seated and separated rules.

Face masks remain an important protection and are encouraged, but are largely no longer required.

They are still required at some gatherings and events, close-proximity businesses like hairdressers and food-and-drink businesses. Hipkins said masks are still required on public transport and flights.

Masks are also no longer required in schools, though they are again still encouraged. The ministry is providing further advice to schools about increasing ventilation.

Now, the Traffic Light system, which replaced the old Alert Level system, was (and is) thoroughly inadequate for dealing with the Virus. The Government was told as much by its medical advisers. But it didn’t listen, of course, and even Red-level settings are simply too lax for dealing with this sort of situation. Fifteen New Zealanders died today of the Virus, which in a Better World really ought to have attracted more media attention than the the Red-to-Orange shift.

But no. Despite already rolling over and surrendering, the Labour Government decided we needed to surrender some more. It wasn’t enough that we’ve allowed overseas plague-carriers in. Or that we’ve ended the vaccine-pass system. Or that even the mandates themselves are getting phased out – much to the delight of the Friends of the Virus.

No. Now, the Government is going after masks. One of the last bastions we have for containing the damage.

It is all very well to insist that masks are still strongly encouraged, and to be fair, masks are still required in supermarkets and public libraries. But if there is one thing the past couple of years have taught us, it is that leaving such matters to individual preference is a recipe for disaster. The old Alert Level system was incredibly paternalistic, yes. As were the mask requirements of the Red-level setting. But in this particular case, paternalism works. It ensures that the majority are not held hostage by a small number of cretins. It ensures that everyone pulls their weight in the name of public health.

Another aspect of this change is that it invites public confusion about where they need masks and where they don’t. Never mind the nutters (though there are plenty of them…), the real problem is that you’ll end up with people wandering around in social situations, sincerely believing they do not need a mask, when actually they do. Requiring masks in-doors, full-stop, leaves no such room for confusion.

Oh well. Deaths are a lagging indicator, of course, and the high death-rate was under Red, not Orange. Overall case numbers are indeed dropping. But you just know that this decision will lead to deaths and medical issues further down the line, when people who would have been saved by mandatory masks find themselves coming down with something nasty. You also know that the Government straight-out ignores the legitimate concerns of people (including its own voters) who do not want to catch the bloody thing. At this rate, the public health advisers are probably turning to drink.

Seriously, are Labour trying to lose the 2023 election?

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