Auckland lockdown will end on December 3 even if Delta Surge continues

By Tom Peters, Socialist Equality Group
November 25, 2021, original URL:

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Monday that the Labor Party-led government will drop lockdowns as a way to suppress COVID-19 on December 3. The country will switch to a new ‘traffic light’ warning system, officially called the ‘COVID -19 Protection Framework’, which includes vaccination warrants for many workers, vaccination certificates and certain limits on the size of gatherings . Schools and businesses can remain open regardless of the presence of COVID-19 in the community.

Legislation for the new framework was passed by parliament on Thursday urgently, with little time for public debate. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has rejected a request by the Civil Liberties Council to release policy advice to justify the new system. The chairman of the board, Thomas Beagle, called the decision “shameful” undemocratic.

The government also plans to lift the border around Auckland on December 15, allowing people to travel to and from the city, which is at the center of the current outbreak. In mid-January, the border will open for New Zealanders to return from Australia without having to spend time in a compulsory isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility. From the end of April, the border will open to fully vaccinated people from other countries, including tourists.

Last month, the government scrapped the elimination strategy that had been in place since March 2020, which used containment and other public health measures to reduce outbreaks to zero cases. This has been praised by public health experts and workers around the world. New Zealand has recorded 42 deaths during the pandemic, one of the lowest per capita figures in the world.

Now, however, New Zealand’s ruling elite are rushing to join the majority of countries in implementing the criminal “openness” policy, telling people they must “live with” the deadly virus.

The number of cases has already risen in Auckland in recent weeks after the government eased the lockdown and schools and retail businesses reopened. There are 5,182 active cases, up from just 260 on October 1. While most cases are in Auckland, there are 284 in Waikato, 35 in Northland, a smaller number in Taupo, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, Manawatū and Wairarapa, and four cases in Christchurch on Isle of Man. South.

“The hard truth is that Delta is here and it’s not going to go away,” Ardern said Monday. She said that because of the vaccines, the new system would be “safer and simpler” than the old one. “The vast majority of people who contract COVID in the future will experience mild to moderate symptoms that will not require hospital care,” she said.

In fact, vaccination, while an essential tool in reducing serious illness and death, is not enough to prevent significant numbers of hospitalizations and deaths if COVID-19 is allowed to spread. This was highlighted by the Health Ministry’s revelation on Thursday that three of the 15 people killed by the Delta variant in New Zealand since the outbreak began in August were fully vaccinated and two had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. .

In Portugal, 98 percent of people over 12 (86 percent of the total population of 10.3 million) have been vaccinated, one of the highest rates in the world. However, the refusal to pursue an elimination strategy has allowed cases to skyrocket, with more than 16,000 people testing positive and 79 deaths in the past seven days.

New Zealand could face an even worse increase, as only 84% of eligible people are vaccinated, or 71% of the total population.

The Council of Trade Unions, far from opposing the dangerous abandonment of the elimination policy, has given advice on the “traffic light” system, working in partnership with the government and the Business New Zealand lobby group. Schools and retail businesses have reopened in Auckland with the full support of the unions. These pro-capitalist organizations are working together to remove obstacles to parents returning to work, so that big business can fully resume the extraction of working class profits.

Unvaccinated children are particularly at risk of catching and spreading the virus. In the current epidemic, 19 percent of cases are under the age of 10 and 27 of those children have been hospitalized. 17% of cases and 10 hospitalizations are between 10 and 19 years old. Many infected children suffer from Long COVID, which can affect brain function and other vital organs.

Epidemiologist Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, University of Otago, tweeted on November 22: “I am very worried about children and people who do not care enough for children. Without urgent and decisive action (vaccines, ventilation and masking in schools), we will inevitably see rapid and inequitable spread among children. Will Covid become the next rheumatic fever? New Zealand has high rates of rheumatic fever, especially among poor children living in substandard housing.

Media comments focused on the low vaccination rate among Maori, who make up 16.5 percent of the population. Only 65% ​​of eligible Maori are fully immunized, and Maori account for 44% of cases in the Delta outbreak.

Dr Rawiri Jansen, a general practitioner and public health researcher, told Stuff that warnings about the high rates of COVID-19 among Maori have been ignored: “The government has deliberately heard some voices in line with some pressure on them to relax the restrictions. “

However, the majority of unvaccinated people are non-Maori (423,462 people in the European / Other category are not fully vaccinated; compared to 199,355 Maori). The key factors behind the low rates are class divisions and the lack of accessible immunization services in many rural areas. Maori are much more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty, which goes hand in hand with reduced access to health services and mistrust of state authorities.

For the handful of Maori who live in Auckland’s affluent or upper middle class suburbs, such as Herne Bay, Newmarket, Devonport, Remuera and Parnell, vaccination rates are approaching or exceeding 90%. In contrast, in the Manukau Counties District Health Council area, which covers the working class of South Auckland, only 66.9% of eligible Maori are fully immunized.

The same pattern exists in Wellington: Maori vaccination rates are much higher in wealthy Seatoun and Khandallah, and middle class Ngaio and Aotea, than in poor suburbs like Cannons Creek and Naenae.

In Northland, one of the poorest and most rural regions in the country, only 74 percent of the eligible population are vaccinated and 60 percent of eligible Maori. Northland-based emergency physician Gary Payinda has warned that this, combined with dilapidated public health services, paves the way for preventable disaster.

The west coast region of the South Island, which includes many poor and isolated communities and is over 90 percent white, has an equally low vaccination rate of 76 percent.

COVID-19 modeler Michael Plank told the Science Media Center that families vacationing outside of Auckland should consider “not visiting areas or communities with low vaccination rates.” He warned: “Once schools and workplaces return in the New Year, the virus will be able to spread more easily and there is a risk that the number of cases will take off with multiple outbreaks across the country. “

The Labor government has dismissed these warnings. With crucial help from unions, he is prioritizing demands from big business, with policies that will make COVID-19 endemic across the country, leading to more deaths and serious illnesses.

© Scoop Media

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