I.In a ruling this week, the New Zealand Supreme Court ruled that elements of the country’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system, the cornerstone of our world’s leading pandemic response, were illegal. The decision caused great joy. One is famous wrote a conservative commentator“So the courts found that the blockade was illegal, the mandate for the vaccine was illegal, and the MIQ was illegal, so can anyone name a major aspect of the response that was not declared illegal?”
This reaction is predictably mischievous – none of these measures have been declared “illegal” – but it is a typical reaction. Maybe wrote the most famous of the conservative commentators“Jacinda Ardern has been found by a court to have abused her authority by illegally preventing New Zealanders from leaving and returning home.” This is not something that the Supreme Court has established, but accurate accountability hardly matters. In New Zealand, political rights are fighting a relentless battle to rewrite the success story of the New Zealand pandemic.
For almost two years, New Zealanders have not allowed the virus to cross the border. After its first closure in March 2020, Covid-19 was eliminated, and New Zealanders led their lives more or less as usual. Health experts expect that if we had the same number of deaths from Covid-19 as in the UK, up to 10,000 people would have died. This is no less than the number of New Zealanders who died in World War II. To these saving efforts add the fact that the economy grew by 14% in the third quarter of 2020 – the highest figure of all time. That same year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labor party were re-elected with re-election. Blocking is often credited with guaranteeing this success.
Alert level 4 in March 2020 led New Zealanders to “stop spreading” to revive the old phrase. Cases of coronavirus covid-19 infection in June fell to zero. Even during the more contagious and deadly Delta outbreak, the strict closure, which begins in August 2021, functionally eliminated Delta by the end of the summer.
But New Zealand’s main defense has always been MIQ. An isolation and quarantine system for New Zealanders and returning guests ensured that the virus rarely entered the community. MIQers spent two weeks at the hotel to protect the population. It was a necessary sacrifice and, in principle, modest. MIQ bought time New Zealand to the shelter as vaccines and antivirals have been developed. The time it has acquired means that during the ongoing Omicron outbreak, when more than 90% of adults eligible for vaccination, the virus turns out to be no more deadly than seasonal flu. This is something to thank MIQ, vaccine scientists and healthcare professionals (while, of course, recognizing that even one death from Omicron or the flu is a tragedy).
And yet the political right is determined to rewrite this success. In a recent interview, Chris Luxan, leader of the National Party, called on the government abandon the traffic light system. Given the events of 2020 and 2021, this is an amazing intervention. Why did you side with the virus and let it really break? But Luxan’s intervention underscores New Zealand’s relentless campaign to undermine success. Not because the recent memory of the pandemic is flawed – polls back this year have boosted support for most of the government’s response – but because critics of the government and Ardern feel the opportunity for Omicron’s current and imminent outbreak to identify every outbreak that was prevented.
This opportunity focuses in part on criticizing the current proliferation and the pressure it exerts on an underfunded health care system. The main criticism, however, is the clear threat to freedom and liberty posed by the government. In March and April, there were countless stories criticizing the installation of a red traffic light for destroying the hospitality sector. The loudest criticism of MIQ has also often been voiced by businessmen who want to import workers without the need for limited MIQ space. It doesn’t matter what the problem was, and it’s a virus, not an attempt to control it. Properly read, none of these critics – neither to MIQ nor to traffic light settings – have much to do with freedom and liberty. These are calls for unrestrained trade, for the ability to trade regardless of the circumstances.
In their analysis, the right to trade, no matter what, was more important than any health care imperative. Clown convoy that made his way to Wellington – the occupation of the parliament, the destruction of the territory and the violation of the rights of the people of Thorndan – was the sharp end of this position “do what I want”. We cannot allow these people to win. So many lives were saved in 2020 and 2021. The economy was booming. Rapid government action has given us time to vaccinate, preparing us for the Omicron outbreak, which is the responsibility of other countries that have allowed the virus to be torn apart and mutated. The High Court ruled that lottery aspect of MIQ was illegal, but she acknowledged that MIQ itself was legitimate and that it was a justified and proportionate political response to the pandemic. We must not forget this.