As Twitter users were quick to point out, it was indeed crazy of New Zealand to go into lockdown with just one case – no wait, 22 – hang on, 107 … You get the point. The fact that coronavirus case numbers can mount rapidly should be obvious by now, but apparently not.
Also apparently, some British columnists believe New Zealand has become “a mysterious socialist hermit kingdom”. But we’ve led infinitely freer lives over the past 18 months. On the Oxford Covid-19 Stringency Index, they’ve had – crudely speaking – 60% restricted lives for most of that time, while we have seldom been over 20%. We have lockdowns, but they’re generally short and sharp.
The lockdowns are also effective: we’ve had just 26 people die of Covid, a number which – and I cannot stress this enough – is very different from more than 130,000, the current UK death tally. Our per-person death rate is 400 times less than the British one. And if any British people think that’s down to New Zealand’s being an island, they might want to take a look at the shape of their own country on a map. Luck, and living on the bottom of the world, have also helped us, but not that much.
It’s hard to think of any downsides to our approach. Lockdowns are not great for one’s mental health, admittedly, but also probably not as bad as having to watch “the bodies pile high”. Our compassionate response has also been an efficient one: New Zealand’s economy recovered more quickly than Britain’s did, while our unemployment rate, at 4%, is so low that firms trying to recruit staff are contemplating desperate measures like actually raising wages.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction