NZ’s COVID-19 policy has got into a tangle with the crisis deepening by the hour. We must move away from discredited herd immunity and move to full Level 4 now

NZ’s COVID-19 policy has got into a tangle with the crisis deepening by the hour. We must move away from discredited herd immunity and move to full Level 4 now

The way that our Prime Minister and the Director General of Heath described the use of the four alert levels, and moving up and down over time with the waves, is classic herd immunity strategy. It stands in stark contrast to stamping the disease out.

No-one has specifically said that the policy is to rely on development of immunity through manipulation of infection rates. This reflects that it is the operative rules rather than stated or unstated objectives that count.

The difference between words and actions often arises because the words are aimed at maintaining social licence and avoiding panic, rather than being consistent with underlying realities. On other occasions, the discordance between words and action is because, in a context of a crisis, the Government, relying on advisers and with everyone under stress, has actually got itself in a muddle and does not understand its own strategy.

I see elements of both right now here in New Zealand. The one thing I am sure of is that, for whatever reason, the COVID-19 rules that we are all being asked to apply are consistent with a philosophy of herd immunity that is discredited in relation to COVID-19. Conversely, the rules are inconsistent with stamping the disease out. And that is real frightening.

Ten days ago, proposals for herd immunity strategies were gaining support in key parts of Europe. But then wiser counsel warned that it was an incredibly dangerous policy that could go horribly wrong.  I don’t think our Government has caught up with the change in thinking.

Herd immunity is a well-known concept both in health and animal science. For each disease, once a specific proportion of immune individuals is reached, then the disease no longer transmits at a level that allows to disease to be sustained in the population. In humans, we typically aim to achieve this with vaccination.

For some diseases, such as common flu, the natural transmission rate is sufficiently low that once 30 to 50 percent of the population has immunity, then the disease dies out. This is achieved because a situation is reached where each infected person on average infects less than one other person. But typically, the disease still festers away in small sub-populations and then breaks out again when population immunity dies away.

A fundamental issue with COVID-19 is that the natural transmission rate is very high. Early estimates from Chinese data were that it might only be of the order of ‘2’.  If correct, this would have meant that without intervention, each infected person on average infects two others. However, a subsequent paper from American scientists at Los Alamos has indicated that the transmission rate without intervention lies between 4.7 and 6.6. Whatever the precise number, it is now very clear that it is much higher than previously thought. This is why the number of infections has been exploding in countries like Italy, Spain and the USA, and indeed almost everywhere else in the world.

If the natural transmission rate is of the order of say five, then around 80 percent of a population have to acquire immunity before the disease dies away. There lies the rub.  Even then, it will fester and breakout in sub-populations.

Our Government has been talking about waves of the disease, and turning the control knobs up and down to keep the disease at acceptable levels without society becoming totally disrupted.  The problem with that is that there are big lags between shifts in the control knobs and when changes in disease levels occur.

For example, whatever our Government does today will have minimal impact on disease levels for the next week. The exception to that statement is that changes in testing level will impact on the number of confirmed cases but not the number of actual cases.

In relation to ICU cases, the delay between shifting the control knobs and any effect on the number of cases is at least two weeks and more likely three weeks. This disease starts gentle before it builds up. For death rates, the lag is also about three weeks. And somewhat like a nuclear reactor, some of the knobs may not work at all after a certain point.

The key concepts for analysing and modelling these sorts of relationships comprising stocks, flows, feedbacks and control knobs were developed way back in the 1960s by Jay Forrester at MIT in the United States and are known as ‘system dynamics’. There are various software packages which facilitate the modelling. I know something about this, having used the concepts within my own PhD in relation to growth models more than 20 years ago.

The most important contribution of system dynamics is not the specific model outputs, but as a way of thinking, and also as a way of testing different scenarios. As famous British econometrician George Box said some forty or so years ago: “all models are wrong, but some models are useful”. In particular, they can alert us as to what are some of the critical issues that influence outcomes, and the over-arching importance of uncertainty.

One of the problems with any modelling is that people with inadequate understanding look for simple answers and typically under-estimate the uncertainties and hence the risks.

In the case of trying to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19 by any other means than vaccination, the scope for making a catastrophic stuff-up is huge.  And that is where we are right now.

The idea of over-70s staying in their homes is also a herd immunity concept. The idea is that younger people will get sick and then recover, and herd immunity will be achieved.  At that stage the over-70s can come out again.

The first problem is that it is increasingly clear that not only over-70s die of this disease. In fact, it is apparent from China and elsewhere, but with Italy possibly an exception, that the average age of those who die is typically less than 70, largely because the biggest population groups are in younger-age cohorts.

If we are going to require over-70s to stay at home, then it is going to be many months, perhaps well over a year before population immunity is reached. In that time, a lot of under-70s are still going to die. And in the meantime, the over-70s are going to suffer huge mental health issues. I am already hearing cases of what we call ‘cabin fever’. Wherever possible, these people should be outside walking in the fresh air, interacting socially but with social distancing, just like everyone else.

The chances of population immunity protecting those who are in rest homes or in hospitals is close to zero. Young people may well be less likely to die from COVID-19, but they are definitely able to infect others. That means it is inevitable that carers will seed infections in these institutions.  The Chinese experience has been that hospitals are a terrible place for the non-infected during a community outbreak, as they soon become infected.

The world is changing fast and we now need your support more than ever. Quality journalism is expensive and in these very troubled times our ad revenues are becoming very uncertain. We provide our coverage free to readers, and if you value that, we ask that you Become a Supporter. To do that, either click on the Red button below, or on the Black button at the top of this page. The level of your support is up to you. Thank you. (If you are already a Supporter, you're a hero.)

As each day goes by, the difficulties of stamping out COVID-19 increase. Today’s big news is that there are now four people who attended the recent World Hereford Conference in Queenstown who are now confirmed infected, with two of these being Kiwis, together with another two now back in their own countries and hence not included in the New Zealand count.

The frightening issue with the World Hereford Conference is that it is only today that attendees have become eligible for testing, despite a number of attendees reporting as being sick. This is because being sick was an insufficient trigger for being tested, and even now is only possible because all attendees are now classed as ‘close contacts’.  I have been looking at the events and timing of that conference, plus pre and post conference tours, and it meets all of the preconditions for becoming a super-spreading event. The attendees are now spread to the four winds.

If we are to get things back under control then we have to tighten the screws. That means absolutely no events of more than say eight or ten people. It means no restaurants except for take-aways. It means all new arrivals hereafter must go into Government quarantine for 14 days.  Of course, it also means still keeping all of our essential industries going. That includes health care and everything to do with food, together with those wonderful trades people who are at the heart of a functioning society, plus police and army who also have a role to play.

On a related tack, I have increasing confidence that we are close to having drugs that reduce the severity of this disease.  Chloroquine, which is the old-time favourite for treating malaria and has saved millions of lives, looks increasingly promising. There is also a new Japanese drug called favipiravir that is claimed to have greatly reduced the intensity of the disease in a Chinese clinical trial with 340 persons. While all of this gets sorted out, we have to hold the line.

Come on! Let’s do it!

*Keith Woodford was Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University for 15 years through to 2015. He is now Principal Consultant at AgriFood Systems Ltd, and has had a longstanding interest in epidemiology. He can be contacted at Keith’s previous COVID-19 articles are available here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


declare level 4 immediately, for a day's delay, it will take months to repay.

import face mask and encourage ppl to wear them immediately, for a day's delay, it will take many lives to repay.

learn from China immediately as Hongkong and Taiwan are just part of it.

Like how police in Wuhan immediately rounded up doctors first raising concerns about the new SARS-like virus for spreading rumours and creating a panic?

While China certainly have shown the world how draconian crackdowns are necessary to halt the virus, the same social environment that allows such crackdowns is what started this worldwide catastrophe.

At this point its not a pissing contest over "which system is better" or "who's to blame". It's now all about how do we learn from whats worked in other countries and try and replicate that.

As soon as xingmowang stops repeating about how amazing the Chinese government is without acknowledging that it is them who allowed this to spread in the first place, I'll stop replying to him to point out what he's refusing to acknowledge.

Let us (and especially you) not forget where this all began and how, and what happened to the poor guy who first sounded the alarm.
There is NOTHING to learn from China!!

I might start a doom metal band called Wuhan Meat Market.

P.S. Taiwan is not part of China.

Keith listen to this poor doctor in the UK, it's shocking what is happening to the Uk right now.

I don’t think our Government has caught up with the change in thinking.

No, they got the message. There was a particular report that the UK government received that changed their stance away from herd immunity. Ashley Bloomfield specifically mentioned this report by name at the same time and said it is why the government were changing their message from "flattening the curve" - which would still overwhelm the health system - to suppression with many small waves and controls ramping up and down.

I think you're correct in saying their current efforts are not as strict as they need to be to achieve that outcome, due to influx of returning residents. I think things are moving faster than they had anticipated.

It is clear now from public demand that the government will be moving up the alert system scale likely to officially be from midnight tonight.

Are you a mind reader?

Not sure what you're asking.

I'm saying that the report that came out that made the UK move away from their herd immunity strategy was specifically referenced by Ashley Bloomfield and they specifically changed the language they were using as a result - they are not talking about "flattening the curve" anymore specifically because of that report.

I'm just pointing out that it is not a case of "the UK changed their strategy and NZ didn't" because NZ has changed their strategy. Whether they are effectively implementing the new strategy is the point to debate.

Your absolute confidence and support for everything NZ government has done probably goes beyond even JA herself. Even the medical practitioners are petitioning for a lock down and say that it is already too late. And you still say that everything the NZ government has done to date is brilliant. I am not sure even Jusus Christ considered his father creation as flawless as you think government response has been.

Lanthanide is the person behind Labor Chinese- sounding name count.
Lanthanide is clearly here to push the party line .
He is on record saying that most people are not smarter than a 4 year old and deserve to be talked to as such , by the way of explaining why Jacinda does exactly that.

I think the readers of his many posts deserve to have that perspective to be able to judge his credibility and purpose of posting here for themselves.

Lanthanide is the person behind Labor Chinese- sounding name count.

I am not Rob Salmond, but I am genuinely flattered that you think I am as he is a very intelligent man.

He is on record saying that most people are not smarter than a 4 year old and deserve to be talked to as such , by the way of explaining why Jacinda does exactly that.

No, I did not say that and you are lying saying that I did. I quoted George Carlin, you can read it here:

That was in response to someone asking "Why does Jacinda Ardern talk to everyone like they are 4 year olds?"

Not only did I not say "most people are not smarter than a 4 year old" and "deserve to be talked to as such", I also do not think that.

Since you evidently don't understand what I actually meant by quoting George Carlin I'll make it clear for you: when there are very important public health matters at hand, governmental communications need to be presented in such a way that everyone can understand what is being said so the message is clear. The government does not want information to go above the heads of their audience. Another way to phrase that is to communicate to the level of the *lowest* common denominator - emphasis on the *lowest* which is not the *average* or *most* as you have misinterpreted what I said, ie the *lowest* common denominator would be a 4 year old.

This is an underlying element for how Trump has been so successful as a politician, because his general communication is of a lower level of sophistication than the average politician and there is a large segment of the voting population that responds well to that:

I think the readers of his many posts deserve to have that perspective to be able to judge his credibility and purpose of posting here for themselves.

I think you need to stop making unfounded and baseless accusations against me based upon the fact that you disagree with some of the things I am saying. Going on a personal vendetta against me is not achieving anything other than wasting everyone's time.

Debate what I am saying, not who you think I am or what motives you think I have for what I say.

Your absolute confidence and support for everything NZ government has done probably goes beyond even JA herself.

I have never once said I absolutely support everything the NZ government has done with respect to COVID-19.

And you still say that everything the NZ government has done to date is brilliant.

I have never once said that and do not hold that view. Just because I'm not dumping on the government like a lot of people are doesn't mean I support everything they are doing.

I am not sure even Jusus Christ considered his father creation as flawless as you think government response has been.

For the third time, I do not think the government response is flawless.

Stop being so rational - you're provoking the torch wrappers and pitchfork sharpeners

One of the points I have been trying to make within a framework of constructivness and relative politeness, is that there are inconsistencies between the words andthe actions. Our current actions are to aim for a series of small waves until herd immuity takes over. That will be an exceptionally long journey, unless we lose control of the knobs in which case we face a disaster. I think there is now a concensus building that we have to crush this virus while that is still possible. I like that term 'crush the virus'. I am fascinated by the way that the popultaion is now moving faster than the Govt and the Minsitry of Health. It looks to me as if the Ministry of Health is the one putting on the brakes. With people such as Sir Peter Gluckman now speaking up, I think that Jacinda will be asking some pointed questions of the Ministry of Health. I suspect that the officials will currently be working flat out to define the specific of Level 4, which is actually very vague as to what jobs are 'essential'. It is remarkable as to how public thinking has evolved in the last week.

You've accidentally replied to my post rather than Andrewj's.

But with respect to the public moving faster than the government, yes, that is what's happening (generally, with pockets of stupidity). The same thing happened in the US with the federal government's response being woefully inadequate so states and city governments took measures into their own hands.

Keith: " within a framework of constructiveness and relative politeness,......"

We would rather you dispensed with politeness altogether if being polite interfered with your message.


Thank you Keith for a well written article. You are doing a great service to New Zealand.

I am picking that at 12pm today, there will be a ratcheting up of the alert level. It would be best just to go all in now.

Why. This is not dangerous. It doesn't kill many people absolutely and of the people it does, they are a quite defined and very small group.

But hey don't let that get in the way of your panic.

In life, as in a game of poker, all in can reap huge rewards

Denature... what if you were in that group?

That is exactly what I meant by learning from China!!!

NZ government's decision on COVID19 is both 1 to 2 weeks lagged and without any effective actions and quality control.

To act ahead of the government's announcement,
I recommend you to:
1. wear face masks in any enclosures. you can import face masks from AliExpress
2. ask your children stay home
3. stop going to work if possible
4. stop going to bars, restaurants but order online should be fine

Only everyone can do this, will COVID19 be stopped!!!

Contrast that with Taiwan boarding China inbound planes before disembarkation on he 31st of December.

The travel ban was sadly just PR spin to give a false sense of security.

Just Chinese propaganda, they fudge stats and the CCP etc. Etc.
Certainly doesn't give much hope, more power to those moving to lock down isolated communities if powers that be won't open their eyes and ears.

Why the disease it's not particularly dangerous. Are you over 70 and have some pretty severe existing medical conditions. If yes you are maybe stuffed. For the other 99.9999% we are most likely going to be fine if we get it or not.
Except for the panicking governments who are shutting down society for nothing. That is going to cause real long term damage and a lot more deaths then this virus.

Jacinda needs to look at those petition pages to get a grasp on exponential growth. Then assume it is people who won't vote for you in September and don't assume they didn't vote for you last time. If there is anything she really understands its politics. It's the only job she has ever had.

While I want us to go all in, I do also understand that she and everyone else, govt and experts are having to weigh everything up and work this the best way we can. It is pretty clear there are too many of us happy to just thumb our noses at advice, hence my desire for further measures to be taken, even then, there will be idiots to contend with.

Pretty clear that usual systems of govt in west have failed dreadfully in their reaction to this threat - all petrified of doing anything that could be perceived as radical or different from the herd and not a clue about risk management. That dumb sheep like reactive approach works most of the time but is fatal in a real crisis like this. 2 month old 1-pager from Mr 'black swan' N.Talib et al on the matter:

Wow that's a big change of tune Pocket aces. I was a girls blouse two weeks ago.

Not really, I just think if we lock down for a few weeks we will be able to know exactly where we are with this thing, get the ducks in a row we can see. I also accept we cannot live like that for long, though and we need to come up with other ways to do stuff.
I see two things changing dramatically, tourism and immigration.

Countries like Singapore, Korean and Japan have more experience and are using a different strategy.

Do not wait for this govt to take action ( they might even announce some .. but will not control or follow through ) .

Do what YOU can and do it NOW .

- do not send kids to school
- work from home if possible at all
- do not go to clubs/restaurants /bars
- cancel social gatherings
- wear a mask to the supermarket ( can stitch them yourself )

Why would you not send your kids to school. No one under the age of 10 has died and even those that did had existing health complications.
Way to be afraid and try and spread panic.....I guess you are swallowing the mass media kool aid along with all the others. Got a nice massive pile of toilet paper at home as well do you?
This is not serious. It mainly kills the old AND already sick. The rest of us get at worst a flu like experience. Not great but not worth shutting the whole world down for. That will cause more deaths than the virus.

Kids may not die but they can spread the virus. 30 kids per class, average 2 parents each most of who probably work and so potentially exposed. This increases the chances of spreading the virus as it’s not just kids exposure to each other but also via parents. And to top off kids are contained in classroom. They need to shut the schools it’s not rocket science.

Good advice, Keith. That's consistent with Jo Nova's notes about 'Crush the Curve' - going short, sharp, and starving the virus of fresh bodies for long enough for trace deposits to decay/unravel and become harmless.

We aim for extinction — hunt every infection down, keep most people at home, reduce the spread, then finish by following every contact, track and trace.

Also there's the regional aspect. It would be, for example, very easy to isolate the whole South Island (Cook Strait), Canterbury between the Waimak and the Rakaia (five road bridges and one transalpine highway), the West Coast (three passes and one road) etc. Get each region cleared according to whatever criteria, and allow re-connection only between cleared regions.

The question should be asked of the Govt......why wait for a person to person transmission before taking some
serious action.
Are there any countries in the world that have covid 19 and it hasn't spread?
History would tell them the end result in all countries that the virus has appeared,it always spreads so go hard go early by this govt was nothing but a soundbite.
So much more they could have done.
So ''lets do something''

Sigh... Keith, you are quite right to be concerned, but your pieces are only contributing to the fear-mongering of the greater media.
A lot of the cries for going straight to level 4 are coming from people in privileged positions, not facing total financial ruin. Not everyone is so fortunate, so I would really hope anyone advocating for stricter controls is prepared to offset the damages to the poor in the coming years.

On the bright side, at least the media is calling Taiwan a country again.

"Not everyone is so fortunate, so I would really hope anyone advocating for stricter controls is prepared to offset the damages to the poor in the coming years."

Fair point - count me in.

My advocacy for moving quickly is actually based on minimising the pain. A week ago I was of the opinion that we could be up and running again by the end of Easter.Now, with the virus having run a lot further, it will take somewhat longer, and with greater risk of breakouts. But, as long as we include strict quarantine for new arrivals, we could still get there within a six week timeframe, with some relaxation starting to occur before then.
The frustration of the current Level 2 is that it is destroying the economy but is insufficient to crush the virus.


Let's cut to the chase. We will be at level 4 soon. Why not do it now?
With this Wuhan flu we cannot do a China and wait a month.

Oh and by the way when this is over I hope the World Court sees fit to arrest Xi on one of his trips. It's not just for crazy African despots and Balkan warlords you know.

Did you fully quarantine for 14 days following your return, Keith? That is my understanding of a strict quarantine, or are you suggesting that you and your planeload of passengers should have been sent to an isolation facility?

The following is said by Prof Baker, from Otago University's Department of Public Health, is the only epidemiologist on the Ministry of Health's technical advisor group:
"There will be community transmission at present. We can't track all these chains but if you actually shut things down, then clusters ... basically they can't go anywhere.

"So, you might have a few cases in a family but they can't affect other people so the virus actually starts to disappear."

"We basically have two choices - we can follow Australia and other countries down the path of exponential increase in cases, and we know that will happen - and in that process we try and slow down or suppress it but we don't do enough to stop it.

"There is another alternative and that's that we work very hard to eradicate this infection now. The difference with this strategy is it requires maximum upfront effort.

"It almost seems perverse but actually when you have very little infection in the community that's when you need to do the most, or else you go down the other path."

I am no expert, but that is what I have been saying from very early stages. I hope Lanthanide consider his comment more credible and not trying to say why what the UK, the Australia, the USA, the Itally and NZ have done is the right thing.

Believer 1980,
You and I are in agreement. Fortunately, with both Professors Baker and Gluckman both stating their similar postions with eloquence, together with a groundswell of public opinion now heading that way, I think the Govt will be asking serious questions of its MOH advisers.

Bit disappointed that Keith seems to be writing an article a day delivering much the same message, contrary to/critical of the Government's response. Point is, we already know his opinion, and the last thread of his descended into, and provided an opportunity for, much misinformation.

I think the government, and the whole of the public service and our essential services are doing a very, very good job. I see so many good initiatives from healthcare and education providers, local government and private sector businesses being undertaken nationwide in terms of prevention and preparation.

We need to put a greater emphasis on informing people of worldwide initiatives to find ways to more effectively treat the virus with existing medicines, and worldwide efforts to develop an over-the-counter, in-home test. If both these two matters are advanced to a successful phase, the timeframe to a vaccine becomes less critical and the world will to a degree be able to return to some sense of normality.

We have to have a positive vision of the future, and Keith's articles don't seem to aim to do that.

I call BS on "I think the government, and the whole of the public service and our essential services are doing a very, very good job. I see so many good initiatives from healthcare and education providers, local government and private sector businesses being undertaken nationwide in terms of prevention and preparation."

  • Where are the test kits and lab capabilities for rapid assessment?
  • There's a discrepancy between PR spin and on-the-ground action
  • When several thousand health professionals call for quick, certain Action, then surely they can spot that difference.
  • Vaccines are 1-2 years away so 'hope is not a Strategy'
  • Where are the blood tests for recovered Covid people, which can supply both real data on infection extent, and blood serum transplants to spread immunity?

Do you have any evidence that blood serum can be used to spread immunity for COVID-19? I have been following the situation closely and yours is the first mention I've ever heard of this. Did you just make it up as a strawman to bash the government with, as the rest of your comment is doing?

I think the comments sections of many forums are going to look like someone opened the doors of the lunatic asylum. All the best.

Yeah I've given up on stuff comments since the start of March.

"I think the government, and the whole of the public service and our essential services are doing a very, very good job." The govt. couldn't even close a border with China and 7 days ago were only doing 20 tests a day yet proclaiming no community transmission. Taiwan is doing a very, very good job given it's proximity to China. They will have less cases than us shortly.

Government have managed us into this crisis and have demonstrated their incompetence in almost every facet of the problem. Would we have even 10% of current infected if they had instituted a proper arrivals quarantine 3 weeks back? They are not doing a 'good job' when you see the population, individuals and businesses moving far faster than them in taking the necessary steps to try and stop the growth of the epidemic. Whatever your political sympathies stop acting as apologists for them.

Kate - A failure of Interest is that they generally only present one side of an argument. Resources I presume.
KW or Rewi W as I call him seems to be the go to guy for everything atm. I did not like his continual harping about govt failure wrt the Bovis situation while discounting completely the almost 100% non compliance to NAIT as a contributor.
Keith also has many "relationships" in China. I would be interested to know how many trips / days he has spent there over the last 10 years. This needs to be front and centre especially when he praises China. He was praising China last week for their handling of the virus for gods sake. This was after they put the world at risk by sitting on it for over a month.
I note that since this Wuhan hit the airwaves he has a strong interest in Epidemiology shown in the by line. So have I. I have watched "Contagion" 3 times.

Saying that I agree with his premise that we go to 4 now. We will at some time so why dither?

(I think this comment might be "censored" out.)

A very good government response would have been going hard very early on and stop the spread into NZ. A small polulaiton, low density country with no borders. They had the experience of many other countries too. Now we have 102 cases. The MOH kept (and keeps) saying that there are all from overseas travel. Off course they have been all from overseas travel! I bet that their testing criteria is :have you come from overseas, have you been living with someone arriving recently from overseas? then we will test you, otherwise please wait in home and see if you get better. Vola! no NZ spread was ever going to be detected. This is despite the fact that virtually all of the discovered cases have wondered about in NZ before going into islolation.
NZ government has been as terrible as the UK, Italy, Australia and the US. Very bad performance.

This Government's response has never had a "herd immunity" method or intent.

For example, we have not kept schools open with the hope that all children will contract the disease. To suggest so is very disingenuous.

What was the intent of the travel ban with China - and the full knowlege that it was not imposed - other than a herd immunity strategy? Is our border control that inept or were they under instruction?
Why have we kept schools open? If people can look after their kids safely why can't they be pulled out? Last week they were still being called truants - is this still the case? Why expose teachers >60 to the virus in schools?

The travel ban with China, to Chinese citizens was implemented. New Zealand citizens and residents who had been visiting China were able to return. We have closed numerous schools when a case is suspected. Teachers of all ages that have pre-existing conditions are staying at home and I'm certain any teacher over 60 who did feel at risk, will stay home, and their school's senior management along with all their other colleagues will be fully supportive.

No, the border closure wasn't implemented. You have been conned. Pulling kids out of schools last week and calling them truant is not 'fully suportive'. Any teacher >60 (see Korea data) was at risk even if they didn't "feel" it. It is particularly unsupportive to put them in harms way (see Korea data).

I agree, hence my comment earlier saying that the government very much is aware of the downfalls of "herd immunity" as an approach.

I think Keith is really trying to say that their actions are *more* commensurate with a herd immunity strategy, than they are with a containment / eradication strategy.

. deleting duplicate

The PM & PM depart are in a dreadful mess, front line medical professionals are in rebellion.
They have advised, requested and now petitioned.

And this is before the community calls upon the health system to do all the heavy lifting.

How can PM & the Health Minister expect to keep their jobs? The breakdown in trust is monumental now. How is health system expected to work now.

Meanwhile today
A resident at a Hamilton rest home has tested positive for Coronavirus, sending 27 staff into self-isolation.

Tests are a lagging indicator.
Things are dialed in to get worse.

Wow. One in a population potentially exposed to the virus that is in the millions.

You're proverbial one in a million.

But hey lets all panic on a one in a million chance.

It's too late. Whatever we do now will be inadequate. My partner had a two hour boardroom meeting with someone last week who's been positively diagnosed. We've both had mild symptoms. My partners 5 year old niece, (who thank goodness we haven't seen for months, and lives in another part of Germany), is coughing and now fighting for her life in hospital, their upstairs neighbours upstairs were positively diagnosed. My mother in Auckland has friends who are feverish and coughing all the time which sounds suspicious. This must be everywhere already.

What a load of twaddle.
Way to swallow the group think Keith.
Unless there is a vaccine, herd immunity is the only long term response. You might stamp it out in the near term, but without herd immunity it will flair up again. And if it is lurking, undetected how do you protect the vulnerable people then Keith? We just shut the whole world down every time it is detected again? What you propose is not a solution. It's kicking the can down the road, something we have become eminently brilliant at in the west.
And we are shutting the whole world down for a thing that has a very low death rate and worst affects people who are already sick. So for that we shut down the whole of society. You are saying that the mental health of a tiny group something like .0001% (Italian deathrate as a % of the population) is more important then the mental health of all the other people in society fretting about their jobs and business because of the fear you and the rest of the media are peddling. How do you think the mental health of kids are currently worrying about all this crap being blown up by media and "have to be seen to be doing something" government.
And who will pay for all this money printing to cover this shutdown that won't actually get rid of it? Our children that's who. The ones that barely get sick from this anyway and who are already inheriting a system that won't pay them the pension the people we are currently "protecting". Plus we will give them an environment that is screwed as well.
Nice one mate I will be sure to tell them Keith said you are welcome.
In the UK they have effectively shut the whole economy down. The government has said don't worry we can all do nothing and everyone will still get paid and no one will go bust. How does that work Keith? And for 281 deaths so far. Are you serious Keith? You really think that is a sensible approach? 1793 people died in traffic accidents in the UK last year. Shall we shut the global system down so we can put a string of bouncy castles along the side of UK roads. Then we can all be safe. We can't all always be safe Keith. That's the universe for you.
How easily it spreads is only half of the equation. What happens if you get it is the other half. And unless you are old, and have an existing condition not much happens at all or if it does it is at an extremely low rate. It is something like the flu. What does it matter if 80% of the population get it or 60% if it only has a death rate of about .0001% (which is what Italy currently has) and only in a quite defined group that we can easily categorise and put out of harms way?
You are talking about things POTENTIALLY going wrong if we rely on herd immunity. Which, incidentally has done a decent job protecting us for the last 200 000 years of homo sapiens as opposed to the ACTUAL cataclysmic screw up this total shut down is causing globally, quite definitely and with all it's associated mental health issues and of course deaths. Because there will be plenty of deaths caused by this world wide shutdown.
But at least we protect some old sick people who likely only had another 6 months or a year to live anyway....because that's why the disease killed 90% of those oldies.....they were already sick.
Except this shutdown would not protect them anyway. If we go into lockdown those oldies will have the same mental health issues as the rest of the population, we aren't protecting them from anything. If we only locked them down they would have the same mental health problems it's just the other 99.99% of us could keep on working and paying for the cost of looking after them while they are in lockdown. Instead we are just dragging the rest of us into this quagmire for no real reason as evidenced by your ridiculous opinion here.

the intention was always to lower the curve, spread it over a longer time frame. It's starting to look like young people in the West are more vulnerable than in China. On my farm in the last week Calici virus has gone through and killed %80 of my rabbits, the hawks are having a field day. The problem with viruses is the unknown, the mutations etc. What it be like next year, will the second wave be more deadly like the Spanish flu was?
Mr Dr friend has been told he's going on 24hr shifts and they will try and get him 8 hrs sleep when possible, that's in NZ, medical staff are being prepared.
Look at fat pats comment above, 5 year old in hospital sick.

But lower the curve of what? The virus does not make people particularly sick. Italy is in the West and there are no recorded deaths of children there and Italy is the place we are being sold as a "horror" and "disaster" by the media, right? The place that currently is seeing a disease that kills about .0001% of the population, all over 60 and 90% of which had existing health conditions.
The flu killed 33 000 people in the US this season. Did you hear anything about that? And I think everyone says that the American response has been poor.....yet they only have 414 deaths so far. In the flu seasons 2014 to 2017 flu killed 66500 people in Italy. Thats 16500 a year against nearly 6000 for Covid. Did we shut the whole world down for that?
I put no value in Fat Pats comment. Did this child have an existing condition? Immune compromisation, allergies? Do they even have Covid? Given the medias fascination with scaring the crap out of us how come Fat Pat knows about this but it isn't sprayed all over the news?
Fat Pat is spreading what could easily be rumour and here say. It certainly does not match what is coming out of Italy.
If we are worried about a second wave coming next year....then might it not be good for us all to get some immunity this year?
Spin this anyway you like, this is not a big thing people. We have become a humanity of panic and fear.

Could you explain the collapse of the health system in Italy.

I am not in Italy. But in the 2014-2017 flu season 16500 people per year died of flu in Italy. That didn't collapse the health system so I don't know why much less covid has caused a collapse.
But Italy is hardly in a great position anyway. Maybe underfunding has caused the collapse given the place is effectively bankrupt anyway. Maybe a lot of things have happened to cause the collapse. Maybe it collapsed because they put the place in lockdown for no real reason other than panic and the system could not get supplies it needed, or Doctors and Nurses on holiday couldn't get home because of all the cancelled flights.
However what Keith is saying is stupid. It makes complete sense to isolate all over 70's with existing health conditions and let the rest of us keep working so we can take care of them and find a vaccine if we are so worried about it.
Who the hell keeps the place ticking over to fund the health system if we are all at home doing nothing, when only a very small fraction of us are in any danger.
Don't worry though the government will pay for us to do nothing and somehow all the things we need will happen anyway. How? What the hell will printing money do when demand has completely disappeared. This whole thing is pathetic. A panic about nothing. Christ Malaria killed 400000 people last year (estimated). But they weren't white people in rich countries so don't worry about lockdown or panic. This whole thing is pathetic and it is pathetic that no one questions it. It's massive group think to the worst degree.

"That didn't collapse the health system so I don't know why much less covid has caused a collapse."

Then you need to educate yourself on the differences between the flu and COVID-19. There are plenty of resources out there for this already.

Here's one:

I already know what the differences are I never said the two are the same thing.

Simply that they follow similar infection patterns.

Are you implying that the 15000 cases of flu death would not have made it to the hospital? And obviously there would have been plenty more in hospital that did not crash the system. However the system did not crash. Or maybe the system did struggle....but no one really gave a crap because who follows the flu death rate or cancer death rate or Malaria death rate except if the media makes a massive song and dance about it.

These deaths and this infection pattern is well within what happens yearly wiht various diseases, resulting in millions of death a years.

It's jsut we don't give a crap normally.

Why don't you educate yourself a bit on panics, crowd behaviour, herding, and any number of a whole shedloads of human frailties and biases that lead us to a panic like this.

Don't speak up though. Don't challenge anything. Even if it looks crap and half assed. Because then you won't be part of the team and the government will have you arrested.

Take a read of the post above yours.

To be honest that post doesn't make sense. Are they in Germany as well? I don't really get it.
But yeah people will catch it. Notice the mild symptoms part of the post. And notice how no one died in that post? And how many people does fat pat know altogether. None of them have it or are dead right? And where does it say any of those people were tested and it is actually covid.
And what conditions did that girl have already?
Panic away though, why not? Except that the panic is causing massive harm and will cause more.

Shut up and just get in behind as the rest of us have to

Why? Why should I blindly follow people who make no sense and do not give me a reasonable argument as to why I should follow them?
Oh. Wait. Your gonna play the crowd shaming card now. The herd / lemming card. "You should just do everything that everyone else is doing while they panic, I am and it makes me uncomfortable that you aren't"
Ok, you just go and stick your head in the sand and not think about any narrative other than the one that is being mass force fed to you.
You know that's how the Nazis started right?
We should always challenge what we are told by authourity. I have given reasonable arguments and numbers to support what I am saying. I haven't seen anyone here refute anything with any numbers. That does not mean I am right. But it does mean I won't shut up just because you are happy with the crap, nonsensical line you are being force fed and would rather not think anything that might clash with what anyone else thinks.

As per an expert on a TV news, herd immunity is a terrible idea as a) it significantly underestimate the mortality rate when the health system is overwhelmed. Not only more people will die form the virus, many people will die from other conditions that the health system will be unable to care for. He was saying that 70% of the ICU beds are usually occupied so it does not take too many cases to overwhelm even the most equipped countries. That is why herd immunity is a terrible idea.

However, i personally wonder why in this early stages, there is no volunteer programs for the healthy and less at risk to get the disease in a controlled environment, with good medical support for those who many need it, so we have a force of people who are naturally immunized to the illness that can then perform vital tasks in the upcoming battle with the virus. Again, this may be a very stupid idea, but is has happened to me and I want to know others view about it.

Adern making announcement at 1.30 it's gone ballistic

A good thing she could do is raise the alert and stand aside for someone the Health System, the front line health professions trust and can work with.

She & Health Minister need accept there are too few test kits, shortages of masks and sanitizers, ventilators and ICU beds, medic teams PPE for frontline medics. etc... This was their watch, no one else. Not telling is terrible character.

Even with raised alerts, the next month or so is going to be horrible for health workers (and those that are hospitalized).

As an aside:
I have seen the hospo recording of customers. Its hopeless, paperbased system individual handwriting (that 30% can't be read). And some hospo places not doing, some only asking for partial info. Eg address = region. Eg no email.

Ok we have got the raised alert.
But it's all reactive.
Reactive and goodwill draining.
Now we need the organisational reset.
Change of mindset.

The health system, frontline medics must have leadership they trust and can work with.

The community needs have guidelines that also enable compliance.

Some sobering confirmation from Michael Reddell, who was involved in planning decades ago for pandemics of a much lesser stripe, at a top-public-service level. His article about the current shambles can be summarised in three words:

Planning - what planning?

My daughters speciality but she cannot start till they declare an emergency, then poor kid is going to be busy.

No, actually so far it's killed far less people than the flu.
Hey I read Zerohedge a lot as well......but plenty on there is conspiratorial at best.
And they have jumped on the panic bandwagon like everyone else which is a bit disappointing for them

You make terrible comparisons.
You look back to a past flu season, complete numbers.
Then at a now, just started forward moving covid. That's growing.

The flu is also a respiratory illness that spreads in a very similar manner to corona virus. It is also something we have data on. We don't have much data on this corona virus. So it is legitimate to compare it to flu.
Everything is growing at some stage, we are making a prediction of the future here.
I look at the data and I see something that does not appear to be dangerous, unless you are in a quite specific group.
And Trust me Henry it will have to do a hell of a lot of growing to beat malaria at 400000 dead estimated in 2018. But I don't remember getting constant updates on the news about about where Malaria had spread to, and how many death there were every day.
Why don't we panic about Malaria every year?

Unfortunately you are not well informed.
COVID-19 has a much higher rate of transmission than ordinary flu.
Also, the severity of infections is much higher.

I don't believe I am misinformed. I think I am just not thinking what everyone else thinks. Those things can look like the same thing.
I do, however have a background in biology. And also investing and owning my own business.
I did not say that covid is ordinary flu. And in fact to say I said it is ordinary flu is to imply that this is some extraordinary type of flu. Which this is not. This is not flu Keith, ok, I hope you understand that.
However, this is a respiratory disease. Like flu.
This is spread through contact. Like flu.
This is a virus. Like flu.
This is an illness that leads to complications that can cause death such as pneumonia. Like flu.
This is a disease that targets the old and infirm. Like flu.

So comparisons to the flu are legitimate as we can't compare it to other outbreaks. Unless you know something about previous global Coronavirus outbreaks that I do not Keith.

Where do you take the "severity of infection is much higher" information from? How do you measure which is more severe Keith, bad flu or coronavirus? How are you comparing your severity of coronavirus infection given we don't really know what coroanvirus feels like, given that we have had no previous large outbreaks of coronavirus?

The transmission rate is higher that is true and the death rate is potentially higher although cases are easier to under report than death. It is easier to confuse a cold like / flu like / or no symptom respiratory illnesses. What is the difference between a cold and the flu Keith? And what's the difference between Corona and flu? I don't know as I haven't had Corona. I suspect I have had flu but am not sure. I have definitely had a cold. How to untangle those things Keith?

On the other hand I am pretty sure I am not dead.

This disease follows the path of flu. We know who it is particularly hard on, up until 90% accuracy. If we separate those people and let the rest of us get it or not, we will, based on current patterns, see an outbreak pattern similar to the flu. Many less people may die than something like Malaria and without the disruption to the global economy that will surely cause a huge amount of mental harm and death. Recessions increase death rates of populations as well. Depressions increase them even more.

I have heard from an expert on a news program that the way they calculate the death rate is inaccurate. The current formula is total deaths to date / total identified cases. He said that it given it takes about two weeks for the illness to develop to its deadly stage from when it is identified. the death ratio should be total death to date / total number of cases identified two weeks ago! that means that the death rate is closer to 10%. Off course this is 10% of total tested and confirmed cases. As many cases are not tested and confirmed, the overall mortality rate is lower than 10%. But it is not as low as some figures suggest either. He was saying that it also kills young and healthy.

Believer 1980,
All of those things are true.
The death rate for China has settled out at around 4%.
The death rate for Italy looks like it will settlle out at considerably higher than that.
A lot depends on whether or not the health authorities are overwhelmed.
About half of those who need ICU will survive if they get ICU.
If they don't get ICU then very few of those will survive.
Measuring mortality rates is not an exact science. But Jacinda's 'tens of thosuands' if we don't do anything is in the ball park.

How would a mortality rate of "tens of thousands" be anywhere near?
The current mortality rate in Italy, which seems to be the acknowledged "worst outbreak currently" is .0001%
The current rate in New for it.....0.
If we get the same death rate as Italy (although everyone seems to believe we have done a better job than Italy) would give mortality rate in New Zealand of......480.
That's equivalent to the New Zealand flu deathrate of recent years of 400-500. Well at the upper end of flu.
Please note I am not saying this is the same as flu. I am saying this follows the patterns of the flu virus. Even if we get double or triple the Italian figure it is considerably less than the estimated figure of 8600 cancer deaths last year. Should we close the entire world down to fix cancer?

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are under pressure so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.