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Keith Woodford analysis: The decision to go hard and early, requiring everyone entering New Zealand to self-isolate gives New Zealand a chance to stay on top of the COVID-19 coronavirus

Keith Woodford analysis: The decision to go hard and early, requiring everyone entering New Zealand to self-isolate gives New Zealand a chance to stay on top of the COVID-19 coronavirus

Saturday’s announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern requiring all people arriving in New Zealand to self-isolate for 14 days is an excellent decision.

The strength of the restrictions, particularly in relation to Australia, will have come as a shock to many, but it is exactly what is needed if we are to keep COVID-19 levels under control.

 I have been waiting impatiently in recent weeks to see whether the Government would show the necessary strength of leadership.  I was less than confident that they would grasp the nettle, linked to the possibility that health officials were, until now, being too cautious in their advice. It is the nature of officials to be cautious.

Our Prime Minister has a wonderful turn of phrase and once again she has captured the moment with her statement that ‘we must go hard and we must go early’.    However, it is not yet certain that Jacinda has gone sufficiently early.

In recent weeks, New Zealand has been far too lax with its travel restrictions, particularly as they related to Europe. In recent days I have been getting multiple emails from travellers who, knowing my views on such matters, were telling me they have been coming through Auckland Airport with co-travellers from high-incidence countries, with nothing said and without details recorded.

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It seems that so far luck has been on our side. The next week will tell whether any super-spreaders managed to arrive before we shut the door.

In reality, there will be very few people other than New Zealand residents and citizens who can self-isolate.  Perhaps it is also time for the Government to advise overseas Kiwis that if they want to get back to New Zealand in the near future, they need to expedite those plans.

It is six days since I last wrote about the need for immediate action in regard to travellers from Europe in particular. Since then, daily new cases, mainly from Europe, have grown from 2000 to more than 10,000.  Daily growth rates between 15 and 30 percent are being recorded in almost all European countries.

In terms of total cases, Italy remains out front but Spain is only a few days behind. Then comes Germany, France, and every other European country.

It is also now clear that the disease is going to ramp up rapidly in the USA. There are already more than 2000 total cases and the numbers are increasing daily at around 25 percent. Because of the way compounding works, that means a doubling every three days. The only thing that might keep the officially-confirmed USA numbers constrained is the lack of testing capability within their under-resourced public health system.

Australia is in a similar position to the United States with community transmission ramping up. As I write this article, they have 249 confirmed cases compared to six in New Zealand, with numbers increasing at around 25 percent per day. They appear to be sitting at around eight days behind the USA on the common exponential growth curve and around 18 days behind Italy.  Australia is now in trouble.

In contrast to Australia, we still have a chance in New Zealand to keep the disease at a level consistent with important institutions such as schools being kept open. That would be a remarkable outcome, because there was no chance of that being possible without these new measures.

Of course, the travel restrictions will not be sufficient by themselves. Hygiene and stringent tracking are the other elements.

Way back in 1979, I was on the fringes of an interesting study undertaken on American and Kiwi people in Antarctica, as to how colds and influenza are transmitted. That work was led by American Dr Elliot Dick, supported by Kiwi virologist Dr Lance Jennings and Dr Rex Yule, who subsequently became a well-known Amberley (North Canterbury) GP. I was working in the Antarctic at the time, so became one of the disease subjects as I moved in and out of Scott Base on various field assignments. 

Once an hour we were all required to blow our noses with iodine-impregnated tissues, and then wipe our hands with another tissue to kill any germs. This simple measure, together with rules about how to sneeze, halved the transmission rate.  

There is another part to that story of Antarctic cold transmission that has become part of Antarctic lore. But people who get easily offended might like to skip the next paragraph.

The tissues we used became known as ‘dicks’ after the leader of the project Dr Elliot Dick. So every hour at MacTown radio, located at the American Navy McMurdo base across the hill from the Kiwi Scott Base, the DJ would call on everyone to take out their ‘dicks’ and blow. And then the call would come to find a new ‘dick’ to wipe one’s hands clean. Now, in some atmospheric conditions MacTown radio could be picked up by amateur radio folk back in the States. And so it wasn’t long before one such person complained to his senator about the nefarious activities going on within the American Navy in Antarctica. An order came down from Washington that a change in terminology was required.

To return to more serious matters, we now know from the explosive exponential growth of the COVID-19 virus that normal hygiene is not going to be enough.  The Chinese have shown that a total lockdown does work, but whether less stringent lockdowns can be made to work in the West is yet to be demonstrated. Italy is the test case.

One of the big issues for New Zealand is that across the whole country we reportedly have less than 200 ICU beds.  If those numbers are correct, then resources are going to be woefully inadequate if a large disease breakout occurs. This is the situation currently occurring in Italy where, despite apparently having much higher ICU bed-numbers per capita than in New Zealand, triaging is now occurring.

Death rates in Italy are now over six percent of all confirmed cases, with this number almost certainly going to rise further because of the lag between case numbers and final outcomes. Death rates elsewhere in Europe are in the early stages of the same trajectory. It is time we stopped hearing the nonsense that COVID-19 outcomes are in any way similar to normal flu.

There will be some who complain about the inconvenience and cost of self-isolation but that is simply a cost that individuals have to bear for the good of society. I will myself be caught in that as my wife and I fly back into New Zealand in the coming days from high-up in the mountains of the Canadian interior. Despite no evidence of COVID-19 in the region where we are, we planned some weeks ago on a self-isolation program as a community responsibility regardless of the official program. The challenge now is to minimise the risk on the journey itself.

There will also be those who blame the coming recession on the decision to restrict travel. But that recession was coming anyway. If anything, the restrictions will reduce the recession in New Zealand by helping to keep the internal society functioning.  More importantly, lives will be saved.

There is an irony in that while much of the world is heading into lockdown, it is China that looks like it will emerge back to at least a semi-normal situation. There is a further irony that most of China’s latest cases are from people who have recently returned from overseas.

My current expectation is that some of the most resilient industries in New Zealand will be those that export to China. For example, I suspect that China’s own production of milk will have been hampered and that this will take at least a year to come back to normal. Given that the Chinese Government has been telling the population there that milk is a good way to boost their immune systems, then demand for New Zealand milk powder may well increase as the coming months go by. That may be important as logistics to other parts of the world come under great strain.

*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 

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Too little too late. We knew weeks ago this was exploding in Iran and Italy and nothing was done. If you think this virus can now be stopped at the border I've got a bridge to sell you.

It's not too little, nor is it too late.

So far we have 0 evidence of community transmission. This is by pure dumb luck than good management. But putting in these restrictions now is both timely (again, given our dumb luck to date) and appropriate.


How much testing for community spread has been done I think it is close to zero.
Keep a close eye on rest homes they will be the first place to get hit and tested in mass same as USA and then we will see how fast is spreads.

Lanthanide: You obviously didn't watch a recent documentary on the History channel on the 1918 pandemic, the world's last pandemic which killed 50 million people definitely but probably more like 100 million by all accounts. I took out the following interesting points:

The 1918 flu epidemic started in Kansas, USA, at a duck farm probably from the mingling of wild and farmed ducks; they even mentioned the name of the young man as the very first case. He worked at the duck farm. Before it was full-blown he joined the army to fight on the Western Front in Europe. He travelled on a troop ship carrying 12,000 other US soldiers. When the ship docked at Brest France many soldiers were dead or dying of the pandemic. It then spread like wildfire throughout Europe.
In 1918 this flu killed mainly old people because their immune systems had grown so robust over years of warding off all sorts of bugs; and when this virulent strain of flu struck, their immune systems over-reacted to such an extent that their own organs were attacked by their own over-robust immune systems; their lungs were damaged to the extent they they couldn't absorb oxygen, hence the blue-coloured extremities visible on the victims before they died.
When the flu struck Manchester, a large UK city, it spread across the whole city in less than 1 day. This was known because it was scrupulously documented by a Dr Niven.
The main difference between The Black Death plague of the 1350s and Corona virus was that the plague was confined to Europe whereas Coronavirus is global; air traffic is the main reason for the Coronavirus spreading rapidly world-wide.

No, I didn't watch it, and I'm glad I didn't, because COVID has little in common with 1918 pandemic flu.

With a bug this contagious, we will get confirmed cases. But if we consider other things such as our population size, the population density, our primary residence and commute style, then we are in a much better position should there is an outbreak. Our chance to go through the mess in one piece is high. And I think the government has made right calls so far.

Let me put this into perspective. A Chinese cop went to Italy to watch soccer on 4th March without telling anyone, he then flew back to Beijing on 6th March and got confirmed as a Covid-19 case on 10th March. According to the Chinese authority, he contacted nearly 40000 Chinese people with 200 of them as close contacts during these six days. I have lived in NZ for almost 20 years, and I don't think I have ever contacted 40000 people.

Ps. This Chinese cop has made his city go back to semi lock-down. I don't know how severe the punishment will be for him.

I anticipate a flood of arrivals and overseas promotion - get yourself to NZ where there are few cases and an ability to close it’s boarders better than any country. And then once in, hope like hell a future global travel ban won’t force you to go home.

Understand that this time, with the bail out money the bankers & their rich friends are looking to buy boltholes in New Zealand. South Island, better get ready.

Good thing the government already banned such sales to foreigners then, eh?

Arriving in their own jets, into their own limos to their own remote luxury homesteads with live in staff - actually NZ is safe from an influx of Billionaires. Bigger risk is the NZ citizens such as my son returning from a PI tomorrow but having to fly via Australia (pity we don't own a priivate jet). There is terrible prejudice against bilionaires - I have it myself.
Poverty as defined in New Zealand are the households that make less than 60 per cent of the median disposable income so every billionaire arriving makes us wealthier as a nation but increases national poverty.

Where are the Kiwi/NZX going to open tomorrow?? International tourism is pretty much finished, anyone exposed to that, hospo or discretionary retail is going to do it very tough. I can see the RBNZ being forced (because they have been totally absent so far) to act next week. It was the right decision, and long-term it will make NZ very attractive, but it will come at a cost.

Either way it was going come at a big cost.


"Hard and Early" are you kidding.?

Too little too late is more accurate

This should have happened 4 weeks ago when it was obvious what needed to be done


"It is also now clear that the disease is going to ramp up rapidly in the USA"
That comment is misleading, it ramped up a long time ago, US is also doing too little too late, the only thing that will ramp up VERY rapidly now is the reported cases, since not until tomorrow in fact will any significant number of people be tested in USA and you can't report numbers for something you haven't tested for.
right now if they tested 1 million people in USA they would probably get 25% positive cases, so look out later this week for US number to jump from 2,500 to 250,000
Then see how the stock market reacts, my prediction also is the gun happy residents will be looting stores very soon to exercise their rights and to "protect their own" which is the American way after all.


ICYMI: Gun and ammo sales surge in US with coronavirus fears. ‘Better safe than sorry’

Bless their cotton socks

The only thing that might keep the officially-confirmed USA numbers constrained is the lack of testing capability within their under-resourced public health system.

Just the facts, ma'am

A warning that link basically leads to would have been nice.. I forgot to don the tinfoil hat, and I felt out of place. Now i feel the need to disinfect myself after going there.

Keith what do you make of the volume of testing for virus. Seems a blind spot.

The words not her own, but suit the setting. Now ever than more we need the supporting actions. We can't have these words turn into "The year of Delivery" Having said it, she has to own it.

Do you think the virus crisis management would be better served by putting the election back a year?

That's what Trump and his Senators will go for, at least one year then more.

"The year of Delivery" - I don't greatly like Jacinda but this situation is a solid reason for many of her targets not to be met. For example our health budget will change direction from new cancer drugs and mental health professionals to preparing emergency hospitals, training nurses and testing for coronavirus. And that is right.

What we do deserve now is a joint announcement from Simon & Jacinda for the circumstances that would permit a delay of our general election. I was going to say that I'm dying to vote but that might be true.

Re "Year of delivery " targets to be deferred -as farming will probably be the only economic export activity still firing, we should defer anything likely to impact production ie. methane targets, freshwater management and indigenous vegetation national policy statements.

I regard the three-year election cycle as close to sacrosanct and the election should be held even if the global pandemic is still occurring. The only exception would be if NZ society had become totally dysfunctional.
In regard to testing, I was very frustrated to read recently that people with symptoms but not meeting other criteria were unable to secure testing. That told me that the NZ pandemic control systems were dysfunctional with a lack of consideration of alternative scenarios. However, that was no surprise to me, as I have been observing for 2 years and 8 months the challenges that MPI has had in running the Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign. A combination of Fawlty Towers plus Yes Minister plus Murphys Law is what has happened there. So far, we are fortunate that Murphys Law has not applied with COVID-19, but we should not be chancing our luck any further. The shift (just announced) in the operative time for the self-isolation regulations to 1am Monday morning, means that fourteen plane loads arriving in from Australia and Asia in the two hour time slot between 11pm Sunday and 1 am Monday (11 flights to Auckland, 3 to Christchurch) do not have to self-isolate, showing that Fawlty Towers is still in play and we are relying on some further good luck.

Not sacrosanct but arbitary. If we had an out break similar to Italy an election would cost lives and be badly distorted by people being scared to electioneer let alone go to a voting booth. If the leader of the opposition approves of a change then that is good enough for me. However all things being equal I'm looking forward to the next election to see our politicians wriggle about immigration levels, population plan and infrastructure, Chinese donations and their known spies in our midst, climate change and promotion of international flights, etc.

Keith, could you please comment on the following 2 questions:

1. Do you think that Winston Peters was behind Jacinda's 'bold' decision of imposing this lock-down, belated as it is; after all, his political support demographic is older people who are most at risk ?

2. Interesting that you were involved in dealing with Mycoplasma bovis. Do you give any credence to the rumour that Mycoplasma is in any way the result of the industrialization of Dairy farming in Canterbury and Southland (i.e. amalgamation of many adjacent farms into one large unit), and was European Union dairy-farmer subsidy monies used by ex-European Union farmers to purchase these farms ? is China that looks like it will emerge back to at least a semi-normal situation.

We're all going to get back "normal" at some point but China as a whole is definitely not close. This idea that the virus can be eradicated with a six week shutdown is dangerous. South Korea is the closest to returning to normal after an outbreak.
My impression of the situation in China is: The CPP controlled press is worthless, they have many reasons to lie and the best they have done is kept the disease mostly out of a few important regions. The rest of the country is regressing back to full scale Communist rule to try to keep the population under control while the virus spreads.
You might believe otherwise but I believe that the large majority of videos that Jennifer Zeng must have taken during the epidemic at the locations she lists. Faking all the videos or using archive videos is just not plausible.

Doesn't matter Tim52, if it's right or not - No One in NZ govt echelon both either from Lab Co. & specially Nat Co. - willing to defy the bug transfer from China. We need to do business with them, anyway you look at it, only one thing has to happen. China will only allow 'investment'/capital outflow from their country by means of: 1) Ability to buy/procure land/area in the next targeted country 2) The targeted country should allow it's people movement/migration. Without those two factors, guaranteed you won't get any business from China.
The same like Japanese as a nation that defends their nationhood rights to consume Whales for example. You won't be able to stop China 5000years or more of cultural believe to consume exotic animals. So by the time business 'must resume' between NZ/China? the next wave of RNA mutation from there shall be carried by tourists visit, students visit. Next time? the Covid20-22 will have undetectable incubation periods, lay latent/lurking to strike.. in multiple next winter seasons. With no end in sight for the positive inhibitors. The price to pay for humanity, on keeping up quest for wealth & prosperity.

I was not suggesting we start caring about their human rights record now. No one's in a position to do that. I'm saying the country is in such a mess due to COVID19 still being endemic that they won't be paying full price for milk powder anytime soon (and that we could face the same challenges getting rid of the virus here). Their service sector looks dead, only if the CCP panic and need to pacify the population is there going to any normal or above demand from china for food.

The evidence from diverse sources is that COVID-19 transmission is under control in most parts of China, with the exception being Wuhan and possibly some other parts of Hubei. But breakouts are still possible. My networks tell me that intenive monitoring remains in place even in remote villages, but that China is indeed getting back to work. There is no doubt that China is committed to eliminating the virus within their borders and they are confident they can achve this. They will stamp down very hard on any outbreaks secure in the knowledge that this policy works. For them, the notion of slowing down the disease as an alternative to elimination is not an option.

some medical professionals believe that it will resurface in China as soon as they relax controls. What are your thoughts?

I think it may and probaby will resurface but that the Chinese will quickly snuff it out again before it runs away.
They know how to do this.

Ok, I'll trust you. Capital economics' plots suggests they could have roughly half of their production back up guess they could get another quarter up in the next two weeks.

I agree that the key to keeping domestic activity going is an ability to avoid school closures. If we can manage that we will indeed be so much better off. Here's hoping.

Keeping some kind of normalcy is the key. Catastrophizing and end of world illusions are not helping anyone. It's like in a film when someone says "we're all going to die" - panic doesn't help at all.

Was that the sound of the stable door closing?
In the early stages of the travel restrictions, the Ministry of Health admitted in the media that thousands of people had arrived in NZ that should have self-isolated. But they had not registered with Healthline. The MOH were trying to trace those people. Did they? What was the outcome?
10500 people are being reported as being self-isolated so far? How many people have arrived so far with travel histories to countries that have required self-isolation on arrival? Have all of those people registered? Have any checks been done to ensure they are self-isolating?
MOH also advised the media in early March that they had the capacity to conduct hundreds of tests per day. Then why have they been only doing 20-30 tests per day over the past week?

I do not think we are too late to go 'hard and early'. But if we make it through without an explosion of covid cases it will be a close run thing.
We will know relatively quickly. In the next week or two if there is rapid community transmission or not.
I think the PM has bought us time and there is a good chance the health system will not be overwhelmed. Fingers crossed and lets hope everyone is being responsible.

Such a fine line to keep people happy. If she did it last week she would have been laughed at and if it was in a week or so later definitely too late.
I doubt that anyone else would have made that big of a call. She has gone up 3 notches in my book and now at a solid 3 out of 10. Can she go higher, I hope so.

Agree KR it has been timed probably as best as it could have been. Obviously the bureaucracy has decided the health system would soon be overloaded and on its knees. No good at all for any of us, virus or no virus. Shouldn’t politicise it of course, but in the interests of “the corporates” the last lot would have held off longer. This government is acting though with priority for the safety of the people.

One case in Queenstown not official yet. We will get more but slowing down the entry helps a hell of a lot.

great article in support of the govts action and the reasoning behind it,we are lucky they patched up the ailing health system.jacinda said that we are a tough and resourceful people and we will get through this,she should have changed that to some of us will get through this,as many are having a meltdown before it happens.


I wouldn't say Jacinda went "Hard and early" We have gone soft and late.

We are not "Banning" anyone. We are allowing everyone in if they "Self isolate" for 14 days. It also doesn't kick in until midnight tonight. Come in at 23:59 you are deemed healthy. 00:01 you are infected.

Gets better, according to Jacinda, self Isolation:

"Doesn't mean you can't go outside, you can take a walk around the block, but you can't go into public places and places where you're interacting with others."

Does she even know what Isolation means?

She does. Apparently you don't know what Medical Self Isolation means, even after its been explained to you.

It has been explained to me, and that is why I am questioning it. At no point have I seen any other country say, yeah, nah, it's ok to go for a walk around the block.

Some examples
UK: if you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, do not leave your home for 7 days from when your symptoms started (see ending isolation section for more information)

Switzerland: If you have symptoms such as a cough and a high temperature, stay at home and avoid contact with other people as far as possible.

Canada: For the health of your family, friends and community, you need to stay at home. That means do not have visitors and do not go to work or school, public areas, including places of worship, stores, shopping malls and restaurants.

USA: Stay home from work, school, and away from other public places.

The only one there that says not to leave your home is the UK.

Being able to walk around the block and not coming into contact with anyone meets the definition of Switzerland, Canada and USA.

There's a reason they define a "close contact" as being within 1 metre of someone for 15+ minutes. Not walking past someone on the street and being within 1M of them for less than 5 seconds.

- A sneeze or cough will spread the virus. They are unplanned and instantaneous.
- Touching a road crossing button, door/gate, or even a rubbish bin, will all leave the virus for the next person.

I understand the basics of the "Close contact". But in this instance I would say better safe than sorry. There is a reason China, Italy, and South Korea have all had full and complete lockdowns.

Our PM actively saying walking around the block is OK, is just underplaying the severity of this issue.

The PM is taking advice from medical experts, of which you are not one. She is not making this up herself.

Furthermore a big part of getting people to comply with instructions like this is that they need to be bearable. In all sorts of cases where the public are requested to do things, such as conserve water during droughts, conserve electricity or self-isolate themselves during a pandemic, initially the public is fully receptive of the measures, but after 2-3 months people begin to slack off their response and give up. Some people may end up needing to self-isolate themselves 2 or 3 times if they're unlucky.

By saying you must totally isolate yourself from people and you can't even go outside at all for an *incredibly low risk* walk around the block, you help to ensure that people won't self-isolate themselves - perhaps they give up after 12 days, go shopping on the 13th day and infect people.

Furthermore this is self-isolation of *everyone*, not just self-isolation of those showing symptoms or those who have a positive test result. Obviously if you have a positive test result or are showing symptoms then you shouldn't do things like take a walk around the block. But if you're not showing symptoms then you most likely don't have the virus and even if you did you're highly unlikely to pass the virus on to even people who are in close contact with you, let alone people you have fleeting contact with while walking around the block in the open air which prevent sneezes or coughs from hanging around in mostly static air like that found in a building.

In short you're just looking to criticise her about something, not actually reflecting on the reality of the risks involved.

"Obviously if you have a positive test result or are showing symptoms then you shouldn't do things like take a walk around the block."

Well no, PM has said it is OK. That is my critisism.

Please quote where the prime minister has said that if you have a positive test result or are showing symptoms that you are free to go for a walk around the block.

Until you can quote her saying that, you are simply taking things out of context and implying that is what she meant when she answered that question in the context of requiring all arrivals into NZ to self-isolate.

Again looking at the criteria you posted from other countries, those are ALL saying "if you have symptoms or a positive test result". Which is again entirely different from what is being request of people in New Zealand - everyone arriving is to self-isolate, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

As I said, you're simply looking to criticise her.

I understand what you are saying. But at this stage unless admitted to hospital then it is self isolation.

Patient 8, was hospitalised, has now been discharged, and is required to self isolate for 2 weeks (

As per my post above, the PMs definition of self isolation is that a walk around the block is OK. Ergo, patients 1-8 are all actively allowed out in public to "Walk around the block"

Until you can quote her otherwise, I am going by what she has been quoted as saying so far.

"Doesn't mean you can't go outside, you can take a walk around the block, but you can't go into public places and places where you're interacting with others."

Sure, if you want to ignore the entire context under which she was asked that question, go ahead, I can't stop you looking like an idiot online.

I understand the context. But does everyone else? As far as Joe average is concerned, the PM said I can go for a walk on the news, so I will.

You can defend her all you want, but it was a silly statement that she had no need to make.

See above for why she needed to make the statement.

What if i self isolate inside my campervan as i drive the length of NZ, does that qualify.? It is basically staying in my home, but the home has wheels

It's not an official ban but it's pretty much going to stop all but the most determined business and tourist travellers.

Which is fine.

Yes I think it will stop some tourists. But, if we don't enforce a quarantine, then people will simply continue their travels. The salient point to remember is that we have to factor in this level of decision making by visitors. (

We are uniquely positioned to easily stop everyone/anyone.
Personally I would have said that all international flights must land in AKL only. All visitors are then screened, they can then either return immediately or can enter but are quarantined for 14 days (requisition a few hotels near the airport).

Tourist coming to NZ.
1) after landing in NZ, 2 weeks self quarantine - yes I'll pay to spend 2 weeks cooped up in a hotel & not socialise with anyone
2) 1 week holiday
3) fly back home
4) spend 2 weeks at home in self quarantine (potential loss of income if they're in a job where they are unable to work from home - such as retail store, restaurant, plumber, electrician, etc)

Now, how many tourists will be willing to do that?
Very very very few if any.

I know someone who wants to come to NZ, and visit their father who is having a heart operation. With these self quarantine restrictions they would need to take 3 weeks holiday leave to visit their father. Not coming now under these self quarantine rules.

Probably same story for those kiwis who want to travel offshore yet there have been lots of radio adverts from House of Travel today. Good luck.

If you want to go overseas you need to self isolate for 14 days on return. Hence both outbound and inbound tourism is about to die.


As always, intelligent and balanced commentary. One benefit of being small at the bottom of an overpopulated world is that we have only one real link to the outside, Auckland Airport. Easy to cut ourselves off when we need to. Talking of intelligent commentary, the opinion piece by Steven Joyce in the SST was way off the mark. National had Cullen and Clark to thank for the borrowing capacity that got us through the GFC, and National didn’t cover itself in glory re the Chch quakes. Ardern seems a cool head in a crisis, cometh the hour, cometh the (leader). She is much more of a unifier than JK, although I suspect English would have done a good job, too.

Cullen deserves much credit for his fiscal policies.

Good points. I suspect you are right that Bill English would have been a steady hand too.

And Christchurch, and Queenstown. International airports all..... If my aging maths brain is functioning, that just tripled your 'links'.

Let's hope the government are ready to announce a MASSIVE economic package tomorrow

Tuesday. Tomorrow it goes through Cabinet.

Thanks. We'll see what they do. It's going to need to be massive to avoid large scale unemployment.
I hope they have thought all this through properly. They don't have a great track record.

Agreed it needs to be big. Most importantly it needs to tackle first order effects. The immediate effect on jobs and businesses to keep them viable. Hopefully this will prevent a total collapse in confidence.

Then it needs to tackle second order effects. Because this is not a few months of downturn. 2020 will be a write-off. So medium term job creation infrastructure building stuff is needed.

Whether Orr likes it or not he will have to cut interest rates. Unlike post GFC NZinc needs to ensure that low interest rates translates to high building rates of affordable housing not higher house and rent prices. To that end I would give a pipeline of $500m/year to the community housing sector to build affordable rentals and I would boost funding for state house building plus bringing forward plans to support progressive home ownership.

I wasn't impressed with the last infrastructure package. It had a lot of pork barrel politics with some regions like the South Island (which will be hit badly by the tourism shutdown) recieving very little. This needs to be corrected.

Jacinda and Grant need to hit their economic stimulus package out of the park not fluff it like the last infrastructure package.

The key, primary focus has to be all the tourism companies and strongly related areas (eg. hospo, transport) which are going to be devastated over the next 6 months.
There should be no reference to infrastructure projects. That is a separate matter.
There needs to be a lot of direct financial support.
They also need to look at ways to incentivise travel within the country. I don't have ideas on the top of my head, but there must be things that can be done. Could tax obligations be waived on tourism industries for the rest of the financial year?

Income support will be interesting. I, like many other NZers, am self-employed working in areas that are extremely likely to be shut down temporarily. The typical experience for someone like me to receive income support (e.g. an ACC claim) is tortuous and frustrating. Years of financial records have to be produced and it's a better than even probability that the decision of ACC (or W&I) will be extremely unfair.

Even if the government's intention is to provide generous income support the bureaucratic pathway to its distribution could still backfire badly on the government. We all know that the culture of W&I is to crush all applicants like bugs unless they are superannuitants. I really hope that they will not be the conduit for this income support.

Helicopter money via Inland Revenue is, politically, a much safer option.

Jacinda has said it will be larger than the $12B building programme that they announced in January.

It would be wiser to wait and see. My guess is the govt will play favourites declaring some businesses more worthy than others and nobody will match selected economic stimulus with political party donations.

Exporting to China.
Here we are looking to flatten the curve, meaning the virus will spread through our population.
China is looking to stop the virus.

If China change and move to flatten the curve, virus to spread through their population.
It will be like China having the virus twice?

Otherwise then in the future will China stop NZers going there.

Many questions still to be answered:

NZ First's Tracey Martin who is now in self-isolation. Why was she in the USA .....on a junket, or at a useful meeting about "Five Eyes" security? If the latter then what did she achieve that made the trip necessary?

How are we going to police self-isolation? We know that there's a pool of the population out there who can't be trusted to understand such measures let alone voluntarily abide by them e.g. many Samoans and how they succumbed to quack advice during the measles outbreak and consequently lost 80 of their people in their island.

Why, therefore, did Jacinda exclude Pacific Islanders from the lock-down? This seems to have been a political decision which could undermine the effectiveness of her lock-down. We know that there are more than a few Chinese traders that have businesses in the Pacific Islands, so have the Pacific Islands themselves imposed a lock-down on travel into the Islands from China and elsewhere?

It is surprising just how many ministers are out of the country at any given time.

I think this virus will expose the political system as much as the financial system.

Given that the Chinese Government has been telling the population there that milk is a good way to boost their immune systems...

Are they? Does cows milk actually have an immune system boosting property?

The answer to your first question is 'yes'. The suggestion is 300ml per person per day but there is no way that supply could match this demand.
The answer to the second question is more complex. No simple answer to that one.
But for those who have an unbalanced diet then the answer is likely to be 'yes', and at this time that is probably what is of particular concern to Chinese health authorities.

Thanks, Keith :-).

(While this may not actually weaken your system, most adults are more prone to getting colds when they eat dairy foods, since those foods crate congestion by generating lots of mucus, and eating them makes it harder to get over a cold

You got a link for that? Because it reeks of eco warrior soy boy BS

Milk does increse mucus production but this is caused by the A1beta-casein and is unrleated to colds.
It is the reasaon many singers fo not drink milk in the days before a preformance.
The mechanism is well understood (in a scientific sense) but not well understood by the public.

Apparently colostrum does have immune fortifying properties. Milk is nutritious, provided it is free of melamine

How many people died of smoking last month? And drinking? Both put our hospital under immense pressure as well, why have they not band those? If you going hard then go all the way


Killing YOURSELF with smoking or drinking is an individual choice ( pass that Rioja please .. ) .

Trying to keep Covid19 is only something we can only attempt collectively - the govt has every right to intervene.


Smoking and drinking will not steal every ICU bed in the country several times over. Unconstrained Covid will.

Evidence from China is that the COVID fatality rate is about 1% when the medical sector is able to respond to all cases.

When the medical system becomes overloaded the fatality rate goes up to 4-5%. That's why we need to ensure the medical system doesn't become overloaded, and ideally prevent anyone from getting it in the first place.

That is whats happening in Italy, the ability to process the patients was swamped early, so their mortality rate is much higher, over 5% of confirmed cases

That would be the sensible trigger wouldn’t it. How much can our hospitals absorb and manage? No more than now. Righto bang in the bung toute de suite.

Keith - insightful as ever. On a slight aside, any predictions on possible impacts on land sales? Given market turmoil, investors usually rely on gold and land as the 'go to' options - do you think:
1) oversees interest towards investing in NZ land will increase?
2) if demand for dairy products increases, would that encourage investors to look at dairy farms more favourably?

There are restrictions on overseas investment in property.

Yes, but still some overseas investment goes on and not all investors are overseas investors. Approving foreign investment would bring money into the economy.

Investment Visa's and they can also invest in new builds and businesses after approval from the Overseas Investment Office.
If this new call was timely enough to stop the spread we will be a bolt hole that people will flock to be safe and invest their money here.
It's actually a master stroke of an idea and it keeps NZ working, productive and encouraging overseas dollars to flow in.
Time will tell if the call should have been made sooner or it was timely. Fingers crossed.

It might depend on whether those responsible for monetary policy miscue.
My own view is that monetary policy is the wrong medicine and so I have some concerns that monetary policy might lead to stagflation.
Lots of institutional factors also to be taken into account in relation to what will happen to land prices.
In the meantime, I would favour limited fiscal policy that focuses on putting money into the hands of those who lose their jobs and does so with some generosity, and also includes wage assistance to small businesses but with strict criteria. Anything that goes beyond that would seem to involve moral hazard and at a cost to overall society.

Finally, JA following comrade Xingmowang, to follow the strong leadership of dear leader from the East. The only way for NZ to beat Covid19 is to follow BRI/Belt Road Initiatives.. towards the ever increasing common goal..prosperity. Then the whole world shall follow these two leads..Prosperity! - Bring on the next stage of RNA adaptability, Covid20-22 - None of those, shall defeat this common future goal in life - wealth, orderly life of Chinese commonwealth & prosperity. To the Moon, please be ready - you're our next target !

as usual they are way ahead and have been on the moon ,first landing 2009.

Keith it is refreshing to see you pro JA but reading the comments it seems a lot of your regular acolytes dont believe you.

I especially liked your "It is time we stopped hearing the nonsense that COVID-19 outcomes are in any way similar to normal flu." Perhaps the fools like Mark Richardson with their vested interests in the status quo can be relegated to the dustbin of history

Yes, I do support JA on this particular issue. I would have liked to see these actions 10 days ago but better late than never. Also, I suspect that until now the officials were too scared to give the advice that needed to be given.
In regard to the economic decisions that the Government might take, I am very uneasy. I am concerned that a massive stimulus may simply lead to stagflation. I would favour targeted generous assistance to those who are going to lose their jobs, but beyond that I would see a need for red lights.
I also see hostility to China as blinding many people from making evidence-based decisions as to what is actually happening there. At some stage I may write about that, but it is a big topic that might have to wait for some weeks until the time is ripe.

Andrewj: Brilliant video link. Intelligent, common sense comment from ex-UK Health Minister. He identifies Ireland, Denmark, Thailand and Singapore as being examples to follow. They all acted early and hard, consequently very few cases despite Singapore and Thailand being next door to China. Everyone expects Demark, the world example in just about everything, to do well on occasions like this, and Ireland has really come into its own after throwing off the smothering shackles of the Vatican.

"... liked to see these actions 10 days ago but better late than never"

I thought the title of this was 'Jacinda Goes Hard and Jacinda Goes Early" Have you changed your mind on that early part already?

If you read my earlier articles you will see that I have indeed been arguing previously for these actions. But in terms of where public opinion was, and the advice she was apparently getting from health officials, I did think that Jacinda had acted quickly. However, things are now moving so quickly that it is starting to look as if our luck may have run out. The use of wide body jets tonight from Australia to beat the self isolation rules has also changed the probabilities.

Vacillation majorly??
The title says early......

"A passenger on a cruise ship in Akaroa, Canterbury, is being tested for the coronavirus.

Passengers on board the Golden Princess are not being allowed off the ship which arrived in Akaroa Harbour on Sunday morning.

Three passengers on board have been quarantined by the ship's doctor. One of the three has developed symptoms of Covid-19 and is being treated as a suspected case. This person will be tested on Sunday with results expected on Monday."

"Two of the three people isolated have been in contact with a confirmed case in the past 14 days,"

They've come from Melbourne to Milford Sound then around to Dunedin and up to Akaroa. Wonder where the contact with the confirmed case was. Melboure?

Yes Melbourne is about to explode and now we have imported a ship load of problems.
Good luck with how we will deal with this ship even Japan could not cope.
The government is on the back foot.
They should have banned cruise ships when Japan problem started but no we need to keep the tourism operators happy at all costs.
Think about what this ship will cost taxpayers if it explodes onboard.

The government banned cruise ships unloading passengers at 12 midnight last night / this morning, I suspect because they knew about this potential situation already.

So we have nothing to worry about these people getting off at Akaroa, only for what may have already happened in Dunedin.

I suspect this is the reason the cruise ship ban went into affect at midnight last night - because the government had warnings of a potential situation on this cruise ship.

Knowledge that the cruise ships Dr had quarantined passengers. And that the viral ship is steaming to Akaroa puts otherwise heroic decision (and comments) into a different light.

Was it silly not to say at the time or
Was it silly to think the news would not come out.

This cruise ship could be the very ship to replicate the Royal Mail ship Niagara which against all medical advice docked at Auckland in 1918 with many passengers on board afflicted with the 1918 Flu epidemic; the reason being that it had the prime minister and deputy prime-minister of the day on board. Thus, the 1918 Flu epidemic entered NZ with a vengeance, entering and spreading throughout Auckland and then rapidly throughout the country resulting in 9000 deaths from a then smallish population of only about 1 million people.
As Keith is suggesting Jacinda's hard and fast lock-down is turning out to have as many holes in it as a collander: extended deadline of the lockdown; special wide-bodied jets laid on succumbing to clamarous calls from Australia by NZders wanting to beat the deadline; no ban on Pacific Islanders; cruise ships hovering about our ports looking to NZ as a soft touch to take on their problems.

Unfortunately, this is a situation where the few have to be sacrificed, if necessary, to save the many. It's no good Jacinda being hard and fast when her 'nice' actions are leading to exceptions that undermine her initial intention. Jacinda is not made to do 'hard and fast', obviously.

Great article - Maybe we should have started earlier but given the low number of cases at this stage it is understandable.
Full marks for these new controls, lets just all get behind this and focus on our own responsibilites.
Relative to most other countries we are in a better position and there is no reason that we can't control this, being an island is a huge advantage.
The better we handle this know the quicker the economic recovery and International standing we will have.

Seems to me that the government is on back foot.
They cancel Christchurch mosque memorial at the very last minute and on same day announce new border controls.
The government know it is about to explode and are now trying to gloss over it and say we acted with these measures.
I think it is too late and we now just have to accept like all other countries that it will hit hard and fast and we now need to prepare for the worst and lockdown now for 3 weeks now and see who is sick and get back on the front foot otherwise the virus will be much worse in our winter months to control and recover.

Only history will tell if Arderns hesitancy cost us dearly but I’m relieved she has finally made a tougher call than I’d expected of her hands off leadership style. In respect of a large majority of native NZrs we can now only hope our connectedness, innate common sense and good hygiene coaching of school kids will contain this thing. I do worry though about how well the prevention message is being conveyed to often more isolated recent migrants to NZ.

She left canceling the Christchurch memorial to the last minute, she would have wanted the photo-op that it would have given her in an election year.

Pasifika and massacre memorial particularly important for her. The latter because her and Angry Andy wanted to rekindle outrage to stoke support for their proposed draconian hate speech laws.

Self isolating is a joke...they can't even monitor prisoners that have ankle bracelets on or people that have had protection orders issued against them.
If i read it correctly Pacific Islanders don't have to self isolate.Why?
Can't they get the virus?.

I would think that the pacific islanders are at much higher risk.

Indeed. But there are going to be 'spot checks' on isolaters. Volunteers, anyone? Hello, anyone? Say something, anything, anyone.....Perhaps the checkers' Union can wheedle some Danger Munny out of the always-capacious Magic Money Tree....

Hard? She's left the Pacific Islands as a convenient backdoor. Those returning or arriving from there are more likely to be living in crowded conditions locally, so the whole thing sounds like a huge vector for disease spread.

There are more Kiwis living in Australia than there are in the Islands, and Australia hasn't been exempted, so i can only assume she has one eye on the South Auckland vote in September.

Because the Pacific Islands have even more strict travel restrictions than we do.

At this stage the islands are Covid free and many have banned all inbound travel.

It is highly unlikely a PI visitor will bring Covid into NZ.

Australia on the other hand is riddled with it, and we already have one confirmed case coming from Aus.

Why do people see political conspiracy's everywhere. Honestly, now it not the time for partisian hacks launching baseless attacks. Maybe... just putting it out there these rules are actually based on risk and facts - such as Australia now being riddled with the virus and the pacific islands not so.

That and it's fruit picking season which we mainly rely on islanders to do cos the kiwis sure don't do it.

For those with a dark sense of humour, here's the shortest horror movie of all time #caronavirus

With all due respect to Mr Woodford, who in his own words planned some weeks ago (whether before travelling or after) to self isolate, will now embark on a long haul return commercial flight returning to New Zealand . Doing so, he and his wife will place others at risk,of which the list is long, and that should be the primary concern , particularly given he was aware of the situation and still decided to go on vacation. As a former surgeon and Hospital Director , New Zealand should be prepared for the worst case scenario . WHO declared a PHEIC on January 30, six weeks ago, New Zealand as a island nation should have reacted far sooner, if it was going to act decisively. In the last few hours Saudi Arabia , Kuwait and Poland have stopped all international flights, perhaps New Zealand should do the same , to protect those currently in New Zealand .

I think we have all been surprised by the speed at which the situation has developed. Events of the last two weeks indicate very strongly that the infectivity rate of the virus is considerably greater than was previously recognised. Some of us knew that it was coming but I know of no-one who identified, until very recently, that the true 'R nought' for this viral disease is very high.
In terms of my own situation, I and my wife are at a very low risk of currently being infected because there is no evidence of COVID-19 in the region where we are and also we are socialy distanced from other people. If we do have the misfortune to be infected on the plane flight back to NZ (statistically unlikely but definitely possible from high risk co-passengers) then we ourselves will not be infective to other people at the time of our arrival. That risk occurs somewhat later and we will be in strict self-isolation. Nevertheless, we will be driving ourselves to our home in a car left for us at the airport so as to avoid other people even at that pre-infective stage. The big risk for NZ is from people who are not self-isolating, with today's case from Denmark being a classic example. There are this evening several thousand people flying into NZ in specially laid-on wide body jets with the express purpose of beating the need to self-isolate. Amongst all of those people there is a high chance that one or more will be infected. Allowing all of those people to return without self-isolation is a huge mistake.

Keith, I appreciate your reply and truly hope that yourself and wife return safely and with minimal fuss. I appreciate that you will self isolate on return, whether 14 is the golden number may be debatable for a virus which is simply not fully understood at present. How you traverse airports , stopovers and planes with any certainty of avoiding infection (or spreading) is not for me to draw possible outcomes. As someone whose first career started in the latter part of the 1980's my risks, as were many others ,were of contracting Hep C or HIV thru an unfortunate work related incident. Complacency could never be tolerated, yet on occasion mishap occurred. Being tested repeatedly , whether routinely or for mishap or misfortune or indeed simply for work and study options overseas was never pleasant whilst waiting the results. Unfortunately, if either your wife or yourself ( or indeed anyone else ) were to develop symptoms, there is a significant group of front line individuals who are subsequently placed at risk , possibly needlessly to enable an individuals treatment and recovery.

Breaking News: Sick traveller removed from Emirates flight at Auckland Airport

looks like we have 8 official now.

Was one of those in Q'town?

Came in via AKL, transitted to CHC then rental car to ZQN

we left the borders open to long to save jobs in the tourist industry

Every action at the moment seems excessive to the ignorant majority, and will appear totally inadequate to everyone in retrospect. This is too late, and weak. Only enforced proper quarantine will be effective, and having dithered with near as damn to zero testing we are now certainly on a trajectory to requiring universal quarantine in a few weeks - just like every other country.

From there on we have to maintain strict self isolation measures to stop spread beyond capacity of hospitals to deal with it until there is a vaccine. Likely for 1-2 years. It will be incredibly expensive. If hospitals are overwhelmed then 5-10% of infected die (as in Italy).

Only other (and it's brutal) option is to gradually deliberately infect all younger people up to about age 50 over next few months keeping number to level where hospitals can cope. It kills 0.1-0.2%, a few 1000, with minimum strain on hsopitals, but once that 60-70% of population have immunity we will have established herd immunity and can get back to life as usual.

That seems to be roughly the UK policy. And when I think of my elderly self surrounded by my grandchildren and their young adult parents it all seems OK - just so long as I can manage to avoid then during the times when they have their infection. But then I think of my social life: a gardening group average age over 65, yoga and pilates and senior activity at the local liesure centre - all three average age over 55. So the country in terms of children and workers will be safe when the virus is over but the retired will still be at high risk. Bring on a vaccine please.

The virus is nature fighting back against Boomer pillage.

JA on 24/2 in response to Duncan Garner said
''No one is proposing for a moment that NZ close its border.I don't think that would be the way to manage this''
It would appear that possibly that closing the border is the only way to manage this imo.
It is here so don't allow anymore in.

we are an island of course we could close our borders, we only have Queenstown, christchurch, wellington and Auckland that receive international flights
you could cut that back to christchurch and Auckland to manage better, suspend all incoming visa's with special exemptions granted from wellington.
air NZ would need to be bailed out but that would be cheaper than the health costs.
cargo ships would require all sailors to stay onboard whilst in NZ and the shore staff that go onboard need to wear gloves and masks with full decontamination when they come off and be tested daily

Everyone who arrives from tonight should have one of their fingers dipped in indelible election ink. Then we can easily identify people who should be self-isolating. At least for the first few days.

I just want Jacinda to go.

MAGA make Ardern go away

And I suppose you'd do a better job?

I think most MP's would do a better job than Ardern at leadership. She's the emoter in chief, the friendly face. Not a leader.

Covid 19 would be a wonderful weapon in the hands of those bent on terrorist activities. Current airport security checks outbound travellers for bombs, weapons etc before they get on a plane, but snotty noses and dirty hankies fly under the radar. Perhaps airport authorities should run a health check as part of security procedures. This virus is now the third major bio-security incursion alongside PSA and m.bovis that NZ has suffered in the last few years. About time we tightened our border procedures, or changed our self appellation to ………, green and a bit less dirty than the rest of the world.

Scotty from marketing is currently copying JA's decisions on Sky Ch 85 atm. He is probably pissed that lil ol NZ has forced his hand early as he had a big thoughts and prayers session planned this Sunday.

Where did this 'toughest in the world' lark come from from? Other countries have gone for total bans. Others, like Australia, has banned travel from specific countries. We're just telling people to self-isolate. Once again, JA says something and the media breathlessly report something without even stopping to do the bare minimum of fact-checking.

Yeah, the media in this country is crap at holding governments to account. They just repeated everything Key, Joyce, Bennet and English told them too.

I don’t remember so many soft focus, head resolutely tilted, staunchly leading from the front heroic photos of those guys though - no less than four in one Stuff article today. Perhaps readers attention spans have degraded since the last government.

Definitely no photos of Key being a heroic leader during the quakes at all. No siree.

I think perhaps YOU had a short attention span during the last government, or just a bad memory.

Funny that, as someone up to my neck in the CHCH quakes including a lot of time spent in the red zones I recall a dude down there calling himself John Key from Wellington who was taking a close interest in what we were doing. You seem very sure it wouldn’t have been him so perhaps a doppelgänger or, more likely, the MSM decided photos of key at ground zero didn’t align with their narrative.

I know this is facetious whatabouttery, but it's true. Eventually they stopped doing it and didn't leave things alone. I can think of Nick Smith being one, as well as certain sheep exports.

The problem is neither Key, Joyce or Bennett mad such wide-ranging and election-tilting promises as JA and Labour, only to not follow through on many of them or just ignore them when they failed to deliver. If a company did such a thing, we'd see stories on about the CGA and bait-and-switch. But add the name compassionate to stuff and give a few speeches about kindness and you're basically invincible.

"ASOLUTELY NO CHECKS AT AUCKLAND AIRPORT. NOTHING! says incoming passenger from Hong Kong today. (NZ Herald website - Sunday 15 March)

Jacinda Ardern is (as usual) just virtue signalling. The truth is there are few checks at the airport, our borders are not closed (self isolation is not closed borders), and she had several weeks to get a plan together. Some of us who have been following things from the start in China, knew it was coming, stocked up weeks ago, prepped in various ways....whats wrong with her? And WE ARE NOT TESTING so the stats are worth zero. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of positive carriers right now. But if you havnlt shaken hands with a traveller, you are not tested. Its nuts.

At least two travellers have over the weekend have demonstrated they don’t give a stuff about the transmission risk to kiwis. And all we get from the govt is that they ‘are disappointed’. Well, that will send the right ‘we are going early and going tough’ message, eh.

Good article on economic impact:
Tony A says house prices will 'flatline' in the main centres, and fall in tourist towns:

Thought Auck and Chch were already flat line? How flat can a flat line be?

If the arch-spuiker charlatan Tony A says they will flatline it's really dire.

This "self isolation" policy is extremely high risk and fraught.

Check "Patient 31" and South Korea - this is what can and may happen.

I am very concerned - close the borders now to only returning self isolating NZ'ers at minimum - or a step further if necessary, stop all international flights and seaboard arrivals period.

Drastic I know - and the economic consequences are brutal - this I also understand and know - a very emotive issue obviously - but this virus doesn't care - and our hospitals simply won't cope - too many good people may well unnecessarily die.

Look to Australia for contrast
Sky news
Contrast in media interpretation and analysis of crisis management.

As soon as China releases the lockdown, this will just take off again there. They have just decided to sacrifice millions of lives instead of sacrificing their economy and markets share which likely would have also cost many lives.

'Lockdown' has started. Its 5.45am, there are 7 arrivals on the board. People swarming out of the airport. Young people with backpacks included. This is a joke. All talk no action.

After being through earthquakes..normal process will be shock...denial...anger. This time though the whole NZ will be impacted and you will see first difference in promises from government to actual complete incompatance and red tape...good luck everyone

Good article - the key will be getting people to follow the rules on isolation and hygiene. At times like this there should be no politics its about getting everyone through and having the least amount of social damage. Government debt will be up but we will have to face this afterwards and maybe all then help pay it off to get the next crisis fund ready. I agree the greatest irony will be that 2 weeks ago trading with China was bad - in 2 weeks time it will be our salvation - our business is already seeing that - slow start but its starting and with all this money being pumped my guess is by 3rd/4th quarter it will be rolling