This is a response to the criticism of the government regarding its handling of the COVID19 pandemic written by Luke Malpass, the Political Editor at Stuff and published on April 4, 20201. The title of Malpass’ opinion piece is “Coronavirus: Health is important, but it cannot be the Government's only aim” suggesting that the pandemic is the government’s only concern. This is snide.
Malpass criticises the government’s handling of the pandemic suggesting that perhaps the Australian approach of less stringency might be preferred and then, in the same breath pointed out that at a time when the world’s infection and death toll rates stood at 900,306 and 45,693, respectively, New Zealand’s was only 868 with just one death. The death rate for the world at large, is currently 5.4%. At the present time New Zealand’s is just 0.10% and the death rate in Australia is running at around 0.54% (5 times higher than the rate for New Zealand). Surely, these figures speak for themselves, and in that regard the government should be congratulated on its handing of the pandemic. Well done I say, not only to the government, but to all the front line nurses and doctors fighting to save New Zealand lives.
The next question that must be considered is, who would be willing to sacrifice a loved one for an improved national economy? Malpass seems to have been influenced by the trumpeting of President Trump who, earlier on, was more concerned about the US economy that the fact that thousands of his people were dying of the disease. The suggestion by Malpass that a 0.54% death rate is somehow comparable to New Zealand’s 0.10% death rate speaks to someone untouched by sentiment and unable to comprehend that when loved ones die it is not only the family but a community that suffers.
My concern is that COVID19 is not an equal opportunity virus. Variations in death rates from around the world indicate that the virus does not infect everybody equally as easily and nor does it kill its victims with equal grace and efficiency. Death from the virus depends on a number of factors including preexisting conditions, resource allocations, and access to testing. Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity are comorbidities that make their bearers especially vulnerable to the disease. These preexisting health conditions related to race and poverty indicate that Māori as a group could suffer the most should the disease get out of hand. As Māori, we must move to prevent this possibility by following the government guidelines given to us to prevent infection. As a susceptible target infection with the virus could have disastrous consequences for our people.
Finally, the seriousness of this disease cannot be over emphasized, and for anybody to suggest that the economy is more important than the people is nonsensical. Without people there is no economy. Clearly, people must take top priority at this time; economies rise and fall but there is no return from death. At this time we must be governed by the Precautionary Principle, that simply says that it is better to err on the side of caution than to do something really dangerous such as allowing a killer virus loose amongst us.