A recognition of reality must have finally planted itself somewhere in New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s brain earlier this month. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has led her country through this ordeal with an approach that has garnered copious amounts of praise, particularly amongst left-leaning media outlets. Her goal has been simple: stop all COVID-19 infections within New Zealand’s borders. Full stop. Read that again, and really let it sink in: the New Zealand approach, since early 2020, has been to eliminate transmission of a highly contagious respiratory pathogen completely. Not to decrease it, but to end it. Imagine if one said, “this year, we will stop the common cold from spreading, entirely,” and then enacted draconian policies off and on for well over a year aimed towards accomplishing that goal. It sounds like fanciful mental illness.
Finally, and seemingly to the surprise of the public health officials who advised her to go down this primrose path in the first place, she is throwing in the towel on her ambitious COVID-19 agenda. In early October, with new cases at a plateau for weeks, she finally admitted that “For this [Delta variant] outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions [have] not got us to zero cases.”
Ardern has until now exerted dictatorial-level control over the movements of those in her country. That is not hyperbole, not in the slightest. In August, when New Zealand reported its first new case of COVID-19 in six months, she threw the entire country into a strict lockdown. At the time, she said, “I ask New Zealanders to please follow the [lockdown] rules to the letter. We know from evidence overseas that the Delta variant can spread just by walking past someone.” Implicit within that line of thinking is that in order to be safe, one must remain completely isolated from humanity.
Imagine having that much mind power over an entire country! Honestly, what type of person (or perhaps psychopath) would even want it? As effortlessly as flipping a light switch, 5 million people were instantly confined to quarters until further notice. And after 8 weeks of a less intense (level 3) lockdown in Auckland, the populace has grown restless, as one would predict. Protesters have begun to voice concern about the dire situation they find themselves in. As it turns out, some people don’t like to be treated like cattle in stalls. Maybe increasing dissent from the over-governed population there has played a role in the decision to roll-back the zero COVID policy fiasco.
While the seeds of rational thinking have clearly been planted, folks living in Auckland shouldn’t expect normal life to resume instantly. The lockdown there will reportedly last until full vaccination rates reach 90 percent. To that end, the government sponsored a vaccine-o-rama of sorts this past Saturday, and successfully vaccinated 2.5 percent of the country’s population on that day. That is a truly impressive feat, to give credit where it is due.
Some of the scientists who hold the prime minister’s ear seem less than pleased with this new plan to let the cows roam freely in the fields. An op-ed signed by some of New Zealand’s prominent scientists scoffed that “… those who argue that Covid-19 will become endemic and part of our lives either do not understand or ignore what this would actually mean.” They even go on to seriously claim that “[New Zealand] certainly cannot live with endemic Sars-CoV-2.”
What ridiculous statements these are! It really does give some insight though into the brain trust that has propelled Jacinda Ardern straight up the dictatorial promotion ladder. How exactly could this line of thinking be compatible with reality? Pertaining to the Delta variant, we now know that while vaccines provide good protection from hospitalization and death, spread is still possible to some extent. Hopefully vaccination efforts will limit spread enough to keep COVID-19 from becoming endemic, but it’s not a certainty at this point. There are also a wide range of scientific publications that have documented what common sense and over 100 years of virology knowledge have predicted from day one: natural (post-infection) immunity to COVID-19 is robust and strong. Some authors even suggest it is superior to vaccine-induced immunity, despite the media black out of this topic. But one can’t expect herd immunity to develop in this way either if people are not allowed to be around other individuals. So, it begs the question, what exactly is the end game? Should citizens in New Zealand be forced to stay at home forever? The medical community is not certain how the COVID saga will end. One possibility is that the virus will, in fact, become endemic in some form. We may have to live with it. I am still very hopeful that will not be the case, but I’m open to whatever reality demands of me.
I encourage world leaders to be open to it as well. The truth, which I desperately hope the entire world will finally accept, is that a so-called “zero COVID” strategy eventually demands that the subjects in the experiment give up everything for nothing. They give up their jobs, their family gatherings, their friends, the happy parts of life, essentially … all for a goal that cannot be accomplished. If human life is to be reduced to that of an animal in a cage, then the intended public health goal better at least damned well be possible. With COVID, in this context, it’s not. And to her credit, Jacinda Ardern, one of the last hold-outs on “zero-COVID” has apparently come to that conclusion. Periodic lockdown policies have plagued the countries of the world since this all started, to varying degrees. Shamefully, we even allowed this type of human rights abuse to occur in our own beloved United States during the early days of the pandemic. Never again I say! And as the last few hold-outs in the world give up on their control-fantasy of zero COVID, we simply can never let them forget how epically they failed this reality test.
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