British Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has phoned Foreign Minister Winton Peters making a plea for the New Zealand Government to enable possibly 6500 British people stranded in the country because of the covid-19 lockdown to leave.
Raab tweeted yesterday: “International cooperation is crucial in tackling covid-19 and its impacts. Winston Peters and I today discussed how we will work very closely together to support Brits in NZ & Kiwis in UK return home swiftly.”
However the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke then posted a video to the High Commission’s Twitter account which suggested the phone call had got nowhere.
“The New Zealand government’s level for covid-19 guidance is now absolutely clear in limiting domestic flights and transport to essential workers only,” she said.
“So that means that if you’re not close to your departure airport, you’re going to struggle to get on an international flight home.
She said the New Zealand government had also put a pause on all repatriation or charter flights until at least the thirty-first of March.
“Now, we know this makes things really difficult and we’re working hard to find a way through,” she said.
“We’re working closely with the New Zealand authorities to find out how people are going to be able to get to airports in a way that is compliant with New Zealand’s covid-19 guidance.
“And that was one of the things that our foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, discussed with New Zealand’s foreign minister, Winston Peters this morning.
“I should be clear, though, that there aren’t going to be immediate fixes to that.
“It will take at least until the end of March and possibly longer.”
The UKinNZ Twitter account says that the UK consulate has established there are flights back to the UK at £7000 ($NZ14,435).
In a statement late last night, Peter said: “New Zealand is learning from international experience on COVID-19.
“Discussions with my counterparts like UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, play an integral role in ensuring New Zealand has a full picture on what is happening around the world.”
“The UK is dealing with a very similar set of issues, and we have a shared determination to keep our people safe and healthy.
“These are new circumstances that are requiring tough calls.
“Cooperation with our closest partners is a key component of New Zealand’s response.”
That, of course, said nothing. Clarke’s comments suggest that there was little progress made during the call.
But the plight of the British is just one of many examples of how the covid-19 lockdown is now moving into managing the detail and fine print of the lockdown.
Though one person was revealed to have died from the virus yesterday, there was better news with the rate of growth of the number of cases slowing over the weekend.
The daily increase (on a percentage basis) has steadily declined over the past week.
Those figures were significant enough for the Associate Dean (Pacific) of the University of Auckland Medical School, Colin Tukuitonga to tweet: “Sustained rate of increase from 19/13 then slowing from 27/3 … A real trend?”
Tukuitonga is a former Ministry of Health Director of Public health.
However, the Prime Minister was cautioning against optimism yesterday.
“We’ve had a discussion over what our case numbers might be telling us at present, and none of us is willing to draw any conclusions at this early stage,” she told a press conference yesterday.
“So, of course, we must remember that there is a considerable lag time in any of our results.
“So that’s one important thing to keep in mind.
“So we all need to be vigilant.
“No one can be complacent, and no one is willing to draw any conclusions yet.”
Midnight last night marked only the 96th hour of the 2592 hours of lockdown required before it theoretically ends on at 11.59 p.m. on April 22.
It’s already clear that the lockdown is provoking irritation and also unforeseen holdups and irritations right through the economy.
It appears to be now impacting the country’s vital dairy and meat exports.
POLITIK has learned that supplies of cattle feed supplement, palm kernel, are now running low.
The “PK” – as it is known – is critical for supplementary feed for cows in drought-hit areas of the country as we go into winter.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor confirmed yesterday that he had heard supplies were tight.
It is believed the supply shortage is because of the general contraction of supply chains internationally.
There are also problems in meatworks compounded by the apparent diagnosis of a meatworker at one North Island works with covid-19.
O’Connor confirmed that meatworks are now slowing their chains to accommodate the isolation requirement to keep workers two metres apart. That means lower throughput.
That will be a blow to the economy.
According to StatsNZ provisional figures, meat exports have been holding up through the first through weeks of the covid-19 pandemic.
But there are other problems.
Supplies of PPE (personal protection equipment) for medical staff are still limited.
Home support workers say they are scared to go to work because, without adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, they risk spreading Covid-19 to their clients.
“Our union represents workers across the health and disability sector including community support workers, and we have been flooded with messages from them,” said Kerry Davies, National Secretary of the PSA.
Home support workers travel from house to house to provide personal and intimate care to older or disabled New Zealanders. Their clients are often unwell with chronic conditions and compromised health, and may visit over a dozen different homes every day.
“Workers across New Zealand have reported difficulty in accessing equipment such as gloves, aprons and masks,” said Davies.
“The PSA has met repeatedly with government officials, advocating for the urgent provision of PPE to essential workers and for the Ministry of Health to provide specific guidelines for home support workers.
“Some clients are already refusing to allow workers to visit them, and some workers have already had to resign out of concern for their safety.
“This cannot be allowed to continue, or there will be devastating consequences,” said Davies.
Asked about this at yesetrday’s press conference, the Director-General of Health Ashely Bloomfield said there was very good advice on the Covid-19 and the Ministry of Health website around what PPE people should be used in different clinical or care situations depending on what the status of the person is that they are caring for.
“One of the areas I know there is a lot of interest in is the use of masks, and people see that as a sort of fundamental part of PPE,” he said.
“At the moment, that guidance is that in most situations, workers, either health workers in a healthcare setting or home and community support workers, don’t need to use masks.
“We have this under constant review, and I’ve asked my clinical team.
“It’s the best advice we have at the moment—just to have a look and see what other countries are doing to make sure we’re on top of the evidence there—and we’ll update the advice if there’s any additional or new emerging evidence.”
There were also issues yesterday about butchers’ shops; particularly halal shops.
Currently, they are not allowed to open; meat may be sold only by supermarkets.
But the Prime Minister said yesterday “a team” was now looking at this.
“We have had a team looking at ways that we can ensure the ongoing access to halal while still maintaining our goal of having as few people who are in contact with one another through being in the workforce as possible,” she said.
“So it is something we’re aware of, and we are working on.
“There have been questions over whether or not there’s a way to maintain halal certification while still making it available within a supermarket environment.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition is preparing for the meeting of the Covid-19 Response Committee on Tuesday with ACT MP, David Seymour, asking supporters for questions to ask at the committee.
“The questions could be about the COVID-19 testing criteria, the wage subsidy package, or how Police are enforcing the lockdown,’ said Seymour.
And that would seem to be the way it will go; the covid-19 lockdown is now impacting every aspect of New Zealand society — and politics.