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One of the keys to New Zealand’s success in keeping Covid-19 at bay has been trust in our political leaders.
We might be somewhat slack and complacent on the likes of QR scanning and thorough hand washing. However, most people have bought into the Government’s big decisions on lockdowns and changing alert levels.
Thus, it is with the decisions this week both to increase levels and, after three days, lower them. Both calls have received widespread backing.
Naturally, unanimity among experts is absent, especially because the understanding of Covid develops and shifts. Naturally, there can and should be criticism and questioning.
In this, the media is vital, giving voice to coherent criticism and providing amplification to alternative expert views. This keeps the Government under healthy pressure to work through its policies vigorously and to defend them publicly.
The Government cannot just tell us what to do. It must outline, under scrutiny, the whys and wherefores.
We have now found ourselves in that rare place where, largely, we trust our political masters to make the right calls for us and the country.
We know they are led by the science and the epidemiologists but are also, as politicians, aware of the complexities of the behaviour and mentalities of those who elect them. It is they who are responsible for making the difficult line calls.
Modestly, Auckland University’s Siouxsie Wiles on Wednesday said how tough it was to decide on alert levels and how pleased she was she did not have to make the ultimate call.
No doubt, the decision to lower levels again was closely debated.
Several of the experts believe the change was too rapid when the source of the community cases is still unknown.
But when is an abundance of caution being overcautious? While there will always be some risk, life must go on. Where is that risk line being drawn? How much account should be taken of the sciences of human behaviour as well as the data modellers?
Only a tiny minority has, unlike in the United States, bought into conspiracy theories about the virus and defiantly flouted the rules.
This is remarkable because of the nature of politicians and politics.
It is easy to be cynical because they are constantly calculating the public mood. What they say is coloured and often driven by what will win and keep them in power.
Former prime minister Robert Muldoon was unabashed in his approach of giving people what he believed they wanted. It was hard to find any other underlay of principle. New Zealand First’s Winston Peters seems of similar ilk.
Many others cloak their policies in high-sounding words and purpose when underneath their goal is the same.
The effects on the decision-making of the most conscientious politician can be affected insidiously by the political imperative.
Might this week’s Auckland restrictions have been subtlety encouraged by the fact it is known most voters back the safety-first approach?
Might a factor in its ending have been the number of big and popular events, including the America’s Cup, increasingly being curtailed?
It is certainly a huge relief in the South to see the way ahead for the national rowing championships, the A&P shows, Challenge Wanaka, the cricket and rugby in Dunedin next week and student orientation events.
We are fortunate we can treat our politicians with a degree of trust, especially in the present predicament. The support, nevertheless, including for those at present in the ascendancy, should remain tinged with an injection of healthy scepticism and a dose of questioning.