On the (alert) level

Those in the South will have been counting the sleeps until 11.59pm tomorrow when we change to Covid-19 Alert Level 3.

Sometimes referred to as "Level 4 with takeaways", the shift in levels has not met with universal acclaim, particularly by some businesses severely affected by the sudden severe lockdown and which would have preferred a more rapid shift to Level 2.

For parents coping with children at home while they may be trying to work at home too, the shift to Level 3 may not change their lives much either.

Some may also have hoped that any change would have occurred more swiftly, given there have been no community cases in the South Island.

However, the Government has been right to be cautious on this, allowing for a full 14-day infection cycle to hopefully ensure, as Associate Prof Siouxsie Wiles put it, the edges of the outbreak have been identified and that it is confined to the Auckland region.

As she pointed out, the time lag between people being infectious, developing symptoms and getting tested can make people feel overconfident the outbreak has been contained when there are still one or two loose ends.

Move alert levels too fast and it would be a few weeks before that would be clear and we might need to move back up the alert scale again.

Yo-yoing levels are something the Government has understandably tried to avoid.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if the Government had made the decision for the full 14-day Level 4 lockdown earlier, maybe it might have avoided some criticism.

As last week went on, there was increasing anticipation and enthusiasm for a possible level change announcement for areas south of Auckland, and perhaps some thought it might come by the weekend.

When we do move alert levels, it will be vital that the movement of people between differing alert level areas is well managed, and that we will be able to move further down the levels as soon as that is considered safe.

And another thing

Last week there was extensive media coverage of a July vaccination incident at the Highbrook vaccination centre in Auckland.

At the end of a day when 732 vaccinations were administered, reconciliation showed the vaccinators had an extra vial left over.

Typically, vaccinators get five doses out of a vial, but can get up to seven. It has been suggested it could be that extra doses from the vials were not recorded properly or that five people may have been given saline solution.

It has been concerning the emphasis seems to have been on the latter when, at this point, as we understand it, the full analysis of what happened has not been completed.

As Dr Rawiri Jansen, co-leader of Te Ropu Whakauruta, the national Maori pandemic group, says, "let’s science the heck out of this", including how it might be resolved if it is established some have not received doses.

Not knowing what had happened, however, did not excuse the ministry failing to notify those possibly affected by the incident until some six weeks after it occurred.

We can understand the ministry might be worried news of any vaccination errors might put off those hesitant about vaccination. This is wrong-headed. Anything which might have even the whiff of a cover-up is likely to be even more concerning to the public.

Most people are capable of understanding that in any undertaking as large as this there will be errors. Owning up to them promptly to those involved, and telling all of us how they will be avoided in future, is the best strategy.

In this instance the ministry had to be reminded by Health and Disability Commissioner Morag McDowell about consumers’ rights to open disclosure.

This was not a good look. We trust this message has been heard loud and clear.


It's really only level 4 lite.

That's good. Auckland is the engine room, they've done it tough.

More to the country than Auckland...