Covid Watch is the home of the latest Covid-19 news from New Zealand and around the world, with the conversations Newstalk ZB is having with all the newsmakers and experts to keep you informed.
Francesca Rudkin: I’m kind of counting on going to level 3 this week
Tomorrow Cabinet faces probably the toughest decision they‘ve had to make since the country entered a lockdown in August. Does Auckland stay at Alert Level 4, or move to Level 3?
I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the week and for those in Auckland, this week - week 5, was the week people just gave up.
They’ve given up on home schooling (if they’re persevering they’ve at least given up pretending working from home is a breeze), they’ve given up getting dressed up for their Wear a Wig zoom meeting, they’ve given up trying to keep some semblance of order in the house.
Day 32 and Lockdown Fatigue has well and truly descended on Auckland.
It’s no surprise. 18 months into this pandemic and we all know it’s perfectly common to feel exhausted, flat, as if we are languishing, impatient, lonely, and lack motivation.
So how much should lockdown fatigue play in the government’s decision tomorrow? University of Auckland professor and Covid modelling expert Shaun Hendy mentioned on Friday that lockdown fatigue may necessitate an alert level shift in Auckland next week. Cabinet’s challenge will be balancing the risk of further transmissions at a lower level against the consequences of Auckland remaining in a level 4 lockdown.
There isn’t an Aucklander out there that doesn’t want to move to Level 3 on Tuesday night. But the only thing worse than staying in Level 4 this Wednesday would be moving to Level 3 and yo-yoing a week or two later back to Level 4 because of an increase in community transmission. It would be devastating.
Aside from a few outliers who think it’s okay to go to Taupo, Wanaka, Mt Ruapehu or for a quick Macca’s run over the border, most of us are following the rules (whether we like them or not) and getting vaccinated and tested if need be.
We’re done our best for our families and communities until now. But the government needs us all to continue to hold it together until our vaccination rate is higher, so in the interests of minimising dissent and maximising compliance I think they do need to weigh our fatigue in their decision.
But not before we consider issues like how many cases of concern are not linked to people known to have the virus, and the economic cost to people’s lives.
It’s been an incredibly rough ride for small and medium sized business, and industries such as hospitality and tourism. Too many business owners have spent the last month calculating whether this lockdown will be the end of their businesses.
So yes, I’m kind of counting on going to level 3 this week. Not so much for me, but for all those doing their best to keep businesses alive and people employed.
Michael Baker: Why Cabinet need to consider lockdown fatigue before deciding to extend the alert level
Community cases jumped to 20 yesterday, but only one of those is unlinked.
The Ministry of Health says fluctuations at this stage of the outbreak are perfectly normal.
Tomorrow Cabinet will decide if Auckland will shift to level 3.
One of the concerns if Auckland remains in level 4 is lockdown fatigue: the mental health and economic impacts as well as the likelihood that people will no longer follow the level 4 rules.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker says lockdown fatigue is something Cabinet should consider when looking at whether they extend the lockdown.
Kevin Milne: Embracing lockdown laziness
Kevin Milne's been letting things slide - he's embracing his lazy side in lockdown.Kev's been speaking to Jack Tame.LISTEN ABOVE
Jack Tame: The most important week in our Covid response
I got up early, drove out to the airport, and joined the lines of cars slowly crawling between the big marquees.
It was simple. It was fast. The staff were friendly and efficient. It felt oddly momentous. Significant. A bit like I feel when I cast a ballot on election day. One day I’ll tell my kids about the time I first got vaccinated for Covid-19. That’s the thing. We don’t just get vaccinated to protect ourselves. My jab wasn’t just for me. It was for older people who might be more susceptible to the virus. It was for the kids who aren’t yet eligible for the jab. It was for my nephew, Ren, and my niece, Elsie. It was for my colleagues. My friends. Anyone and everyone with a compromised immune system. My jab was for all of us.This is going to be one of the most important weeks in the history of our Covid-19 response. And not just because of Cabinet’s lockdown decision. This is one of the most important weeks because we’re at the point in the pandemic response where we’ve reached our absolute lowest barriers to vaccination. Our vaccination numbers over the next few days will give us the clearest insight yet about the levels of vaccine hesitancy in New Zealand, and our chances of reaching an 85% or 90% vaccination rate for the population. Think about it. As of today, anyone over the age of twelve can be vaccinated. For free. The safety and efficacy of the vaccines have been publicised widely for months. You don’t need a booking. You don’t even really have to queue. There are drive-in centres operating and mobile vaccines buses doing the rounds. With shipments from Spain and Denmark, we have absolutely no concerns about supplies of the Pfizer vaccine. Everyone in every part of the country has had a good taste of lockdown, so I don’t think the pandemic or the vaccination program will come as breaking news. You would hope that even the hardest workers or busiest parents, or people with mobility issues might have been able to work out how to get a jab. Of course, there will always be a few exceptions and people in tiny little remote places for whom access is incredibly difficult. But if eligible New Zealanders haven’t received at least one jab by the end of this week, what more can we do? In short: if not now, when?As for lockdowns, I don’t know what the powers-that-be will decide on Monday but it looks pretty likely Auckland will be moving down to Level Three. It tells us a few things. First of all, the tools for Covid-19 containment are a whole lot better than they were at the start of last year. More people are vaccinated. Contact-tracing and genomic sequencing make tracking the spread of the virus easier. Perhaps more than anything... we’re over it. The social contract is fraying. I don’t think we need opinion polls or comprehensive population analysis to confirm it. We feel it in our bones. People who’ve had kids at home for the last month are pulling their hair out. Parts of the country that haven’t seen Covid in more than a year are really sick of restrictions. If our politicians had the same risk tolerance as they did for Covid-19 during the lockdowns last year, there’s no way on Earth that Auckland would be shifting. But New Zealand is fed up. And the Prime Minister knows it.Some modellers think it’s quite possible we don’t get to absolute zero for Covid cases in the community for several weeks, if we ever get there at all. I know a lot of the cases are linked, but we are still seeing people with the virus active in the community. And even if we do stamp out this outbreak, it’s only a matter of time before we have another one. Hence... vaccines vaccines vaccines.If you’ve been holding off for whatever reason, what are you doing this morning? Treat it as an outing! Roll up your sleeve. Relax your bicep in the knowledge that you
Kate Hawkesby: Auckland's lockdown has me languishing
Day 31 in Level 4 for Aucklanders, and boy, are we over it.
There’s actually a word for how we’re all feeling and it’s been called the dominant emotion of 2021.
It’s called languishing. Psychologist Dougal Sutherland, who we had on the show recently, says "the psychological toll of Delta may start to show, even for those out of lockdown now." He said recently that apparently even people with no existing or underlying mental health concerns can feel this languishing.
Languishing is basically just feeling like life is dull and meaningless, you can feel stagnant and empty. Everything seems foggy, Groundhog Day. I mean hello? Does that not sum up everyone in Auckland right now or what?
This lockdown has felt harder, it's certainly been longer. But from the get go, we've been less enthusiastic about baking banana bread and doing home workouts, and we just seem more.. blah. Like we're over it.
Sutherland says that "in the UK, increased levels of languishing were reported as lockdowns continued", and he says that Aucklanders "are at risk of experiencing a similar decline in their mental health as the groundhog days of an extended lockdown continue".
Languishing is one thing.. but at the extreme end, of course, there's burnout and that's the worry for frontline health workers and other essential workers.
Sutherland notes Andrew Little's comments recently around the high level of stress nurses and doctors are under in these trying circumstances. If you think back to just prior to lockdown, nurses were already exhausted and on the brink of further strike action, they were already, in many cases, experiencing burnout. So that's a much tougher road for them.
If we look at it like a scale or a continuum, you've got flourishing up the top and languishing is the neglected middle child. According to American psychologist Adam Grant, it's the void between depression and flourishing. He describes it as basically the absence of wellbeing; you're just not functioning at full capacity.
There is hope though, well mainly that coming out of lockdown cheers us all up immeasurably, but also that increasing vaccination rates eases our fear around Covid.
For those feeling anxious, Sutherland says anxiety levels are likely to diminish as more people get vaccinated because the threat of an outbreak diminishes. Not that we won't necessarily get further outbreaks, but we will be learning to live with Covid more fearlessly by then with vaccination rates up.
So, if you're feeling a bit 'blah', turns out there's a reason for it, a word for it, it's not uncommon, and you may just be perfectly healthy fit and well, you're just languishing right now.
Dr Shane Reti: National party health spokesperson calls Government to explain why more Auckland GPs aren't administering the Covid-19 vaccin
National is calling on the Government to explain why there aren't more Auckland GPs administering the Covid vaccine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's indicated that about 113 GP practices are administering the vaccine across the region.
Health spokesperson Shane Reti told Kate Hawkesby it isn't good enough, considering there around 400 practices in the city overall.
"Why are we making it so hard, these are the people we trust who do 100 percent of vaccines in New Zealand anyway."