Next Saturday two of New Zealand’s top rugby teams meet in Auckland and because that country has recorded no new cases of coronavirus for 17 days the Highlanders and Chiefs will meet in a packed stadium. New Zealand has lifted all restrictions so social distancing is no more. For now at least.
Inspired by New Zealand’s and others’ success, our Government is accelerating the relaxation of containment measures even if we are some way away from New Zealand’s clean sheet. Economic and social pressures, as well as scientific, influenced this decision. There are no easy choices in this equation, each potentially carries a significant downside. Striking the right balance is all, even if that is far more easily said than done.
Some of our leading scientists gave voice to that apprehension yesterday when they urged a more cautious approach. Recognising the huge costs already incurred they pointed out that today’s decisions “will determine our future for years to come.” We “strongly encourage ... resolute actions to suppress this pandemic at once. Eliminating the virus represents the most scientifically sound strategy in terms of public health and economics alike,” they said. Their plea may fall on deaf ears today but if there is a second outbreak, as can be expected, they will be vindicated. Then, we can expect restrictions far more severe and of longer duration than those we may be prematurely lifting now.