Charles Darwin stated “It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.” These are apt words for the need to adapt our approach in response to Covid-19.
I supported the lockdown four weeks ago. We should have closed our borders before closing down New Zealand but once the virus was here, we needed to move quickly to quell its rapid spread. It has worked with infections falling sharply. This is a tribute to the huge united effort put in by all. It has come at a huge economic cost in jobs, billions in public borrowing and major losses for businesses large and small.
We now need to adapt the approach from “allowing essential services” to allowing those that are “safe.” I have been lobbying hard to enable our important construction and forestry sectors to get back to work and welcome their resumption next Tuesday. Australia did not shut these industries down and has achieved similar reductions in infections. I also welcome the resumption of publications like the Nelson and Waimea Weekly.
There are areas where I believe need to adapt the Level 3 instructions as we move from a focus on “essential” to “safe.” Firstly, we should allow hardware stores like Mitre 10, Bunnings and Placemakers to trade. These stores can provide better social distancing with good management than supermarkets. They are operating for trades already and it makes a mockery of the rules when builders are buying on the side for home handymen. Homebound people have done their gardens and now want to catch up on their other home jobs. People are more likely to maintain the social distancing when they can do things.
I am also wanting to have our transfer stations re-opened next week. I see dozens of piles of green waste around the neighbourhoods I worry people will be tempted to burn these as they dry. Transfer stations can easily operate safely with no need for people to be in close contact.
My third concern is about the delay in hospital treatment for hundreds of Nelsonians. It was appropriate to halt all elective surgery a month ago when we ran the risk of an over flow of Covid-19 patients. Thankfully that has been averted. Our hospital is now largely empty. I have had distressed patients contact me in severe pain, desperate for treatment. Our hospital is large enough to restart some surgical procedures while still keeping separate areas for potential Covid-19 patients.
These changes in approach are not a criticism of the Government’s response. It is inevitable that in responding to a national emergency initial decisions need to be blunt. This is about adapting our approach so we can retain the health gains but save jobs, minimise cost and reduce the impacts on people’s lives.
Nelson has rightly been praised by police for high levels of compliance with the lockdown rules. We should be collectively proud of the fortnight free of new cases in the region. I urge Nelsonians to finish level 4 as we started, observe the tight rules through this weekend to next Tuesday and then work together as we gradually restore our freedoms and rebuild our economy.