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  • rmacculloch

Hey Luxon, the best Covid policy today can turn out to be the worst tomorrow

Beware making public commentary on Covid, even if you're a medical expert, let alone if you're not. My rule is to stick to remarks about the economic implications of different virus policies, not the virus policies themselves, being totally unqualified to do so.

Here's why. Over the weekend, the Israeli Coronavirus Cabinet, for example, agreed new restrictions at a crisis meeting late on Saturday, which are subject to approval by the full Cabinet. In light of the just discovered Omicron variant, those Israeli nationals "coming from high-risk red countries will have to quarantine in designated state-run hotels until they receive a negative virus test result", reports the Times of Israel in an article headed, "Israel decides to bar tourists, reinstate quarantine rules to contain Omicron".

Yet just a few days ago on 21 November, National Party MP & possible leadership contender Chris Luxon labelled NZ's border rules for Kiwi nationals returning home, "ridiculous". In the video below he says putting them into government designated quarantine hotels is "outdated", "lose-lose", a "misery" and a "perversity". Luxon argues that Kiwis abroad should be able to return & "isolate at home like the people in our community today".

However, Luxon's logic is built on an assumption that our local & overseas strains of Covid are the same. In such a case, he's right: it's inconsistent to subject two groups of Kiwis, locals and overseas nationals, to different (home-isolation vs designated hotel quarantine) regimes.

But that inconsistency may no longer exist. Since should a Kiwi currently abroad have caught the new virus variant just before flying into NZ and then go into home-isolation upon arrival, there's a risk of them bringing the new strain into the community. At least, that's how Israel seems to be viewing things. Who would've thought a comment about the "perversity" of our "outdated" and"lose-lose" border controls could itself be outdated within days!? The virus takes no prisoners when it comes to opinions on best policy responses.

The policy issue Luxon may have been better to address is more to do with the limited government MIQ facilities. The lousy lottery booking system which has left thousands of Kiwi nationals stranded abroad was based on poor economic advice. Supply should have been expanded, paid for out of revenues from the likes of Google founder Larry Page, who had a high "willingness-to-pay" on the demand-side when he used the facilities on his visit to NZ.



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