The End of Kiwi Exceptionalism?
Oh dear, it's now looking like our virus elimination strategy, of which we were so proud, may be coming to an end. I'm no medic, so just have to interpret the virus news as a layperson. And the focus of this blog is trying to figure out the economic impact. But in light of the Sydney Morning Herald's headline today, namely that "PM Scott Morrison has reassured NSW the state can reopen based on current vaccination targets regardless of its daily COVID-19 case numbers", it's looking like the Kiwi strategy is about to come under severe pressure.
Only a short time ago, we dreamed of a "bubble" of around 30 million people which covered both of NZ and Australia, where one could travel easily between both countries without fear of the virus as it raged throughout the rest of the world. Australia is this country's biggest international tourist market. It was a dream worth fighting for.
Yet the Australian PM has now signaled his country is on the verge of conceding that it must learn to "live with the virus". Which means that should NZ maintain a different (elimination) policy then we will not be able to enjoy open borders with it. Given the tight bonds between our two nations, not only economic, but also family ones, with many Kiwis having close relatives living there, sustaining a radically different policy to Australia's is going to be highly problematic. It's looking like our hand may be forced.
Furthermore, even with every Kiwi vaccinated, it now appears we could still easily catch and spread the new (delta) variant of the virus, as has been happening in Israel. Consequently, support for the view that vaccinations would support our elimination strategy is weakening.
Indeed, Medical News Today quotes Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group as saying, "that herd immunity is 'not a possibility' in light of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid. Prof. Pollard, who is also the chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the UK government, was giving evidence to Members of the House of Commons of the U.K. Parliament. His comments follow the preprint publication of the latest data from the Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission study, which suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines are only 49% effective against the Delta variant".