OPINION: ‘Covid lunacy will crash down under force of reality’

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Despite what seems like an eternity of Covid disruption, we’re only now entering the most difficult phase of the pandemic in New Zealand.

Know this, though, despite the despair, the Covid lunacy will eventually come crashing down under the blunt force of reality.

I’m hopeful the well-trodden adage, ‘‘it’s always darkest before the dawn”, will accurately depict our emergence from the pandemic, and our transition from a closed Hermit  Kingdom, patching a massive economic hole with the credit card, divided over the right to enter the country and our health choices, back to a free, united and prosperous nation, reconnected with the globe.

We’ve taken one hell of a beating, with the prospect of more to come, but sanity will eventually prevail.

It must.

For our battle-weary community, the costs of policy not rooted in reality are everywhere around us, and it’s traumatically painful for many businesses and those who rely on them for a living.

Ironically, the pain hasn’t come via the virus itself — it’s so far been barely sighted, locally — but the response to it.

Some might say we’re lucky that’s been the case.

Others would vehemently disagree.

Whatever view you hold, 2022 and our path out of this mess will be especially painful.

Our businesses and their employees have given all they can to survive and are still being asked for more.

To cope with shuttered borders they have restructured, cut back and refocused their offerings to survive.

Two years in, the cash reserves are exhausted, the limited government help has dried up, personal assets have been tipped in to bridge the gap and the financial and emotional wells are dry.

Compounding things, our North Korean border policy has led to critical staffing shortages, forcing businesses to reduce hours, further stressing already beaten-down owners and remaining staff as they struggle to fill the gaps.

Fast and loose monetary and fiscal policy hitting up against policy-induced supply constraints has seen inflation rise to levels not seen since the ’80s, driving up the cost of living and running a business.

To combat this, interest rate rises are now inevitable, which will bring further pain to businesses and homeowners.

Added to the pile of woe are the additional compliance costs associated with contact tracing, mask and vaccine passport rules and lower demand from a hesitant public, hammered by media and government with Covid fear porn for two years.

Finally, with Omicron now in the community, NZ’s isolation rules, the world’s strictest (at the time of writing), are set to upend life as we know it.

Some people will face up to 24 days trapped at home, and potentially hundreds of thousands of workers will be taken out at once.

Yet we remain cut off from our main lifeblood, with Tourism Minister Stuart Nash
saying don’t expect any meaningful visitation coming our way this year.

Let’s be brutally honest, the mooted partial opening of the border is a complete farce, anyway, with the punishing self-isolation period and testing costs making travel to fortress NZ unlikely for most.

But, to reiterate, reality always wins.

The pertinent and extremely painful question, though, is when and at what cost?

It took seven decades and cost tens of millions of lives, for economic and social reality to tear open the iron curtain of communism in Eastern Europe.

Here, it took less than two years for KiwiBuild to implode when it ran up against the brick wall of reality, while a few billion dollars were diverted from more worthy causes to fund it.

Covid mania can’t last forever.

The reality is, Omicron will spread fast, most of us will catch it, and most of us will live.

International evidence, including CDC guidance, now tells us cloth and medical masks will do little to stop people catching it and vaccinations won’t stop transmission completely, so if you don’t want to get it, it’s now on you to stay home, not on the rest of us to stop living.

Contact tracing will quickly be rendered useless, the testing system will become overwhelmed and we will realise an economy can’t work when you take hundreds of thousands of people out of work at once.

We’ll find out the pain from the virus will be dwarfed by the pain from having fired unvaccinated health workers while turning down two-thirds of emergency MIQ requests to get new ones into the country.

When all this comes to pass, even the most ideologically-stubborn politician will be forced to change their approach, release the reins and let people live again.

They won’t like it, but reality will force their hand.

A word of caution, though, while we will wake from this Covid mass psychosis, history shows that we have short memories, leaving us prone to descend into the next dystopian schmozzle.

What will be the next emergency re quiring the government to take full control of our lives?

And will we let them?

Mark Wilson is an extremely frustrated Queenstowner, who penned his thoughts before Thursday’s government announcement on the plan to reconnect New Zealand to the world