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By Olivia Pierson
First published on Insight@theBFD 8/8/2020
[Author’s edit: this article was written before NZ was put into another lockdown on August 12th.]
When it comes to a national response to dealing with COVID-19, it’s no secret that I abhor lockdowns. I’m opposed to their liberty-crushing nature in principle.
Back in March, nearly all world leaders panicked, then pathetically implemented the virus-combatting playbook of Communist China, the very country which sent forth this plague to begin with.
Taiwan, which sits only 100-miles off the south-eastern coast of China, so successfully and swiftly contained the virus, that it’s been dishing out advice to other countries’ health departments ever since.
With only 457 cases and 7 deaths in a population of 23 million people who live on an island that measures only 12,456 square miles (NZ is 103,737), Taiwan put technology and past experience to work effectively and were the ones to first alert the WHO that a strange and lethal new strain of “pneumonia” was on the rise in China.
Closely monitoring Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat alerted Taiwan early to the fact that a novel virus was brewing in Wuhan. Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who first warned his medical colleagues about the virus before being shut down by his own government for “disturbing the public order” posted his findings to PTT Bulletin Board, originally founded in Taiwan. Dr. Li died allegedly from COVID-19 soon after, but his posts were noticed by a health officer in Taiwan named Philip Lo, who raised the alarm in Taiwan.
By January 1st, 2020, Taiwan was already actively screening all passengers flying in from Wuhan. By February, it had banned all incoming flights and ships from China. Only Taiwanese citizens were allowed to enter the country.
Having learned hard lessons from the 2003 SARS epidemic, Taiwan knew that many people carrying coronaviruses are often asymptomatic. This knowledge served to help them never miss a case when people presented no symptoms. Mandatory and closely policed 14-day quarantines were implemented for citizens coming from high-risk areas, with medical care, food and lodging paid for by the government and delivered to their doors.
Integrating data from health insurance providers with immigration and customs to track recent travellers, Taiwan was able to alert officials to early cases by linking them with doctors’ visits. These methods were all well in place by the beginning of March.
Along with price-fixing government-made PPE, in order to avoid opportunistic price hikes, and mobile apps to let citizens across the country, from village to village, know which pharmacies and drug-stores were well-stocked, Taiwan managed to get through this pandemic without a lockdown. Businesses, schools and day-cares stayed open (except for several weeks during February) with strict hygiene measures in place – masks, temperature guns, hand-sanitisers and social distancing.
Taiwan’s response and results are remarkable, but it hinged on a high level of government oversight and herd immunity amongst the large population is neither a goal, nor a likelihood.
Sweden, on the other hand, another country which did not believe in crushing its economy over a flu pandemic, took an entirely different approach.
Unlike Taiwan, the Swedish government did not take an invasive approach and certainly didn’t believe in forcing people to wear masks etc. They opted for a good faith, high-trust model, in keeping with the fact that they are a capitalist, social democracy. They did not initiate a sweeping lockdown.
The rest of the world, especially those under Draconian lockdowns, love to hate Sweden for this non-conformist method of dealing with the pandemic and often highlight its death-toll while salivating over articles such as this one in USA Today, which contain chop-licking statements like these:
“And yet, the Swedish death rate is unnerving.
Sweden has a death toll greater than the United States: 556 deaths per million inhabitants, compared with 425, as of July 20.
Sweden also has a death toll more than four and a half times greater than that of the other four Nordic countries combined — more than seven times greater per million inhabitants. For a number of weeks, Sweden has been among the top in the world when it comes to current reported deaths per capita. And despite this, the strategy in essence remains the same.”
What the article fails to note is that Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy (and Peru) all have higher death tolls than Sweden, yet these countries have had in place very strict lockdowns and mandatory masks and PPE. France’s death stats, along with Brazil’s, are also close on the heels of Sweden’s.
So lockdowns are not the defining factor in smashing COVID; they are a defining factor in smashing economies - and lives.
Because 50% of deaths in all countries are the elderly (those over 70) with underlying health conditions who live in nursing homes or have assisted care visits, the best measure of all to avoid deaths is to vigilantly quarantine this vulnerable sector of society until herd immunity is reached with the rest of the population and the virus dies out.
Sweden now borders this enviable destination – and with its economy intact.
Meanwhile in a country like New Zealand, which has been heralded for a lockdown that seemingly eradicated the virus, leaving a fairly low death rate in its wake (and no herd immunity), there is no telling how long the country can tolerate the chronic isolation of closed borders and the economic destruction that brings with it.
Far from being transparent, our government manipulates the economic data in a cynical attempt to convince Kiwis that there are no bad consequences from lockdown, so if we have to do it again, it will all be fine. Humbug!
Exhibit A: This week New Zealand put out its official unemployment rate at a suspiciously innocuous 4.0%.
This figure is grossly deceptive as it does not count the hundreds of thousands of people still buoyed up by wage subsidies which end next month, neither does it reflect the reality that during lockdown people were not recorded as “actively seeking employment” because the economy was closed for six to eight weeks.
Even our “experts” are now curiously reminding us that New Zealand remains extremely vulnerable to a second wave of COVID, which can only come through our border since we live surrounded by a giant moat, and they’ve told us that we eliminated the virus. There remains no plan in place to even attempt the reopening of our borders and many of us know that the economic shakedown has not yet happened but looms for 2021- but let’s sit back and congratulate ourselves that at least another 90-year-old with Alzheimer’s, diabetes and a dicky heart might live to see out another few months of breathing.
If lockdowns and mandatory masks worked as significant factors in quelling COVID, Belgium would not be the country which leads the world in the most deaths per capita.
If you enjoyed this article, please buy my book "Western Values Defended: A Primer"
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