A flight to safety

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
9 April, 2020

All going well, the Alert 4 lockdown will end in two weeks.

But life will not return to normal.

Covid-19 will rather likely still be with us, albeit hopefully with much-reduced prevalence. “Stamping it out” really means getting things down to levels where it is possible to effectively run the kinds of track-and-trace systems in East Asian countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Every contact of every case must be rigorously chased-down and quarantined.

Capital and Coast District Health Board Deputy Chair and infectious disease specialist Ayesha Verrall warned earlier this week that while “our contact tracing capacity is a fire extinguisher, we need a fire engine.” So, we are likely to operate under restrictions for a while.

Being able to run businesses safely, maintaining social distancing among workers and following effective sanitary procedures will matter for protecting both workers and customers. The threat of further lockdowns – hopefully restricted to outbreaks locations – will continue to loom.

As the lockdown progresses, more companies will become essential than might have been considered at first glance. The suppliers of those firms supplying essential services will quickly be found essential too, and then their critical suppliers in turn, and so on through the chain of production. This may only be revealed as supply chain issues are discovered and it would be impossible to proactively identify them all. But those firms must be allowed to open for essential businesses to operate.

It gets even more complicated when considering that supply chains are international. A non-essential company here may be critical to an essential business abroad, and vice-versa. Ignoring other countries’ needs would be a mistake.

The longer lockdown lasts, the more an essential-firm standard will resemble a safety standard. More firms will be discovered that must be allowed to open and each must develop safety protocols consistent with Alert 4 risks.

And if a company can be certified to run safely during alert periods, should it matter whether MBIE has figured out to whom its products are essential?

Avoiding the need for any future Alert 4 lockdowns is most important. But figuring out how to let more firms operate safely during Alert 3, or during any potential future lockdowns, will also matter. 

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