April 12, 2021

Cooperation or punitive action for Covid rules violators?

Should Covid-19 rule evaders or violators be allowed to go scot-free when their actions trigger costly consequences that affect lives of millions others or should the rule book be thrown at them with full force?

The social media is abuzz with this question that seems to have divided the country. There are those who want an exemplary punishment to deter others in future and others who believe cooperation and not punitive action is the answer.

Auckland and rest of New Zealand were plunged back into erstwhile alert levels yesterday (28 Feb) morning after a 21-year-old member of the February cluster flouted the self-isolation directives while he was symptomatic. He was one of the multiple others who chose to ignore the self isolation rules.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her anger at the rule-breaking, but has brushed aside if punishment is the right course of action for the family or the latest violator.

PM, Jacinda Ardern
PM is ‘angry’ for violations of self isolation rules (Screenshot: The AM Show)

“It’s for the Police to decide”, she told Duncan, host of The AM Show this morning when he repeatedly tried in vain to get a specific reply.

“Are people more likely to follow the rules if they have a fine slapped on them or are they more likely to follow the rules if they feel it’s going to be safe for them when they’ve done something dumb or wrong?” she asked.

Is it now time for heavy-handed approach as in other countries or cooperation from public is the answer? National wants tough sanctions & ACT is unhappy at PM deflecting…

PM’s refusal to say whether violator(s) would be booked for violation did not go well with the ACT leader, David Seymour.

“I’m disappointed the Prime Minister has tried to oh-so-subtly deflect on to this one person…he does deserve some blame. He was clearly a naughty boy.”

The National Party clearly wants Covid-19 rule-breakers to be slapped with tough sanctions as “people haven’t felt the pressure to follow the rules because there are no sanctions.”

“It is time to start knocking on people’s doors and making sure that when people are meant to be isolating for two weeks, they actually are doing so.

“And if they’re not, let’s appropriately punish them and make sure people know about that so other people don’t do it as well,” National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson, Chris Bishop told RNZ.

Some critics, including Auckland University microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, however, believe any punitive approach could backfire.

Echoing the views of the PM was COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins who says the Government needs people to cooperate, and is against calls to punish the rule-breaking individual or families behind the latest outbreak.

Punishment does seem to deter people as seen in countries like Singapore and Taiwan where Covid-19 has stayed under control because of nil or low rate of quarantine violators.

New Zealand definitely is soft in enforcing the restrictive Covid-19 rules when compared to the rest of the world.

Singapore, for instance, enforces its rules very seriously. Last month (February), a British citizen was sentenced to two weeks in jail and fined S$1,000 when the couple violated quarantine protocols in order to see each other. Quarantine violations carry a penalty of a fine of up to S$10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.

Singapore has also stripped people of their permanent-resident status and revoked foreigners’ work permits for virus-related violations.

Malaysia too has similar stringent rules, and those requiring to undertake self isolation must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Similarly, scores of people in Taiwan have been fined for breaching quarantine restrictions.

The UK has also last month introduced a series of enhanced new measures, including fines of up to 10,000 pounds and a 10-year jail term for the most extreme breaches of quarantine rules.

New Zealand needs to give up its soft approach of ‘cooperation’ that has not fully yielded desired results.  Time has come to enforce the heavy-handed approach by involving Police and regular, unannounced visits to ensure protocols are being followed. If not, punishment should follow – no excuses.

Our country cannot afford to be taken to ransom by few individuals who don’t seem to give a damn to the rippling consequences to the wider community who have to bear the brunt of their foolish action.

Gurbir Singh

2 thoughts on “Cooperation or punitive action for Covid rules violators?

  1. I believe that rule breakers should be punished but only if they been given clear instructions and told of penalties if the do not comply. Giving them guidelines and expectations does not cut it. The PM publicly attacking these people is almost as unkind as Mallard’s attack on an innocent individual.

    1. Tks, Chuck.There appears to be a communication gap in what was expected from those in self-isolation. And, just sending txt msgs & attempting phone calls (eg in case of KFC worker) doesn’t mean msg has been received. More from Ministry needs to be done.

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