By: Rinni Williamson
Opinion: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision that “boundary preventing Aucklanders travelling outside the city will remain in place next week regardless of whether the city moves to alert level 2”, has come as a shock to many.
Mention of this during today’s (30 September) media conference was, according to PM, an attempt ‘to provide certainty’. Instead, this announcement has created uncertainty in the minds of city-dwellers in regards to how the government views the safety of Auckland versus the rest of Team NZ.
Auckland’s team of 1.7 million is left wondering how they can expect to feel safe based on lowering of the levels when it is deemed unsafe for boundary restrictions to lift in a bid to keep the rest of country safe from Auckland.
No doubt, lowering alert level to 2 would see the city gain a lot more freedom, including the re-opening of schools (post holidays), but it is very much at odds with the ‘safety’ message that boundary restrictions send. Meaning, it is safe to send your children to school but it is not safe to be reunited with your out of town family.
Scores of families in Auckland and other regions have been desperately waiting to see their loved ones, visit sick or those who have lost a family or friend but have not been able to visit. Boundary restrictions would hamper this much-awaited reunion.
Opening of Auckland boundaries at Alert Level 2, for example, would also provide a boost to the hospitality and tourism sectors, and in turn, to the country’s economy.
It is not clear what the exit strategy for Auckland would be, however according to PM the Cabinet is looking at “lower-risk options” such as vaccinations.
With only 608,125 out of 1.7 million Auckland residents fully vaccinated (as of September 29, Source: NZ Vaccine Tracker, Ministry of Health), the noble albeit lofty goal of achieving the 90% target before removing regional boundaries is surely generating a raft of feelings – ranging from confusion to mistrust in the government’s criteria used to decide a shift in alert levels.
While the PM thanking fortress Auckland on behalf of the country may help in the temporary increase in endorphins, what is really needed is a clearly communicated plan on how to keep the country’s biggest city and economic hub functioning safely.
With majority of MIQ facilities and future ‘home isolations’ continuing to operate in Auckland, the chances of avoiding lockdowns in future or working and living safely seem slim.
The continuing restrictions and ‘barricade’ of Auckland even at lower alert levels, may prove counter productive for the city and perhaps the country as well.
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