Awaiting the Omicron tsunami, with a cunning plan

Dr Ayesha Verrall has the plan for tackling the scary Omicron wave in hand, or does she?

It would be nice to write about something else in the new year, but it seems that we are in for another year of disasters in New Zealand. There are the local earthquakes, usually just around midnight. A monster volcano erupts in the south Pacific and we heard the sonic boom all the way down here, and part of the North Island felt the tsunami wave as well. More people drowned in New Zealand over the summer holidays than died from the Delta variant. And now we wait for the Omicron wave to sweep over us.

Firstly a few facts from last year, just to tidy up some points from previous posts. In the time that the Pfizer vaccine has become available in New Zealand, not much more than 7 months for most people, there have been 133 reported deaths resulting from those injections. These reports were presumably made by medical professionals, despite the pressure on them from their ‘professional’ body to be pro vaccination at all times, for all patients. The health officials, while accepting reports of all side effects from Comirnaty, state a priori that the benefits of the Pfizer drug outweigh the risks. Meanwhile the death toll from the Covid pandemic is around 50, in just under 2 years, with a catastrophe now to come.

But Dr Ayesha Verrall has been delegated the job of planning for the Omicron wave. Verrall is an actual doctor, as well as a colleague of Michael Baker at Otago University, and was also elected to the district health board in Wellington. She apparently designed New Zealand’s contact tracing system for the Covid 19 pandemic. Not long after that she was given a winnable placing on the Labour Party list in the 2020 general election. She then entered Parliament, and immediately became a Cabinet minister, despite being a novice MP. However, in her performances in the House of Representatives she lacks confidence.

It was therefore something of an odd choice for her to address the parliamentary press gallery, and the TV audience today, such as it was at 2pm on a Wednesday. Usually Jacinda Ardern would do this, or one of her senior male colleagues. But having announced the move into the ‘red light’ on Monday, which meant large public events were to be curtailed, including her wedding, she obviously wanted to share the limelight. However, Dr Verrall looked rather nervous from the start, and a lot of what she said was incoherent (she literally said ‘up the spout’ at one point), and then the media had a field day with her.

So what are we to take from this disaster, both in terms of the performance, and the assumption that there are to be over 10 000 cases of Omicron in New Zealand within a few weeks. Firstly, all of Verrall’s colleagues seem to agree on the looming disaster. Professor Baker claims that there will be hundreds, then thousands of cases, every day. Another colleague from Canterbury University, an Englishman named Plank, was reported on the public broadcaster to be modelling for half of the whole country to be getting Covid/Omicron. On that day there were in fact about 25 cases of Covid in the country, some being Delta and some new cases of Omicron, but apparently there will be 2.5 million cases soon. Baker recently claimed Delta would be eliminated soon, after earlier predicting thousands of cases each day.

Therefore it can be seen that the experts remain the same doom merchants as before, assuming that overseas trends will be replicated in New Zealand, and using fearmongering as the way to get vaccine boosters in arms. But surely Dr Verrall has to be more cautious, and at least provide some hope, isn’t that what most politicians are meant to do? Yes she has a plan with three phases. In the first phase we still try to eliminate Omicron, with a stricter mask mandate and contact tracing. However, she knows that the cases will rise exponentially, so in the second phase the emphasis is to be on ensuring essential workers are able to return to work quickly after quarantining themselves, and using rapid antigen testing to confirm their availability. In the third phase it seems that positive cases are left to fend for themselves at home, and have to check what to do on the official website. Verrall said that the overwhelmed health system would have to prioritise those ‘in need’. Presumably, these people are the essential workers, and others will have to be left to die like some older, unvaccinated men were in Auckland during the Delta outbreak in October 2021. Apparently the third phase does not have a name, other than catastrophe.

The excitement during Dr Verrall’s train wreck presentation was in the reaction of the baying hounds in the media. It seems that the NZ Government has decided to commandeer all the rapid antigen testing kits being sent to New Zealand, even those on order for private companies. Apparently this is very controversial, possibly because the media don’t realise that we are living in a dictatorship. Nor do they realise that when Dr Verrall’s plan fails the dictator, Ms Ardern, will come to the rescue with her usual plan, a 4 week lockdown. There is only room for one politician with a messianic complex, at a time. Dr Verrall’s agenda is actually to outlaw smoking tobacco in New Zealand, but that will have to wait.

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