Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the unusual case of do as I say and not as I do.
The good doctor was due a massive farewell knees up last night - well deserved after a mammoth few years - but instead, it’s been downgraded to a much smaller do with many of the participants relegated to zoom.
And yet, although Dr Bloomfield - who determines the health advice that determines the government’s COVID response - although he doesn’t think it’s appropriate or safe to have a big gathering right now he’s not advising the government to impose any gathering limits for the rest of us.
Now usually do as I say and not as I do kind of works the opposite way - you preach good behaviour while behaving badly but in typical Bloomfield fashion, he’s still the saint in this scenario.
But it does make you wonder why, if gatherings aren’t safe or appropriate for MPs and officials right now, why it’s ok for the rest of us to mingle, transmit and get sick.
Now I’m not saying I think there should be gathering limits. In fact, I think we’re well past that and I’ve been saying since March that the traffic light system is defunct. Given the only difference is gathering sizes and masks, you may as well just have mask rules and be done with the rest.
But I do find it quizzical. Much like I find the current mask mandating or lack thereof quizzical.
The sliding scale that starts at, don’t wear masks and moves through, wear masks if you like, we suggest you wear masks, we recommend you wear masks, we strongly recommend you wear masks. And finishes at, we’re mandating wearing masks.
Right now we’re sitting in the slightly amorphous phase of we really really strongly recommend you wear masks, it will save lives. We’re giving you masks to show you how much we’d like you to wear masks but no no, of course, we’re not forcing you to wear masks.
I’m cautious when it comes to this stuff.
Personally, I’m down the Michael Baker end of the COVID restriction spectrum and I’m really worried for our health workforce right now.
So I’m all in - and probably out of kilter with most people I know - but I’d quite like to see at least a short sharp burst of mask mandating to reduce some of the strain, sickness and deaths over winter.
But I also adapt to my environment so if we’re not all wearing masks because we have to in the office, the cafe, wherever, I’m not likely to wear a mask either. I don’t like being the odd one out, I did enough of that as a teenager.
So it strikes me as strange that our number one health official who really really doesn’t want people to get COVID, won’t offer advice to the government akin to the advice he’s personally following himself - mask wearing and gathering limits.
And where it also doesn’t make sense is how that relatively relaxed approach to mask wearing and gatherings sits alongside our relatively restrictive vaccination and isolation policies.
On vaccines - as I’ve said before - I’m super keen for my second booster. If I lived in Australia I’d be able to get it, It’s available to 30-49-year-olds if they want it. Here, 50 pluses are eligible.
We’re also still doing seven days of isolation in NZ and so are our household contacts unless they’ve recently had COVID. In the United States, it’s five days, in the UK there’s no requirement to self-isolate at all anymore.
Again, I’m not necessarily advocating for shorter isolation, I’m just making the point there no longer appears to be any logic to the COVID response. It’s no wonder the wheels have completely come off the Government’s response.
National’s not really any better here. Constantly falling back on wanting to follow health advice when it comes to things like masking, while simultaneously bucking health advice when advocating for things like test-to-work instead of isolation.
No one really seems to have any clue anymore about the restrictions or rationale. Nothing makes a lot of sense. But the death toll is still rising. 1252 people with lives, families, and friends have died.
Everyone wants different or varying COVID responses but unlike in the early days of the pandemic, the Government and officials now seem just as clueless and all over the shop as the rest of us.