Monday, November 08, 2021

Predicting the future

Each week I’ve been making predictions on what the government will announce about Alert Levels. I’ve been making those predictions on my personal Facebook, then usually talking about what ended up happening here on the blog. This week I’m going to change it up a bit by publishing my prediction here, and then later I’ll add an update with what happened.

Today's 4pm Alert Level announcement doesn't affect the Waikato (where I live) because ours won't be reviewed until next Monday. Even so, I have predictions about today's decisions—and there's no way in hell I'd want to have to make the call!

Every day we're seeing triple-digit numbers of new cases, including the new record of 206 on Saturday. The vast majority of new cases are in Auckland. On the other hand, all three DHBs in Auckland now have 90% of their population with at least one dose of the vaccine, and at current rates they should all hit 90% fully-vaccinated by early next month.

Also, Aucklanders are chafing under restrictions (of course). The whole reason that cases are rising in Auckland is that too many people—unvaccinated people specifically—aren't following the rules in place as it is, so giving everyone a little more freedom (able to go into shops) may actually result in fewer new infections than if they tried to keep current restrictions going for "quite some time" as the experts want because doing that could easily make even more Aucklanders give up on following the rules.

Also, properly managed retail (with mandatory mask wearing and physical distancing) is relatively low-risk for infection. And to state the more crass fact, businesses in Auckland are demanding more freedoms (because most of a year's profits in retail are earned in the Christmas season). Add it all up, and that's why I think that the government may decide to go ahead with last week's "in principle" decision to allow Auckland to go to Level 3, Step 2.

We all know this is high-risk overall, because the number of people that can meet-up outside increases to 25 under Step 2, meaning more opportunity for spread. On the other hand, increasing freedoms will keep people on-side a little bit longer.

Having said all that, I'm not sure it's a good idea. But when would it be?! A few days, a week, more, wouldn't make much/any difference, especially because increasingly frustrated Aucklanders will ignore the rules even more than now. Trust me: Don't underestimate how much difference being able to go shopping will make for people who've been pretty much stuck at home for 12 weeks. The best thing, I think, would be to go to the stoplight system with vaccine certificates as soon as possible, both so vaccinated folks can get on with life and also to give the unvaccinated an incentive to get vaccinated.

Northland is harder to work out. They still have cases, like the Waikato does, but, like ours, most are linked. Given decisions made for other areas, I think the government is most likely to extend Level 3 in the upper part of Northland until at least the end of the week, maybe until next Monday. If I'm right, then the faster Northland manages to dramatically lift vaccination numbers, the faster they'll be out of Lockdown. Same for the Waikato, actually, though we're well ahead of Northland's vaccination levels.


I was right about Auckland: They moved to Level 3, Step 2 at 11:59pm Tuesday night, to be reviewed the following week when the Waikato’s L3, S2 is also considered. The Prime Minister mentioned that the high vaccination rates and the need to ease restrictions prior to changing to the new system were among the reasons for the change. In addition, there’s been only one case that originated from meeting outside, so there’s clearly fairly low risk from outside meet-ups. Most of the cases in Auckland are originating from indoor gatherings, which aren’t permitted. To me that reinforces what I said, that the problem is people ignoring the rules, and NOT the greater freedoms for people who DO follow the rules.

I was right about Northland: Level 3 was extended to the end of the week, 11:59pm Thursday, when the top of Northland re-joins the rest of Northland at Level 2. That’s to give health authorities time to do contact tracing and to do more testing to provide greater assurance the outbreak is contained. Level 2 still has some restrictions that make it easier to react if there’s another outbreak or wider spread from the current one.


Roger Owen Green said...

Shall I ship my Ouija board to you?
Even here, IDK. Surges in CA, even in some (but not all) areas of vaccine compliance.
In NYS, it's pretty good overall, but NYC has driven a lot of that. The rural counties are problematic.

Arthur Schenck said...

Clearly I don't need any equipment for making my predictions, though perhaps I should switch to drinking tea for a while to be able to use the leaves for more evidence to go on, and to kind of sharpen my powers.

I think we have to get used to Covid being here to stay. The question now is, how do we keep people as safe as we can, including fully-vaccinated people put at risk by unvaccinated people, while also opening up the country and economy? We can't use restrictive measures, lockdowns especially, forever, obviously.

The problem here, as in the USA and other countries, is the people who act like surly adolescents, regardless of their actual ages, who want all the freedoms and benefits of ordinary life while stamping their feet, pouting, and refusing to accept any of the responsibilities that come with that. I don't think any country has got it right yet, but I hope New Zealand will.