Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Masker Aide

Today the New Zealand Government did something it never did before: It made it mandatory to wear masks when going to the few places most of us are allowed to go under Level 4: Supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, medical facilities (graphic at left). It’s a big change.

This mandate only applies to Level 4 at the moment, but when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked a question about mandatory mask use as we drop down Levels, she demurred, saying other levels would be affected, but she didn’t want to confuse the issue by talking about those levels now. That’s consistent with what they did during last year’s Level 4 lockdown: They talked about the rules for each Level as we reached it. But it does make me wonder what the new rules will be.

Before today, masks were only mandatory when using public transport or on airplanes. Aside from that, the advice was to wear a mask when inside with lots of people or when physical distancing wasn’t possible—but it was still merely advice. This is the first more general mandate.

Even as recently as last night, the official rules only said to wear a mask “if leaving the house” (see graphic below), which isn’t exactly an order—maybe just another suggestion? Wearing a mask when exercising in one’s own neighbourhood (all that’s allowed under Level 4), there’s still no mandate to wear a mask, but I wonder if most people will?

Obviously, other countries are already well used to mask mandates, but because New Zealand doesn’t have a mask-wearing culture, a lot of people have been hesitant. At a guess, I’d say that we’re likely to get better compliance now that it’s mandatory and because we’re under Level 4, but it still not may not be universal. After all, plenty of people simply ignored the mandatory wearing of masks on public transport. What’s different now is that under Level 4 police have the authority to issue instant fines and can arrest someone if they refuse to comply without a valid reason (whether they do or not is another matter). The threat of legal trouble could well encourage compliance by the holdouts—though the vast majority of New Zealanders normally do what’s required of them, anyway.

Speaking of police, the commissioner made clear today that they’ll be much tougher than they were last year because the Delta Variant is so much more infectious. Today, a few dozen extremist lunatics (apparently followers of New Zealand’s leading lunatic loon, a peddler of conspiracy theories and proto-fascist politics) held anti-lockdown “protests”. They held them all outside police stations, obviously to ensure there would be arrests—to dare the police to arrest them for breaking the law. The police ordered the groups to disperse, and most people did, apart from a few (eight in total) who refused and were arrested. The police were well aware they were doing exactly what the organisers wanted them to do when they arrested folks, but they had no choice. Personally, I think loons should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to make clear we won’t accept their bullshit behaviour: One of the main reasons Sydney’s outbreak took off out of all control was that people refused to obey the rules, including holding large “protests” that, of course, only helped the virus to spread. NZ Police have made clear they’re not going to tolerate people breaking the rules on gatherings. Nor should they.

I won’t need to venture out until next week maybe, and I have plenty of those blue masks, which I bought last year, but only used two: One was for a trip out to the shops that I blogged about at the time, and the other was when I was pouring compost in a hole to plant a bush in my yard. Things look to be different now, and I think I should order in some more permanent masks (I actually did that last year, too, but they were crap).

I don’t know what the rules on the next Levels will be (or when Level 4 will end…), but I think I can see at least the vague outline. Time to prepare!


Roger Owen Green said...


Arthur Schenck said...

Heh. We actually have a few home-grown American-style lunatics in New Zealand, and some American-born ones, too, I'm ashamed to say. So far, there have been only three arrests of people refusing to wear masks, which probably goes to show what an infinitesimally small percentage of the population those "freedom" lunatics are.

Unfortunately for Australia, they have far, far, far more "freedom" lunatics per capita than we do. In fact, the lunatics are partly responsible for the huge size of Sydney's outbreak because they thought it would be a great idea to hold "protest" lockdowns (unmasked, of course, and without any attempt at physical distancing), even though the number of Delta cases was already beginning to swell quickly. You can't fix stupid, as they say, but natural selection may provide some amount of reduction in their numbers over the next few weeks, I suppose.