Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The end game

There’s one reality about the garage project I haven’t talked about, and it also relates to the overall project of trying to organise my home: I’m not merely trying to tidy and organise the garage, I’m not merely trying to clear it so I can do projects, and I’m also not merely trying to make more space in my entire house, even though all of those things are true. The real point of all of this, the end game, is that I’m trying to lighten the load I carry—in many different ways.

I’ve often said that that I was dealing with 24 years worth of stuff from two people, and that’s absolutely true. I need to shed most of that stuff, and it’s a long, tedious (very boring, actually…), and energy-zapping process, made worse by the inevitable emotional triggers (and the ongoing fatigue I’ve talked about many, many times). The process inches along slowly, and I recently made yet another tiny step forward.

Weekend before last, New Zealand’s online auction service, Trade Me, ran a promotion in which every item listed on Saturday, November 20 would have 50% off the success fees (the fees Trade Me changes for hosting a successful sale). It was as good a reason as any to put some things online to try to sell them.

In the end, I found only four items that were ready to go. The vast majority of the stuff Nigel left behind isn’t ready to be sold—mainly because there are missing bits and pieces (like remotes, or boxes, or manuals, etc.). So, I picked three things that I bought and one that Nigel originally bought (spoiler: the item that didn’t sell was Nigel’s).

The things I put up for auction were things I didn’t want, had no use for, but that still could’ve had value for others. In the end, I got less than $84 all up (today, a little more than US$57, which means that they all sold for far less than they originally cost us), but the money wasn’t the main point: These were things that I knew had some use for others, but they probably wouldn’t have sold through an op shop (thrift store, charity shop, etc.). Wins all around.

Getting rid of stuff was the actual point (I also have two boxes of stuff packed and ready to go to op shops, but it’s unclear if they’re accepting donations at the moment, due to Covid restrictions). There are many reasons this purging is so important.

First, and most obviously, there’s no reason for me to keep things I don’t want and have no use for. If I can get a bit of cash for them, so much the better, but the important thing is to get them out the door. That, in turn, is motivated by my own experience: I inherited huge piles of Nigel’s stuff, things that I now have to dispose of, one way or another. I don’t want whoever clears my estate to have to go through the same thing.

I talked about getting rid of stuff some 20 months before Nigel died, and I wasn’t too complimentary about “Swedish Death Cleaning”, so it’s ironic-ish that it’s essentially exactly what I’m now working on. The truth is, I don’t even know why it matters to me. I mean, I’ll be dead, so, to be blunt, not my problem. I always thought, as I said back in that 2018 post, “if I’m the last one to go, it’ll be some company hired by my estate executor and paid to come in and look for things of value to sell, everything else going to the tip.” Yes, but, I now know the importance of leaving less to even have to deal with.

The biggest reason of all, though, is that I’m buried in stuff and I need it gone. This house is smaller than either of our last two houses, and we accumulated ever more stuff in the years we spent in those houses. That makes everything seem crammed-in here—and, in truth, it basically is. It’s a well-proven fact that too much stuff in one’s house can cause depression, and I know that over the years dealing with “stuff” often got me down, something I’ve mentioned in the past.

The thing is, dealing with “stuff” was always my job. Nigel could never work out where to start and often got overwhelmed very easily, so he'd ask me to take care of it for him. I often got anxious about that because I didn’t know what some of the stuff even was, let alone if it was something to keep. And now I’m in much the same situation, except that the decisions on what to keep/trash/donate/sell are all mine—I guess that helps?

To be clear, both Nigel and I are guilty of creating this situation. Where he accumulated lots of tech stuff (some of it quite expensive…), I accumulated other stuff, mostly fairly small, and often things I thought I could use for—well, dunno, something, apparently. I’ve already tossed/recycled a lot of that sort of thing which is easier precisely because I acquired it in the first place.

Stacks of papers have been a big challenge: I was in charge of filing receipts/bills/statements, a job I loathed so very much that I’d often end up with huge piles or, more likely, boxes filled with unsorted stuff to be filed. Nigel also had large piles/boxes of papers from his work that he just didn’t get around to dealing with.

Add it all up, and we were both bad, but in different ways. Together we created the monster.

Much of my sorting has been slow because of those boxes of various papers. This is something I’ve been working on, one way or another, for many years, and blogged about one such time back in January 2018. It's slow because I have to go through each box and look at each piece of paper to decide what to do with it: Trash, shred/destroy, recycle, or, sometimes, keep.

The “destroy” papers aren’t necessarily super-secret, but are ones I’d still rather not have flying around a paper recycling centre or above a landfill when a rubbish bag splits open after it’s dumped. There have been a few things that are a bit more sensitive, for whatever reason, and I started shredding those things, but there’s just so much and the process is so slow that I decided to order a secure destruction bin to put it all into, everything from the highly sensitive to the merely rather-not-have-flying-around things. And that, in turn, has made me hurry up and sort though the remaining boxes of papers so I can order the bin and get rid of all that kind of “stuff”.

Meanwhile, the keep pile is, thankfully, small. It’s mostly statements (etc.) that are less than seven years old (and so, that I have to keep for awhile yet). However, mixed in those papers is “stuff” I’m keeping for purely sentimental reasons (those few papers will easily fit in one filing drawer).

I’m being as hard-nosed and no-nonsense as my fragile self can handle, and it’s paid off: Over the time I’ve been in this house, there’s been a lot of “stuff” I’ve given away, been able to throw out in the rubbish, recycled, and also a little bit I sold. It all adds up—and to far more than I (or anyone else) can grasp.

Even so, there’s still so very much to do, and it gets me down sometimes. So, I just work away at it, little by little, and make slow progress doing what I can, when I can, to revive my old motto. If one day I’m just not feeling it, maybe tomorrow (to recall another motto). I still have no idea when this will be all done, but I’m not focused on that as much as sticking to the one thing more than any other that’s gotten me through the past couple years: One day at a time.

The past few days have helped move things along. Other days will help, too. What I can, when I can, one day at a time, and sometimes maybe tomorrow. It all gets me closer to the end game of all this work: To lighten the load I carry—in many different ways.

The photo above is of the first thing I sold, boxed and ready for the courier to pick up.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

An eventful week

This week has been important for New Zealand’s move toward a world in which Covid-19 is endemic, one in which the country re-opens to the world—and itself. The new system is designed to keep New Zealanders safe while letting us get on with more or less “normal” life. Well, vaccinated people will have that, anyway: Unvaccinated people will face restrictions.

On Wednesday of last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made some announcementsabout the new Covid-19 Protection Framework, which the government is now also calling “the traffic light system”, as most New Zealanders and the news media do. The framework will replace our current Alert Level system—and its lockdowns—and provide a way for fully-vaccinated people to have near-normal life. She said that all of New Zealand would move to the new system together, and shortly after Cabinet reaffirms the move Monday of next week (November 29).

At the press conference on Monday (video and transcript at the link), the prime minster announced, “the whole country will move into the new traffic light system, at 11.59 p.m. on Thursday, 2 December, making Friday, 3 December the first day that the traffic light system will be operationalised.”

On Monday, Cabinet will look at the various DHB (District Health Board) areas to see where their vaccination rates are at, or likely to be at not long afterward, what the uptake of “My Vaccine Pass” has been, and related issues to determine which “light” they’ll be starting in. The prime minister had already said that Auckland will be at Red because of the current outbrak, and in Monday’s press conference she also said that:
We will not be placing any region into green, and that is because we’re in a transition environment. We don’t want regions yo-yoing, and starting in green is an unlikely place for people to stay while we’re transitioning at the moment, particularly with [the Auckland] boundary changes.
Any parts of the country placed at Red, and it’s at least possible the entire country may be, it be similar to the way things are now for fully-vaccinated New Zealanders (and, as of today, 84% of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated, and 92% have had at least one jab). However, for unvaccinated eligible people, it will be similar to living under the current Level 3 restrictions.

The other big announcement came on yesterday when Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the government’s plan for “Reconnecting New Zealand — the next steps”, which includes timelines and requirements for opening up New Zealand’s borders, beginning on January 16, 2022 with people in Australia, then extending to New Zealanders in other countries a month later before opening in April to any eligible person anywhere in the world (except countries deemed :high risk”).

At the core of the new system is self-isolation: In addition to mandatory testing, the government will require 7-day self isolation for fully-vaccinated people. While this shouldn’t be a problem for Kiwis returning to family, tourists won’t be able to do that unless some sort of private isolation facilities open. There’s apparently never been a case of Covid found in fully-vaccinated people arriving from Australia, so it’s logical to wonder if the self-isolation requirement will remain long-term.

Another problem for Australians or New Zealander who live in Australia is that travelling to New Zealand is one thing, but travelling back to Australia without quarantine may not be possible, depending on which Australian state they live in. So, returning to New Zealand without staying in an MIQ facility will be great, but, right now, anyway, it looks like it’d work mostly for those returning to New Zealand permanently.

A potential problem for us all in the weeks ahead is the teeny, tiny, and aggressive anti-vax/government extremist nutjobs who are becoming increasingly abusive and even violent toward retail workers. However, as the fully-vaccinated majority of people begin to take advantage of the freedoms they’ll have with the new traffic light system, only the hard-core lunatics will remain a threat (as, indeed, they always are—that’s nothing new).

The fact is, there is every reason to think that in the months ahead New Zealand will become a much more positive—and fun—place again as people just get on with “normal” life. The loudmouth loons may still spit into the wind (sometimes literally, probably), but the vast majority will just get on with life again. And that’s exactly what we’ve wanted for a long time.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Another mini project

A cropped version of the photo
I shared on social media.
I recently completed another mini project, or the first parts of one, anyway. It took forever for the thing I ordered to get to me (photo at right), and then, after that, it took me a few days to finalise the mini project—and then realise it was only the beginning.

Last month, as Lockdown dragged on, I started opening some boxes that were originally in the garage, until I put them in the house, where they remained. Among the things were all our DVDs.

Nigel and I had collected the DVDs of all the series of “Star Trek”, and they used to be displayed on top of some bookcases that were in Nigel’s office at the house we moved out of in 2017 (and have been boxed ever since). Those shelves are now in my office, and I decided I wanted to put those DVDs on top of them again. But that was only the start.

I realised that the DVDs told a story about us—the things that interested us, the entertainment we liked, and I also could tell the ones Nigel had chosen, the ones I chose, and the ones both of us wanted. I knew that some had been expensive, while others were on clearance. Most of the DVDs came from here in New Zealand, but some came from the USA (about which, more in a different post). I decided I wanted to put all those DVDs out on shelves near the TV.

First, I stood up all the DVDs and measured them, and so, I knew I had about 2 shelf-metres of DVDs, which isn’t a lot since that included box sets. Next, I had to work out what sort of shelves I wanted.

I looked online at various shops to see what I could get, but most of them weren’t appealing, and all were over $100, some by a lot. I considered putting up hanging shelves, as I’d done in the kitchen, but the cheapest options were working out to more than $200, and I didn’t like that option because the shelves would stick from the wall (because of the vertical parts that hold the shelf brackets). I knew this would bug me because I’d see that when I watched TV. So, I considered buying wood and then notching them out so the shelves would sit flat against the wall—but that was a lot of work when I really just wanted some shelves that could kind of be in the background.

I ultimately decided on some shelves I’d have to order from a place in Auckland: Some IKEA Billy shelves (Note: This is NOT a compensated mention – I paid full price). This was the first IKEA item I’ve ever bought, so I didn’t know what to expect, except that I was paying more for them than I’d have liked.

The higher than usual price was because IKEA doesn’t operate in New Zealand, though supposedly they’re coming here eventually (Side note: To this day, I’ve never been in an IKEA store). The place in Auckland imports IKEA stuff from Australia, marks them up (of course), and then ships them to NZ customers (important since Lockdown meant I couldn’t go to the shop in person).

I ordered the shelves on October 25, and they told me they were being shipped from their “offsite warehouse”, which I now think means Australia. The shelves finally arrived at my house on Friday, November 12—eighteen days after I ordered them.

The extremely long delivery time was only slightly longer than smaller packages can take to get from Auckland to Hamilton (maybe an hour and a half drive…), but the bigger issue was cost: Shipping cost me $75, meaning the shelves ended up being the most expensive option (but only by around $40). Until the shelves got here, I was thinking that I could’ve picked them up myself, were it not for Lockdown, however, it turned out the box was 2 metres long, longer than the cargo space in my car, so shipping was the only option, anyway.

The notch.
I chose those shelves for several reasons, including the size of the unit and number of shelves, but there were other things, too. First, there’s a notch at the base so the unit can sit flat against the wall, with the skirting board running under the notch). None of the other shelves I considered had such a thing, and while I may have been able to cut one out of others, that’s always a bit risky without knowing the quality of the fibreboard used.

The final reason I chose the IKEA shelves is that they’re rated at 30kg per shelf (roughly 66 US pounds), and most of the other similar shelves I’d looked at were rated at 10kg per shelf (roughly 22 pounds). This strength mattered because of what I’d decided about the shelves before they got here.

I decided that if I hated the shelves, I’d move it into my master wardrobe to replace some smaller shelves I have in there (one can never have too much storage in a wardrobe). However, if I liked them, but just not there, I thought I’d buy more and use them to replace the shelves in my office, which have books on them, and the greater strength would be needed.

So the big, heavy box arrived, and I set out to put them together. I’ve never assembled anything from IKEA, of course, but the tales are legendary. It turns out, it was extremely easy to do, and took me less than an hour—it almost took me longer to get into the box! In fact, I found the assembly easier than many shelf units I’ve assembled over the years. I saw a good tip in a YouTube video: The pictures of the screws, etc., in the instructions were nearly actual size, so it was easy to be sure to get the right part. I’ve mentioned this previously, but before I begin assembling anything, I always count out the parts first to make sure they’re all there, and that tip was helpful for that. The instructions themselves were all pictures, no words, which at one time would’ve been hard for me, but most assembly instructions are wordless now (or should be, in some cases…).

Left: IKEA corner guard. Right: From the kitchen shelves.
I was very impressed with everything about the shelves. First, it was very well packaged to prevent damage, and all of the packaging was recyclable—no polystyrene, and only two plastic bags for the parts (both of which can be recycled here in Hamilton). All long edges of the box were covered with rigid cardboard that reminded me of corner moulding, and all 8 corners had plastic covers that were clearly stamped with a large recycling code. All the shelves I put in the kitchen had plastic guards on the corners of each shelf, unlabelled, and so, probably not recyclable (I’ve found ways to re-use them).

The quality of the shelf materials was outstanding. The melamine-covered shelves and uprights were noticeably thicker than the ones in the units I’ve bought in the past, and so, part of the reason they’re stronger. The shelf supports for the adjustable shelves seemed a bit more robust than usual, and the unit came with brackets to attach the top of the unit to the wall. That’s to prevent the shelves from toppling over—a good thing in itself, but it’s even more important in places like New Zealand that have earthquakes. This is the first time I’ve ever bought shelves that included them; normally, people have to buy angle brackets at the hardware store to do that, so most don’t.

The only thing I questioned was that the cams used to grab the metal pegs for the fixed shelves were plastic, not metal. That’s clearly not as robust, but it seemed to be relatively strong plastic (each fixed shelf also used wooden pegs). I have an open mind about it, but I’d have preferred metal.

I put the assembled unit in place, but didn’t put the wall brackets on because I wasn’t sure the unit would stay there. Then, I started putting the DVDs on the shelves. Over the next couple days, I played with rearranging them until I got something I was happy with (for now). Here’s the before and after photo:

After sitting with the shelves for a few days, I decided that I like the shelves there, but I think I need to get another set of shelves for the other side of the window (probably for CDs, because, reasons). I also may have my TV mounted to the wall (a project I won’t do myself!) so it sits back farther so that corner doesn’t feel so crowded. There’s no urgency for that, though; if I do buy some for my office, I’ll probably order them all at once, and it would be only after I sold the shelves I have now, something I wouldn’t do until after Auckland’s border opens up (a story in itself).

So there it is: I bought some shelves as part of a general household project, gave myself some leeway to make other decisions, but decided I liked it as planned, and it’s now leading to even more household projects. At least my part in this project didn’t take much time—and it was inside with the air conditioner running. Wins all around.

Update – December 2, 2021: It was announced today that IKEA has signed a "conditional agreement" to build a full store at the Sylvia Park mall, located in Auckland's Mt Wellington (Sylvia Park is New Zealand's largest mall, and located adjacent to the Auckland Motorway, putting it within easy drive of millions of New Zealanders). There's not even a hint about when construction might start, but IKEA New Zealand chief executive, Mirja Viinanen, said that as well as the physical store, it would also offer online shopping and delivery across New Zealand, which is good news. Although it could easily be a couple years before the store opens—if everything goes well—this is more specific news than we have had so far, and so, it sounds more promising.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Two lasts last, too

At 11:59pm this past Tuesday, November 16, the parts of the Waikato at Alert Level 3, Step 2 moved back to Level 2, the relatively free Alert Level that the rest of New Zealand (apart from Auckland) was at. It turned out that on that day, before the Alert Level change happened, I did one of the things that was stopped when we went under Lockdown back in August, and that, in turn, sets the stage for resuming what had been stopped by Lockdowns, my biggest-ever project, the garage.

The news that Hamilton was changing Alert Levels came at the 4pm news conference on Monday, and the next morning I rang the moving company to see about having them collect the last of their boxes. It was something I planned on doing in August, just before Lockdown.

In a lengthy post on August 14, I said near the end, “I plan on ringing the movers next week to pick up the boxes, and if they won’t, I’ll take them to be recycled.” I had a dental hygienist appointment later that week, so I decided to ring on that day to make sure there was no conflict with the appointment: The last time boxes were collected—almost exactly a year earlier—I got about 20 minutes warning they were on the way. I never got the chance to do that.

I could’ve arranged to have them collected during the 26 days Hamilton was at Level 2 (between September 7 and October 3), but I didn’t get to it for a lot of reasons. Once we went back under Level 3, I considered taking them to the tip for recycling (which I could apparently do). One of the issues was that some of the boxes were quite large (which is why I came up with a universal way to calculate the volume of stuff I was unpacking: The number of boxes alone didn’t say much when some were very large and others tiny). Still, I would’ve managed—but I couldn’t be bothered with it.

So it was that on this past Tuesday morning I was on the phone, speaking with a very friendly person at NZ Movers, and she said she’d pass it on to the Hamilton crew, and they’d contact me. I knew that the company doesn’t have an office here, but has some sort of depot, which isn’t publicly listed. The friendly staffer told me it might be a couple weeks before they could collect them.

The next morning, I got a call a little after 9am asking if they could swing by to pick up the boxes—you can see this coming—about 20 minutes later. I opened the overhead garage door and pulled the boxes outside into the bright, sunny day (photo up top). All the boxes were already at the front, where I’d neatly put them before the August Lockdown (and later rearranged a bit), so this was much easier to do than the collection back in 2020.

The friendly 2-person crew arrived, loaded up the boxes and left. The months-long wait was all over by quarter to ten at the latest, and I had a little more room in my garage.

“Little” is kind of the operative word here. I was thinking there were a lot more boxes, partly because I’d kinda forgotten that some boxes were “counted” as two or even three boxes when I was calculating the volume I’d unpacked. But the bigger issue was actually that it had been so long by that point—some three months—I simply forgot how much was there. Also, I learned that boxes standing up against a wall slouch and take up more room than they should—especially when they’re in the bloody way.

Now that they’re out of the way, I can do what I also said I’d do in that innocent (but long) post a few days before the Lockdown was announced: “Once I get [the boxes] out of the way I can move the scrap metal stuff to the front of the garage.” That’s the last stalled thing to be done, but it’s at least possible now.

When I shared the photo up top on social media, I joked that I can start working on the garage project again “just in time for hot summer temperatures! Oh well, maybe a sauna will be a good way to lose those Lockdown Kilos.” One can always hope.

There's on other "last" think I still need to do: Get a post-Lockdown haircut. I decided I’d wait because I guessed—correctly, it turned out—that there’d be a long queue of men waiting to get into the barbershop. I planned to go this coming week—finally!

I’d planned to get one on August 17, right after I got my second Covid jab, even though it was only beginning to get to the point I’d need one. However, on the way to that I heard on the radio that the Delta Variant had appeared in Auckland, and I knew what was coming. It kind of knocked the wind out of me.

When we first went to Level 2 on September 7, I did the same thing as now: I planned on waiting until the following week to allow the mobs to clear. But then I got busy and just didn’t get there before we went back under Level 3—and by then I did need a haircut.

So, I did what lots of other folks did during Lockdowns: I took the clippers and attempted to tidy up my own hair. It turned out, it’s hard to turn my back to the wall mirror and use a hand-held mirror to try to get the clippers in the right position and angle. It was so difficult that I only tidied things up a little, mainly along my collar (which was bothering me).

This means I’m now back to roughly where I was the last time we went to Level 2—and I hope that’s not some sort of omen, though I doubt it is. But, worse case scenario, if we do suddenly have tightened rules before I can get my haircut, I’ll almost certainly ignore the rules and have a relative cut my hair—pretty much like anyone else would do now, except we’re all fully-vaccinated, unlike the people who got us into this mess over the past few months.

Now that the boxes are gone, I can get back onto my garage project (possibly only in the mornings…), and get my hair cut. All of that will put me pretty much back to where I was before Lockdown in August. Hopefully, this time it’ll be nothing but moves forward, and not stalling again. This time, I hope it lasts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The next steps have been announced

Last night, the Waikato moved to Alert Level 2. At today’s media conference, the Prime Minister announced the date Aucklanders can leave the city, and what the requirements will be, along with when the new “traffic light” system will begin. It turns out, I pretty much got my predictions right.

The most important thing for Aucklanders, and those of us wanting to go to Auckland, is that the border opens on December 15. Vaccinated people will be able to leave Auckland by showing their “My Vaccine Pass” (about which, more in a bit), and unvaccinated people will have to produce proof of a negative Covid test taken 72 hours before they leave. Unvaccinated people will be able to enter Auckland, but I presume they’d need a negative test to leave again. Children under 12 are exempt from the requirements because they cannot be vaccinated right now (that might begin around April next year).

People flying out of Auckland will also need to produce proof of vaccination or a negative test result, something that Air New Zealand has already said will apply to all their flights nationwide beginning in December. Today the government also announced that passengers on the Cook Strait Ferry from Wellington to the South Island will have to be fully vaccinated or have a negative test. This is a way to help protect South Islanders (it’s also something I’ve been advocating for awhile now, but it was impossible to do without the vaccine pass).

Anyone violating these new rules can be fined $1000 (today, roughly US$700).

The “My Vaccine Pass” is available as of today. Like a lot of people, I haven’t been able to get through on the Ministry’s website because it’s overloaded. Still, as of midday today some 60,000 people had already downloaded their passes. Demand has remained strong all day.

I enthusiastically support and endorse all of this: It’s exactly what needs to be done. It’s also pretty much in line with what I was saying last night.

Last night, I said that New Zealand would have to transition to the new “traffic light” system some time before Auckland’s borders will open, and we will. The Prime Minister said today that Cabinet will reaffirm the decision to move the entire country to the new system on Monday, November 29, and it would happen “soon after” that date. She didn’t specify when, precisely, that might be, but December 1 is exactly two weeks before the border opens, so I’m betting it’ll be around then. That will give everyone a couple weeks to get used to the new system before it really matters: When Aucklanders start travelling.

The Prime Minister also added that the specific “traffic light” colour will depend on the vaccination rates within a DHB area: If they’re not at 90% fully-vaccinated, they’ll be at “Red”, a level at which only vaccinated people can be in places like bars and restaurants. Essentially, vaccinated people will be living similarly to Alert Level 2 now, and unvaccinated people will be living under conditions similar to Alert Level 3 Lockdown. The Prime Minister said that because of its current outbreak, Auckland would initially be at “Red”, which means that the unvaccinated will still be under restrictions similar to what they have at the moment, but vaccinated people will be living like everyone else in New Zealand is currently living. I should add that she didn’t say Auckland wouldn’t change Alert Levels ahead of the move to the new system, which could be a couple weeks away. We’ll know more on Monday, but I can see good arguments for moving them (get them used to greater freedoms) and for not moving them (apparently, some 100,000 people are still not vaccinated). I don’t have a strong opinion about what will happen, but I suppose I might lean toward “no change”, though neither action would surprise me.

One advantage of keeping DHB areas with low vaccination rates at “Red”—aside from protecting the unvaccinated—is that it’ll provide an incentive for people to get both jabs (in all DHBs, the number with one jab is always higher than the number with both, which is logical, really). By announcing today that the new system is starting soon, it gives an incentive for unvaccinated people to hurry up and get their first jab because, for example, anyone vaccinated today can get their second jab on December 1, and their vaccine will be fully effective two weeks after that, when the Auckland border opens. But being able to enjoy all the freedoms associated with being fully vaccinated on Day One of the new system will give those with a single dose a powerful incentive to get their second jab as soon as possible, too.

I think that placing DHB areas with low vaccination rates under “Red” is a really good solution. It will help keep them safer, while at the same time allowing the fully vaccinated to get on with more normal life. That meets my number one criteria for change: That the fully-vaccinated—who did exactly what was asked of them—are no longer held hostage by the unvaccinated.

But, the anti-government types will moan, what about “freedom”? There’s no problem here whatsoever. People have the right to make their own choice to remain unvaccinated—but but they have NO right to also avoid the consequences of their choice. If choosing to remain unvaccinated causes them to miss out on summer fun, or, more seriously, to lose their job, there aren’t many people in New Zealand who’d have much sympathy for them. Demanding the “freedom” to make a choice about vaccination and also demanding to be able to make that choice without any consequences whatsoever isn’t “freedom”, it’s adolescence.

In my opinion, the government’s moves strike the right balance between opening up the country and keeping New Zealanders safe, between the rights of people who are protecting the community and themselves by being vaccinated, while also preserving the rights of people to reject vaccination (with possible consequences for doing so, of course). It means controlling Covid without wreaking havoc on the economy or society by using the heavy, blunt force and burden of Lockdowns.

Critics, as the Prime Minister pointed out today, will complain that the government didn’t move fast enough, or that it's moving too fast. I think that it’s made exactly the right call to let us get on with life while keeping us safe. Vaccination is the one thing that’s made this possible, and if some people can’t or won’t accept that, that’s on them. The vast majority of us will just keep calm, be vaccinated, stay healthy, and carry on.

Bring on summer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Next steps

At 11:59pm tonight, the Waikato joins the country—except Auckland—at Alert Level 2. Today was Lockdown Day 91 for Auckland. Tomorrow, the prime minister will announce when Auckland’s borders will open. I think there could me related announcements, too. The important thing right now is that from tomorrow, I can get a haircut.

Last week I talked about what I think will happen with New Zealand’s Covid management in the weeks ahead. My prediction for what would happen today wasn’t exactly a success:
(T)here may not be any changes to the current Alert Levels for either Auckland or the Waikato this coming Monday (November 15), however, both will move to Alert Level 3, Step 3 no later than the following Monday (November 22).
First, there was apparently never going to be a review of Auckland’s Alert Level yesterday (it’ll be on November 22, apparently); I think I read that in a news story that may have made a mistake, but it’s also possible that I just got all confused: Most people in New Zealand are now confused about Alert Levels, after all. Or, it could’ve change. The important thing is that the Waikato is skipping over Level 3, Step 3 and going right to Alert Level 2. However, the reality is that there’s really not a dramatic difference between the two. Even so, it’s not what I thought would happen; I think it’s only the second time that the government has gone farther with Alert Level changes than I expected them to.

At that same press conference yesterday, the prime minister made clear that the entire country will switch to the new “traffic light” system early, which I said was definitely going to happen, and it’s for the same reason I said: It’s the only way to keep the country safe as Aucklanders move around the country—and, let’s be clear and honest about it: Unvaccinated Aucklanders will be spreading the virus around the country. It’s not clear when, precisely, the nationwide change will happen, however, today she said it would be before Auckland’s borders open. I saw one TV reporter say that the decision on when we’ll move to the new system would be announced on November 29, but I don’t know why they said that, and, to me, that just doesn’t make any sense.

If the prime minister is announcing tomorrow what date Auckland’s borders will open, then it doesn’t make sense to wait ten more days before announcing the date the new system starts (for Auckland or the rest of the country) because we’ll already know the date by which the entire country will have to have moved to the new system. So, my prediction is that if the date the borders open is any time in the first full week of December, then we’ll have to move to the new system at least some days earlier (like the first few days of the month) in order to have time to adapt. Or, if the date the borders open is in the second full week of December, then on November 29 the government could announce when the country is moving to the new system. Either way, though, waiting until the 29th to move Auckland to the new system is a bit late. So, I think the announcement about that will be made sometime over the next week (November 17-24), because they now only hold live press conferences on Mondays and Wednesdays, and it’s too important a thing to announce by press release.

In the meantime, it’ll be very nice to have the freedoms of Level 2 again—not just haircuts, but also that we can, say, go to a cafe for lunch, or just to get a coffee, and that we can again gather with other people inside someone’s home (and be allowed to use their loo…). To be honest, though, with Delta spreading quickly though the North Island already, I’d feel much safer about going out in public if we went to the new “traffic light” system NOW. The delay, apparently, is to allow time for the final testing of the online procedure for getting our vaccine certificates. As might be expected, I’m already set-up with the Ministry of Health to complete the process to get my vaccination certificate as soon as they open the process, something I took care of as soon as it became possible to do so (a few weeks ago, I think it was).

Here we are, then, still waiting for details on the timeline of our new path forward—though I have my own opinions in the meantime. And, from tomorrow, the Waikato goes back to Alert Level 2. And haircuts. And coffee. And it’ll make waiting for the next step a little bit easier for us.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

More changes in the hope of progress

More than two months ago, I talked about my online consultation with the cardiologist, and about where things were heading. There are new developments and once again—despite a personal history that should convince me otherwise—I’m hopeful.

I’m in the process of making two big changes, the first of which is by far the most important: I decided to stop taking the diuretic, bendroflumethiazide. The cardiologist prescribed that for me at my post-ablation consultation back in July in order to help control my blood pressure, however, I didn’t start taking it until after my second Covid jab, which was on August 17—the same day New Zealand went under a Level 4 Lockdown because of the emergence of the Delta Variant. I started taking the new drugs two days later, on August 19—and it did not go at all well.

By the time I met (virtually) with the cardiologist the following Tuesday (August 24), I was feeling better. It didn’t last.

I know from experience that it often can take a long time for me to adjust to new prescriptions, so I was willing to wait things out. In the weeks that followed, I felt very, very tired—sleepy, even—much of the time. It was a different kind of tired than before: Instead of lacking energy to do much, I instead felt like all I wanted to do was have a nap. That wasn’t necessarily every day, but it was frequent.

Worse, I frequently had severe (for me…) head-rushes and lightheadedness, something that rarely happened to me in the past. When they happened, I had to stop wherever I was, grab something to steady myself, breathe slowly and deeply, with my my eyes closed until the wave passed. I hated every second of that. This can happen when blood pressure is too low, and I was on two drugs to control my BP, so, to me, the additional drug was the likely culprit.

The thing that affected my life the most, though, was the sudden and urgent need to find a toilet. Ordinarily, I might become aware that I needed to pee, and I could finish what I was doing and then head to the loo. But under this drug I’d have that awareness and then a split second later it became urgent or I’d risk wetting my pants. I got around that by making sure I didn’t have even as much as a sip of water for at least an hour before leaving the house, and even then I tried to get back home as fast as I could because public toilets are closed during a Lockdown. Not surprisingly, I didn’t leave the house very much.

I had one other thing that kept recurring: Frequent bouts of feeling very unwell. I could “feel” my heart beating, mostly because I’d feel very anxious. It’s a feeling very similar to tachycardia, so I’d take my blood pressure and almost always found that it was too low. For example, it happened this past Monday and in the midst of it my BP was 107/69. A brief nap helped me feel better. The thing about this is that it might be caused by the diuretic, or by my new main blood pressure medicine, enalapril, because that’s also new and different. I wish I hadn’t started taking them both at the same time because then I’d know for sure if one or the other changed things negatively for me. However, there’s also the possibility that something else entirely is going on.

First, I may have other heart rhythm problems. Back in June, I talked about how I was getting home ECG readings marked as “Unclassified” or even “Possible Afib”. Both my GP and cardiologist said it looked like ectopic beats, and in my post-ablation consultation he told me that I might have extra beats or skipped beats, so an echocardiogram would be a good idea because I last had one back in July of 2018, and I’ve had the ablation and many changed prescriptions since then. I was due to get that new echocardiogram in August, but Lockdown stopped that (they don’t do them under Level 4 or 3). So, that question is still unexplored.

There’s another, entirely different, thing that could be behind this: Lockdown. I live alone (with Leo, of course), and there weren’t many places I could go until the Waikato went under Level 3, Step 2 (things are much better now). It’s entirely possible that Lockdown, combined with grieving the loss of my soulmate, could’ve affected my mental/emotional health. I honestly don’t think so, but it can’t be ruled out, either.

So, the logical thing to do right now is to eliminate one of the possible culprits, bendroflumethiazide. It may turn out that it wasn’t the cause of my extreme tiredness and weird unwell spells, however, the ways the drug definitely affects me are reason enough to stop taking it. I decided to wean myself off of it because I seem to be much more sensitive to prescriptions than I used to be. For the next few days I’m taking half a tablet, and then I’ll take a quarter tablet for a couple days after that before stopping it altogether. It may not be necessary, but it makes me feel safer doing that, and that’s important.

All of which leads to an inevitable question: If I’ve felt so unwell, and endured the unpleasant effects of this drug, why have I stayed on it so long? Part of that, I have to admit, is my usual stubbornness: I didn’t want the unused pills to go to waste. But the far bigger reason is that much of the time I felt more or less okay, and I honestly thought I might eventually feel better. Also, the lethargy caused and sustained by Lockdown probably encouraged that kind of thinking. Next week I’ll run out of the drug, so this was the perfect time to drop it—and to finally motivate me to contact my GP about doing so.

The final change I’m making is to try using a NZ-owned online-only pharmacy for my prescriptions, something I’ll talk about next week when my first order arrives. That might sound like a very minor change, but it could end up making my life much easier. I hope dropping the diuretic makes my life much easier to live, too.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

My trend-based predictions

When I made my predictions about New Zealand’s Alert Levels announcement this past Monday, it was based on that week’s situation, but there have always been certain obvious trends developing that were at the base of those predictions. In this post I’ll talk about those trends, and what I think that’s leading to.

First, some basic facts, starting with the biggest: Covid isn’t going anywhere. That’s now obvious because nowhere in the world has successfully banished the Delta Variant, and New Zealand won’t, either. That’s why the government is moving from a strategy of elimination to one of containment—the very thing the new “traffic light” system is supposed to enable without resorting to the blunt weapon of lockdowns that have become less and less effective over time (in part because Delta is so easily transmissible).

What this means in practice is that we all need to get used to large numbers of daily cases: There were 185 new cases today, which is a lot for a country that never had triple-digit new case numbers until last month. This is an entirely psychological problem, though, and we’ll need a little time to adjust to the new reality. I think that part of the slowness in making any changes to the Alert Level System is because of this need to adjust.

The other fact is that Covid will no longer be seen as a possible death sentence. Getting Covid will, over time, become far less scary because it’ll be less virulent among the fully vaccinated who mostly won’t get very sick (or at all) when they’re exposed to the virus, as most of us will be in the future. Those who do get sick will become less sick, and fewer will die. Again, NZ’s high vaccination rates (see below and graphic up top) is part of the reason for that, but also because we’ll have more tools to fight it. Last month, NZ’s drug-buying agency, Pharmac, signed a deal to purchase 60,000 doses of molnupiravir, a drug used to treat mild to medium cases of Covid. A short while later, the agency announced approval of Ronapreve, a monoclonal antibody drug for people with more severe cases of Covid (it was used to treat Trump). Both drugs are awaiting approval from Medsafe, New Zealand’s medicine regulator.

What all of this means is that even though Covid won’t go away, the odds of getting sick will decline, and those who do get sick will have treatment options. As if all that wasn’t reason enough reason for optimism, the vast majority of people who get Covid don’t get seriously ill even right now, and among those who do, most don’t need hospitalisation, let along treatment in an ICU/HDU, and few people die. No one yet knows what the long-term consequences (including “Long Covid”) of getting sick with Covid are, but it seems at least possible that being able to treat more cases early on is likely to help moderate any bad things for at least some of the people who’d otherwise have a bad outcome.

All of that is the background, one way or another to my biggest prediction of all: All of New Zealand will switch to the new “traffic light” system in early December.

Today, New Zealand hit an important milestone in vaccinations: 90% of eligible New Zealanders have had at least one jab, and 80% have had both (graphic above). This matters because many other countries, including Australia, are using the 80% mark to begin opening up their countries, and that’s a level New Zealand has achieved—nationally. While it’s true that many DHBs won’t achieve 90% fully-vaccinated until mid-January (based on current projections), many of them have fairly small populations. Most of the DHBs with large populations will achieve or get very near to that 90% mark by early December. That means that the government will decide it’s time to open the country again, and mainly because of one word: Christmas.

The government has already pledged to allow Aucklanders out of the city for Christmas, but it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to do that unless the Covid Vaccination Certificates are ready and can be used at businesses and venues nationwide. Moreover, it makes no sense for Aucklanders—who will be under the traffic light system in the city by then—to go back to the current Alert Level system used throughout the rest of the country, because that would offer far less protection from, and far great risk of, transmission. Logically, then, the entire country will have to be on the new system before Aucklanders are allowed out of Auckland, and early December will be enough time to get the new system bedded-in around the country beforehand.

Specifically, there may not be any changes to the current Alert Levels for either Auckland or the Waikato this coming Monday (November 15), however, both will move to Alert Level 3, Step 3 no later than the following Monday (November 22). There are two reasons I say that. First, the Prime Minister already said that the government wants to ease restrictions for Aucklanders ahead of the decision on them switching to the new “traffic light” system, something she also strongly hinted was inevitable sooner rather than later. The government will make the decision on Auckland’s move to the new system by Monday, November 29—but never said it won’t be earlier. Because of that, and that our vaccination rates continue to climb, the government could move Auckland to Level 3, Step 3 on Monday, or later that week, but I think the announcement on the 22nd is more likely to be that Auckland is moving to the “traffic light” system. Then, on the 29th, they can announce the rest of the country is moving to it, too, and still allow a week for the rest of New Zealand to adjust before releasing Aucklanders from their home-bound jail.

There could still be something to mess up this scenario, like a sudden major outbreak somewhere, but that seems unlikely. If one did happen, it’s more likely the government would surround that new outbreak with full lockdown while leaving the rest of us alone so the transitions to the new realities can continue in preparation for our nationwide move in December.

In sum, then, given the new reality of endemic Covid, along with far better health outcomes overall, and because New Zealand will be at least close to 90% fully vaccinated nationwide in early December, I predict the new “traffic light” system will be in place nationwide next month—possibly in the first week. And that means we’ll have a nearly “normal” Christmas and summer.

These are my opinions, of course, and as such can be wrong, or even dismissed without further thought. I’m making them at all because I think I’m correct, and I need to be on record so I can prove it if it turns out I am. Next time, I’ll talk about what happened.

Update: So, were any of my predictions correct? I've now published the update.

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.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Twenty-six years later

26 years ago today, I arrived in New Zealand to begin my life with Nigel. Because of that, this was the date that we always saw as our anniversary, even after we gained a lot more anniversaries to celebrate. Now? I’m not sure it means more than any other significant day to remember, and I already have plenty of them.

This year, I didn’t spend any time thinking about the day in relation to my time in New Zealand by itself. I didn’t even make any sort of special post about that part on my personal Facebook, something I did most years. But even when I made those posts, I would mention Nigel, since he was the reason there was anything to celebrate. Today, I just shared a photo of our family at our house eight years ago today, when we held the party to celebrate that we were legally married.

I chose to post that on my personal Facebook today because this is two days after what as an emotional day remembering the eighth anniversary of our marriage. I don’t know why I felt so emotional this year; maybe it’s because of the never-ending Lockdown, maybe it’s because Nigel’s been gone two years now, or maybe it’s all that or even something else. I honestly don’t know. But what I do know is that it was even possible that I could’ve forgotten about today altogether—as highly improbable as that was.

The original reason to celebrate this particular anniversary is now gone, and my own personal reason—that it marks the start of my life in New Zealand—doesn’t yet have any meaning for me that I can adequately describe or explain, and that’s because my life in general lacks such meaning. I guess a low-key day was probably inevitable for me this year.

Maybe in future years, after I figure out things (including my life…), this day will have a new meaning for me. But right now? Still? It’s the anniversary that Nigel and I always took as our important one, and that still overshadows everything else. And right now, I’m perfectly okay with that.

Happy main anniversary, sweetheart.

Twenty-five years later (2020)
Twenty four Years (2019)

Posts from happier years:

Twenty Three Years Together (2018)
Twenty Two Years Together (2017)
Twenty One Years Together (2016)
Twenty Years Together (2015)
Surreal 19th Expataversary (2014)
Eighteen (2013)
The day that really mattered (2012)
Sweet sixteen (2011)
Fifteen (2010)
Fourteen (2009)
Lucky 13: Expataversary and more (2008)
Twelfth Anniversary (2007)
Eleven Years an Expat (2006)


Ex, but not ex- – A 2006 post about being an expat
Changing policies and lives – A 2011 post about becoming a permanent resident
12 years a citizen – A 2014 post about becoming a NZ citizen

The slow reopening

The slow and gradual reopening of the areas still under Level 3 is continuing, and this time the changes will be be meaningful for people still living under what’s otherwise Lockdown. At 11:59pm tonight, the Waikato+ (the parts of the Waikato and areas south under Level 3 Lockdown) will move to Alert Level 3, Step 2. Auckland may follow next week.

There are rules for each Step, and under Level 3, Step 2:
  • retail can open, with customers keeping 2 metres apart, and staff and customers required to wear face coverings.
  • public facilities like libraries, museums and zoos can reopen, with face coverings required and people keeping 2 metres apart.
  • outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people can go ahead, with the removal of the 2-household restriction. Physical distancing is strongly encouraged to help prevent the virus spreading between households.
  • outdoor organised exercise classes, like yoga and bootcamps, can expand to 25 people, including instructors, with 2-metre physical distancing required.
These changes are potentially risky: Allowing people into shops may make them points of infection, what the Ministry of Health calls “exposure events”. However, with vaccination rates continuing to rise (as of today, 76% of the eligible population is fully-vaccinated, and 88% have had at least one jab), the risk is reducing all the time. That’s because this is now a disease of the unvaccinated: The vast, vast majority of people who become infected are unvaccinated, as are the vast, vast majority of those who become quite ill, and the vast, vast, vast majority of those who are hospitalised. So, although we keep getting new record-setting daily totals, our hospitalisation rates aren’t rising anywhere nearly as quickly, something the Ministry of Health attributes to the rising percentage of the population that’s fully vaccinated, especially in Auckland, and also that the disease is affecting younger people people who are better able to fight it off (for weeks the average age of hospitalised people as been in the low to mid 40s). In fact, many of the people with Covid who have been hospitalised were actually there for something else entirely, and in some cases, only found out they were positive when they turned up for other reasons.

These changes will also make a big difference to ordinary people. Retail will be reopening in time for Christmas shopping, something that’s especially important for Auckland, which has been under Lockdown with no retail shops allowed to open (apart from supermarkets and pharmacies, of course). That will be good for New Zealand’s economy, with a third of the population able to patronise local shops again, but it will be even more important for people’s state of mind and mental health.

These changes are pretty huge for me personally. I’ll be able to go to the home centre to pick out the plants I want to buy, something I was beginning to think couldn’t happen this year. I’ll also be able to get supplies for various projects that I could have picked-up using “click and collect”, but the pandemic fatigue made me uninterested and unmotivated. This will let me feel like I’m getting stuff done.

The bigger impact for me is on my mental and emotional wellbeing. Being able to go to a shop and be around other human beings is huge for someone who lives alone, especially because Lockdown restrictions have meant I had to remain by myself nearly 24/7 (going to a supermarket, when that’s just about the only option, isn’t good enough). Even more important, all the family here in Hamilton will be able to get together outside, if we want to, the first time in more than a month that’s been possible.

Here’s the reality that goes along with all of this: People will absolutely break the rules. We know this because people are continuing to ignore restrictions now, and it’s unlikely they’ll suddenly start behaving themselves. This is one of the big risks that could make the virus spread even faster. However, on balance, I think it’s a risk well worth taking.

New Zealand simply cannot stay locked-down much longer. That’s just a fact. Fully-vaccinated New Zealanders cannot be held hostage by the unvaccinated forever, and they’re rapidly running out of patience. Based on current projections, Auckland is likely to get to 90% fully-vaccinated by the end of the month, and so, move on to the new “stoplight” system. However, much of the country is lagging far behind. It looks like the South Island will reach 90% by around December 10, however, what’s projected to be the last DHB to get there, Northland, isn’t projected to get to 90% until January 17. Will Auckland and the South Island get to have basically normal life by Christmas, and fully enjoy their summer, while most of the North Island remains subject to lockdowns and restrictions?

Yesterday, reporters asked the prime minister if the entire country would have to wait until DHBs with relatively small populations get to 90% when the big ones—with the vast majority of the country’s population—have achieved the goal. She didn’t give a definitive answer, but did suggest they might take into account how many people were still not fully vaccinated, and not percentages alone.

The problem is that the DHBs lagging the farthest behind have disadvantaged, largely Māori, populations, people who are highly vulnerable to serious illness if the virus gets to them. Also, the New Zealand population is highly mobile, especially in the summer, meaning the chances of the virus being spread are really good—in fact, Christmas itself has the potential to be a nationwide “superspreader event” of sorts.

There are several options. First, stick to the plan and wait for the disadvantaged people in those largely rural DHBs to get to 90%. That will mean that people in areas that are over 90% fully-vaccinated will disregard the rules, and without the Vaccination Certificate programme in effect, the unvaccinated in every community will have a great opportunity to catch Covid and spread it to others.

Or, the government could decide that a lower percentage is “good enough” and switch to the new system before every DHB gets to 90%. That would mean the very populated regions would get to have summer, and it would give a strong incentive to the laggards to get vaccinated, since they’d be unable to do any of the “fun” things that the fully-vaccinated would be doing.

The government is starting marketing campaigns to drive home the point that people won’t be able to do “fun” things unless they’re fully-vaccinated, and that time is fast running out to get their first jab so they'll be fully vaccinated by summer. The marketing efforts are especially targeting young people, and young Māori people in particular, because those groups are lagging behind the most.

Maybe the efforts will get people motivated to get vaccinated now, but I think everyone, from the prime minister on down, needs to reinforce the message by constantly repeating the fact that only the fully-vaccinated will be able to do the “fun” stuff (and, possibly, continue to be employed). They also need to launch the Vaccine Certificate programme as soon as humanly possible so businesses have the opportunity to work out how they’ll implement it and people have time to get their smartphones set-up. Then, as soon as the law changes are passed the new system can start the very next day. Doing all that would make it much easier to switch to the new system quickly, even before all DHBs hit 90% fully-vaccinated.

No matter what happens, some people will be unhappy, some angry, and some will get sick and, probably, some will die. Those are the realities we now live with no matter what the government does or doesn’t do. The government has to strike a balance between protecting people from the virus—and that includes protecting the unvaccinated from themselves—but it also can’t allow those of us who did what was asked of us to be held hostage indefinitely by those who didn’t, or, worse, wouldn’t, get fully-vaccinated.

The one thing that’s certain is that change is coming, and this slow reopening will continue. The hard, cold reality is that it’s up to EACH OF US to make sure we prepare ourselves by being fully-vaccinated.

Update: At 5.30pm this afternoon, the government held an impromptu press conference to announce that due to two cases of Covid in Northland that are unlinked to any other cases in the region, the upper part of Northland will go under a Level 3 Lockdown at 11:59pm tonight. Cabinet will review the region’s Alert Level on Monday, the same day it reviews the Levels of Auckland and Waikato+.

I made the graphic up top to show the amount of time that various parts of the country had spent under Lockdown (Alert Levels 3 and 4) as of November 1. It doesn’t include the “steps” modifications, but the Alert Levels are still forms of Level 3 Lockdown, and the "steps" only affect Auckland and the Waikato+. The Step 1 change was the only one in effect on November 1 and wasn’t a huge modification; any future versions of the list would have to account for Steps 2 and 3, which are largely parts of the old Alert Level 2 that most of New Zealand is currently under.