Covid-19 rights and wrongs

Covid-19 has shown us how divisive the issue of rights can be. Some people believe everything our leaders say - others believe nothing they say. I much prefer to weigh up the evidence for each issue, as journalists are supposed to do. I've watched as protests build and come to the conclusion both extremes are at least partly wrong.

People who say our government would never do anything wrong have short memories, both in NZ and overseas. There is a real possibility of governments using something like the fear of a pandemic to keep their people in line. or at least using the opportunity to tighten their control. Even here things have been pushed through that might normally have expected more debate. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and a pandemic tends to centralise power.

The other extreme ignores the damage to human lives a pandemic creates - both in deaths and illness. The fact is NZ has had covid-19 death rates among the lowest in the world. When compared with the UK and US it's not even close - their deaths per hundred are in a.different league. In the case of NZ's experience with covid-19, we not only minimised deaths from the virus - we also almost eliminated for a year deaths from the flu virus (which normally takes about 500 lives a year). There have also been negative health outcomes - deferred treatment of cancers and other conditions.

It's impossible to weigh up the medical pros and cons. I don't doubt NZ would have lost many more lives had it not reacted so strongly, and hospitals would quickly have been overwhelmed. You only to see that covid hospitalisations are almost all unvaccinated. Given they form an ever-decreasing percentage of the population, this is significantly disproportionate.

Even bringing in economic costs doesn't greatly simplify things. NZ seemed to bounce back quite quickly (at least until Delta arrived), as long as you exclude tourism and hospitality. There have been many business closures - but for too long too many businesses have effectively been living hand to mouth, without building up reserves for a rainy day (or pandemic). Things like massive rises in international shipping costs are outside of our control. This leads me to the same conclusion for economic issues - it's impossible to fully weigh up the pros and cons (I know people will try), although it would be nice if, having learned the fragility of supply chains, we could lessen our dependence on overseas suppliers for the manufacture of crucial things (e.g. drugs).

But perhaps the first question is the balance of rights versus responsibilities. While there is much talk of rights, the balance of responsibilities is too often ignored.

We have conflicts in this area each time we drive. We could drive wherever and however we want, but generally, we don't. There are fewer limitations to driving on a race track, although some tighter rules as well (such as using helmets and safety harnesses). On the road, the consequences of not keeping to the left and driving while impaired are well known. If they were not, would the government "waste" so much time and money on road safety? So generally we accept these limitations as they're in the interests of all.

Before the pandemic, some did not think twice about spreading their diseases at work and in other places. As a result, people got sick and some even died (e.g. from the flu as mentioned). Now so many people die around the world and hospitals struggle to keep people alive, not to mention deferring other treatments - all because of covid-19.

Of course, some say it's all a scam or con trick etc, but that's ignoring the evidence of hospitals and graveyards and crematoriums struggling. A friend of my daughter is a nurse in England, and not only saw far too many deaths but also lost a nursing colleague to covid-19.

Most of us are genuinely grateful NZ has so far avoided the worst, but some value their rights over the welfare of others. Most people recover (although not necessarily fully), so the argument goes we should just move on with life, and certainly not take away things often seen as rights.

I am largely opposed to compulsory medication. The mandates excluding the unvaccinated from their jobs are unfair. However, people must always come first. During the pandemic, there are three classes of people who need extra protection: the elderly, the young and the sick. For these people, it is hard to argue (although many do) against mandates. For others, I believe that if people choose not to immunise themselves, that is their choice. Sadly that means we all pay the price through our taxes.

Could people who breach the pandemic rules be charged with murder? Probably not because linking the actions of specific individuals to specific deaths is almost impossible, and even if it were possible, the intention to kill would be even harder to prove. Nevertheless, failure to comply with pandemic guidelines makes people sick and even kills.

Another question is - when is the pandemic over? I suspect that very much depends on your point of view, and I've raised enough thoughts for one time. The government will try to keep us under control longer than necessary (for our own safety) - but they are already losing support, so will lessen barriers. Soon as well as say 500 people dying from the flu, another 500 (or 100 or more) will die from covid-19, and we'll go one with our lives as normal - except for those close to those who die.




Last Modified

Last modified: 14 April 2022.