A single case necessitates a snap lockdown, in which all rights of millions of citizens are immediately restricted until a total containment of the disease. The current lockdown has been extended over Auckland until at least the middle of September, with many predicting a much lengthier sentence. According to past precedent, Kiwis will not receive their freedom back until there is zero community spread of COVID-19.
New Zealand is now the only country in the world left that is dedicated to "COVID Zero," the pursuit of the total elimination of SARS-CoV-2 nationwide. That pursuit comes with draconian measures.
The country's police and military services are installing security checkpoints throughout New Zealand to make sure citizens are not traveling during the lockdown. Freely traveling during the lockdown now carries a massive fine and/or prison sentence as punishment.
On Thursday, Sept. 9, New Zealand authorities said that a man who tested positive for COVID-19 could face a fine or jail time after he escaped a quarantine hotel to return home. Police dressed in full protective gear arrested the man about six miles away from the hotel in Auckland, which is currently facing an outbreak of the delta variant.
Authorities said that the man had been on the run for about 12 hours before he was detained. The Guardian reported that the man appeared virtually in Auckland district court before being returned to a managed quarantine center.
He was charged with failing to comply with New Zealand's coronavirus health order. Under a law passed last year, he could face a fine or up to six months in jail if convicted. (Related: New Zealand promises to HUNT PEOPLE DOWN for not submitting to covid-19 vaccinations.)
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it was not immediately clear how the man escaped, though security footage in the area showed a man hiding in bushes away from security guards. According to Hipkins, the quarantine facilities are heavily managed and secured.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Aug. 17 a nationwide lockdown after a single coronavirus infection was reported in Auckland. Shortly after the shutdown, authorities recorded several additional COVID-19 cases, including one individual who had worked four shifts at Auckland City Hospital while being infected with the virus.
The country's outbreak of the highly infectious delta variant reached 879 on Friday, Sept. 10. With 11 new infections reported, Friday marked the seventh day in a row with numbers below 21.
All of Friday's cases were in Auckland, with six not yet epidemiologically linked to existing cases. There were 29 unlinked cases in total as of Friday.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said there were two cases from one household of which genomic sequencing suggested there was another unknown person who may have passed the virus to them. Two unlinked Middlemore patients were also "being investigated very thoroughly," Bloomfield said.
Experts say the unlinked cases could keep Auckland in lockdown. University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker, who advises the New Zealand government on COVID-19, said there needed to be a number of days with no unlinked cases before Auckland could leave lockdown.
On Friday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said that more funding would be made available for businesses struggling with a loss of earnings due to lockdown measures.
Loss of earnings is just one of the challenges presented by lockdowns. For public health expert Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, lockdown is the single biggest mistake in public health history.
"I don't see how anyone can look at lockdown and say there was successful policy," said Bhattacharya. "We have had lockdowns in country after country after country. I don't think by any measure you can call them a success." (Related: Report: States that imposed lockdown have more COVID-19 deaths per million compared to no-lockdown states.)
Bhattacharya said the harms caused by lockdowns are "extremely multi-dimensional" and traumatic, especially for children. "For a child who skips a year of school, the consequences will last a lifetime," he said.
According to Bhattacharya, lockdowns lead to dramatic increases in poverty, food insecurity, outright starvation, depression, anxiety, suicide and death.
Last year's data supported his claims. Most of the excess deaths in the U.S. were not attributed to COVID-19. Excess mortality is the best gauge of the pandemic's impact. It compares the overall number of deaths with the total in previous years.
There were roughly 56,000 excess deaths among Americans aged 15 to 54 – 22,000 were related to COVID-19 and 34,000 were from other causes.
Preliminary reports point to some obvious lockdown-related factors. There was a sharp decline in visits to emergency rooms and an increase in fatal heart attacks due to failure to receive prompt treatment. A lot fewer people were screened for cancer, and social isolation contributed to excess deaths from dementia and Alzheimer's.
As unemployment surged and mental-health and substance-abuse treatment programs were interrupted, the reported levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts increased dramatically, as did alcohol sales and fatal drug overdoses.
The number of people killed last year in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. rose to the highest level in more than a decade, even though Americans did significantly less driving than in 2019. It was the steepest annual increase in the fatality rate per mile traveled in nearly a century, apparently due to more substance abuse and more high-speed driving on empty roads.
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