January 15th business office published my article internationally comparing the effectiveness of New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic since early 2020: Give the world our best shot
I used two main comparators – death rates per million people and complete vaccination rates (whole rather than eligible populations).
New Zealand’s death rate was perhaps the second lowest in the world at 10 per million behind China and far lower than countries closer to us in population size with developed economies like Ireland, Denmark, Finland and Norway.
Our vaccination rates are impressive, even a little higher than those of the European Union, which negotiated with pharmaceutical companies as a powerful bloc and included vaccine-producing countries within its ranks.
Response from a “versatile and accomplished leader”
This led to a very critical response from a David Page on LinkedIn. Leveraging his offload is helpful as his approach is typical of many of these strident critics of New Zealand’s pandemic response.
Page is obviously an inspirational person and a leader because he says so. He describes himself as “…a versatile and accomplished executive with over 20 years of business and operational leadership across multiple industries, over 15 years in sales, marketing and business development, and over 10 years of experience in health program and operational management. .”
Further: “I bring experience driving transformational change and driving business capability improvement, underpinned by expertise in leading high-performing teams of up to 2,300 people across multiple sites in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.”
As this self-description suggests, Page is gifted with the shamelessness gene.
Attack of the Pages
Page’s attack is more about my comments about what was needed to ensure such a low mortality rate (the elimination of community transmission through a zero-tolerance strategy) than about the implementation of the vaccine. In his own words:
Your pride in New Zealand’s ‘success’ speaks volumes and is typical of the narrow-mindedness that pervades New Zealand’s response.
What about the general health impact of deferred operations? The social effects on children, families and livelihoods from domestic violence to loss of income to mental health? What was, in fact, the economic cost to be borne by future generations?
Nor are you referring to Fortress NZ, a state with no natural immunity, isolated by spread fear, and thus dependent on a booster after booster program, with no end in sight.
Conveniently, you are also not referring to the persecution of 40% of Kiwis, many of whom are medical professionals – victims of mandate-destroyed livelihoods that are an abomination in any democratic, freedom-loving nation that claims valuing the human rights, kindness and inclusiveness of all citizens.
Typically, for a health technocrat, you don’t consider the full toll — you present the same optimistic, worn-out “achievements” that project bloated media types onto a weary, weary population, too tired to argue.
One measure of success is the death rate, but on all other measures New Zealand has failed. A hermit state is a dead state.
This was followed by a brief “call to arms” stating that “We cannot let this propaganda [my article] go without challenge. Four alleged co-thinkers are highlighted in this second post. A campaign embryo?
Rodney King and Desensitizing Human Death
There are two main characteristics of Page’s Loud Response. First, he seems to place little value on human life, especially since he does not dispute the veracity or accuracy of mortality data. New Zealand’s elimination strategy saved thousands of lives depending on which of many developed economies one could choose from.
But, for Page, the mortality rate is only an indicator and no better than the others!
Rodney King beaten by LAPD, 1991
This indifference is chilling. It reminds me of the Rodney King case. King was an African American who was the victim of police brutality after an arrest in Los Angeles in March 1991. His beating (beaten over 50 times) was filmed from a person’s nearby balcony and the footage sent to the local news station. It was quickly covered by media around the world and caused a public outcry.
All four officers were acquitted, leading to six-day riots that left 63 dead. Subsequently, two officers were jailed following guilty verdicts in a federal civil rights action, while King successfully sued the Los Angeles Police Department for $3.8 million in compensation. dollars (US) in damages.
What particularly interested me in the King case was the legal strategy of the defense in the first trial leading to the unexpected acquittal. Surprisingly, the defense attorneys played the beating footage to the jury again and again with all its blunt brutality, more so than the prosecution. The effect was to desensitize the jury to brutality leading to acquittal.
Those like David Page who dismiss the remarkable achievement of a very low death rate in New Zealand which has saved thousands of lives are clearly desensitized to the massive loss of life due to Covid-19 which has been well reported in the media general public and social. This leads him and his kind, hopefully unwittingly, to place a low value on human life.
If the Rodney King-like desensitization effect does not apply to these criticisms of New Zealand’s pandemic response, then the only other plausible explanation is callous indifference to the massive loss of life.
Empiricism deficit syndrome
The second main feature of David Page’s critical response to my article is the complete lack of evidence to substantiate any of his claims. He suffers from what I would call empiricism deficit syndrome (to my knowledge, it hasn’t made its way into medical textbooks, but give it some time).
For exemple :
- To the extent that there have been delayed operations and negative social effects on children, families and livelihoods, this has also happened in the rest of the world, including Europe and North America, but it was proportionately lower in New Zealand. In fact, at least until the delta variant arrived last August, there was no evidence of worsening mental health or domestic violence.
- The pandemic has brought an economic cost to all countries. But what cannot be ignored is that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has rated New Zealand’s economic performance under the pandemic as the best of its member states.
- Natural immunity has been attempted by Sweden through its alternative unofficial herd immunity strategy. If New Zealand had followed Sweden, we would have had around 7,000 Covid deaths. In addition, Sweden has also embarked on vaccination with a rate somewhat lower than New Zealand.
- The figure of 40% persecuted Kiwis is devoid of any proof. In fact, New Zealand has been ranked among the freest countries in the world in the face of the pandemic.
There are legitimate evidence-based criticisms that can be made about New Zealand’s coronavirus response. An example is epidemiologists (I was also a critic). But these represent failures rather than failure.
People like David Page don’t understand this distinction and don’t understand empiricism. I don’t know it from a bar of soap, but I suspect soap has a greater cognitive ability.
I express it as kindly as possible.
Ian Powell was executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the professional union representing senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand, for over 30 years until December 2019. He is now a health systems commentator , labor market and political living in the small river estuary community of Otaihanga (the place by the tide). First published at Second opinion of Otaihanga