Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said up to 100 people could be isolated after UK DJ Dimension tested positive and been active in the Auckland community for two days. Video / Mark Mitchell
If a post becomes vacant next year or in the future, Chris Hipkins is surely the prime candidate to become the Labor leader.
After Wednesday’s Omicron alert involving a UK DJ calling himself Dimension, the
The cool, calm and collected performance of the Covid-19 minister at his press conference at the edge of the park allayed concerns of another instant lockdown and new internal borders.
Even though Omicron is so much more contagious than Delta, while perhaps not as dangerous, Hipkins’ decision not to respond with new rules underscores how far we’ve come since August 17. At the time, just one case of the new variant was enough for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to rush to Wellington to announce an immediate national lockdown.
As the Herald’s Derek Cheng revealed, Ardern was much more cautious than Ashley Bloomfield and Department of Health public health experts regarding Delta’s response. A similar but undocumented gap between Ardern and Hipkins was also widely held in Wellington.
Those who use social media to thank Ardern for personally saving their lives may seem a little North Korean in their worship, but Cheng’s work reveals their point of view is not without evidence.
In the post-2008 era, the old designations don’t mean as much, but Hipkins has always been more on the Labor right than Ardern. Her mentors were people like Annette King, once a fervent Rogernome, rather than Helen Clark who so heavily influenced Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Among Ardern’s senior ministers, Hipkins paid the most sincere tribute to former Prime Minister Mike Moore upon his death.
Basically, Hipkins and Bloomfield lean more towards the “living with” side of the argument than Ardern and his personal advisers at the universities of Auckland and Otago. Earlier in the week, they dared to dream that Ardern might be on the verge of eliminating Delta the same way she beat the original strain in 2020.
Let’s not talk too much about internal divisions. Hipkins is hardly allowed to act unilaterally. The fact that he has responded to the Dimension case with no new measures means that he has won the argument that we are indeed in a phase of “living with it”, at least during the summer.
That – and a potential return to winter lockdowns as happens in Europe – will require much more of Hipkins’ factual style of communication than the Prime Minister’s greater reliance on personal warmth and slogans.
Unlike the folks at Ardern, Hipkins strategists are much more focused on getting information from the national public than on running a global premier brand.
Yet Hipkins also deserves credit from his boss for handling what was a major threat to that same brand.
No one in New Zealand politics is more associated with the events industry and its celebrity culture than the Prime Minister.
Since it became clear in September that the August lockdown would not be “short and brutal”, as Ardern had initially promised, summer music festivals have been an eerily specific political goal for his government.
Less than a month after what has become a four-month lockdown, Ardern reported that his ministers were working with the music festival industry to ensure their big events can take place.
As she said: “Some of my very close friends work in the creative and event industry, but that’s not the only reason I’m determined that we find a way to ensure that, whatever the global and national circumstances, we are able to have the events that make New Zealand summers. “
According to the Prime Minister, the festivals were about “people’s livelihoods” but also “a part of who we are”. Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash was put to work to design a special insurance plan for festivals selling more than 5,000 tickets, under which taxpayers would cover 90% of their sunk costs if canceled or postponed due to Covid measures.
Industry lobbyist Brent Eccles praised Ardern for being “very helpful” ahead of summer 2020/21 and publicly praised his commitment to 2021/22.
It is not unreasonable. Ardern had previously personally stepped in to make sure the Wiggles could entertain young New Zealanders in 2020. More than 1,000 foreigners have been named “essential workers” for the America’s Cup, and many other foreign sports teams have come forward. been allowed to enter.
These decisions are made by the ministers. After the Beehive indicated that it was not interested in SailGP in Christchurch, officials did not even send out the applications.
In contrast, more than 100 foreign musicians have received critical visitor visas. Over 80 then came to New Zealand after apparently winning the same MIQ lottery that kept so many Kiwis from returning home.
Dimension has been particularly fortunate with the lottery, now being on its third visit to New Zealand since last December.
This makes even more inexplicable her decision not to follow the rules and go with people from Auckland’s creative and event sectors to bars, restaurants and malls, and to perform at the trendy nightclub of Shortland. Street Impala, while being subconsciously contagious.
It must have been odd that he was hitting the bridges at Impala given that the Health Department says nightclubs are limited to just 100 people, who must be seated and separated and with a dance specifically prohibited.
Night clubbers must also wear masks and show vaccine passes at the entrance. Again, how odd that Dimension was allowed into any of the places he visited, as foreigners usually don’t get vaccine passes until they are legally allowed to leave self-isolation.
So far, it looks like less than 50 people have attended Dimension’s Impala show and he may not have met more than 100 people during the entire time it was contagious.
Hopefully none of them working in the creative and event industry are close friends of the Prime Minister, which could also put his health at risk.
The clash between Ardern’s Covid savior and brands facilitating foreign artists risked yesterday’s press conference being a political fiasco.
Hipkins’ decision to play with such a straight bat and not announce new restrictions meant reporters could barely explore this clash. It also meant he wasn’t close to whether the Department of Health had made any new preparations for omicron or if he was just following the old delta script.
Hipkins’ communication skills are what Ardern will need as Omicron now spreads into the community and the toughest decisions have yet to be made and sold to a Labor base still attached to its previous cautious line.