Lockdown needs innovation, not just risk managment
In fortress New Zealand, hiding behind closed borders and MIQ facilities we have spent too many months living in vainglorious self-congratulation about our lockdown feat of “eliminating” the virus. One on hand, it was only natural we should feel proud of what we collectively achieved. However, it’s a global pandemic, and our pride should be tempered with the fact that the virus still exists, mistakes are inevitable, and complete elimination is tricky at best. The Government had months to stress test lockdown processes and partner with innovators to ensure we could avoid some of the worst problems of lockdown – lost productivity and queues. But after a year of COVID-19 it seems we haven’t learned anything or changed the way we can operate under lockdown.
One on hand, it was only natural we should feel proud of what we collectively achieved.
Unfortunately, repeated calls by entrepreneurs and business to be better included in Government planning and solutions have been largely ignored by politicians and officials. While one could accept this early on in the pandemic, a year on these calls for the public and private sector to work together make sense. It seems that officials prioritise the risks they need to manage while policy “entrepreneurs” would see opportunities to manage risks with innovation. Business people are invested quite literally in providing services people want and are highly motivated to try different approaches to improve both safety and outcomes.
One clear example of this, is the way that the Government didn’t think though the continued enforcement of snap regional lockdown situations. Stories of 11 hour journeys from Rotorua to Auckland, people toileting on the side of the road, and children and animals in distress in overheated vehicles are inexcusable. This is the third time regional checkpoints have been put in place around Auckland. The Government has had months since the first one to scenario plan a better, more efficient method for this entirely foreseeable logjam. It seems like they either forgot, or didn’t care.
But after a year of COVID-19 it seems we haven’t learned anything or changed the way we can operate under lockdown.
There are any number of ways that the police could partnered with the private sector to improve outcomes. Any large event (like Round the Bays) has to produce a traffic mitigation plan, provide adequate toilet facilities, and water stations. Over the past year the Government could have implemented different coloured registration tags for different regions or even an official exemption sticker to allow police to visually identify cars and only pull over the ones without appropriate stickers. Before we put these solutions in the too hard basket, many of these are solutions that I experienced in China. During traffic snarls around holidays breaks or inclement weather Chinese officials would routinely send a car down a traffic jam handing out water and food while checking for distress.
Rather than opening up to innovation and policy entrepreneurs the current thinking amounts to finger wagging and asking people to nark on their neighbours. Both of these fail to see that humility, acknowledging that we haven’t simply got it right, and that incremental change over time, including listening more to innovative ideas could improve outcomes. It’s time to be more open and receptive to change.go back