A four-day working week could be the shot in the arm post-coronavirus tourism needs



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Jarrod Haar, Auckland University of Technology

When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said recently, “I’ve heard lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week”, she inevitably ignited debate.

Ardern was not, as some critics seemed to assume, just flying a kite. She was responding to various ideas about how to boost domestic tourism. Like the hospitality industry, tourism has been economically ravaged by the COVID-19 lockdown, so her remarks received a lot of coverage.

But Ardern added a caveat that received rather less attention: “Ultimately, that really sits between employers and employees.”

This suggests it is unlikely to become official government policy, but rather something businesses might choose to adopt if it made sense.

The idea has already gained traction in Australia and America, highlighting a widespread interest in new ways of organising work. Ultimately, Ardern was suggesting the end of lockdown might present organisations with a chance to do things differently.

But could it work? How would organisations do it? And what would be the benefits?

One company has shown the way already

In New Zealand, the four-day week was pioneered in 2018 by Andrew Barnes, now a champion of the concept after trialling and then adopting it for his finance company, Perpetual Guardian. Employees now work a four-day week on their previous five-day salary. They work normal eight-hour days, not simply longer hours to make up a normal 40-hour week.




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Perpetual Guardian calls it the “100-80-100” model: 100% productivity for 80% time at 100% salary.

Research showed employees reported significantly better well-being than before the trial, including a better work-life balance and lower job stress. They were more engaged and reported higher job satisfaction.

Managers reported the same level of productivity. Furthermore, management found their teams were more creative, more helpful, and provided better customer service.

Overall it was a win for employees and their employer.

Perpetual Guardian’s Andrew Barnes.
Author provided

From my own research I’ve identified a few key factors that determine success. Firstly, it needs leadership support. Having a leader who can champion the adoption of a four-day trial is vital.

Barnes recommends a trial as the first step to discovering whether it is an option for your organisation or not. As evidence of the benefits builds (for example, Microsoft in Japan reported a 40% increase in productivity), employees might want to lobby their managers to give it a go.

Employee engagement is vital

My research also showed employees are central to making a four-day week work. Ultimately they have to create better ways to work – for example, collectively identifying what was previously wasted time and seeking solutions. In one case, a team told me they reduced a two-hour weekly meeting to 30 minutes a fortnight.




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How to reschedule the week is another factor: organisations might adopt a fixed day off – such as Melbourne firm Versa, which chose Wednesday. Or they might rotate the day off among team members.

The latter approach requires a strong creative focus on maintaining team productivity. But there is no one way to make it work. While Perpetual Guardian operates 32-hour weeks, Versa works a 37.5-hour week in four days.

What is most important is that workers are empowered to think about productivity and wastage and to make their work more efficient and effective. Even if an organisation trials the four-day week but chooses not to adopt it, it will still gain useful insights into working methods and productivity.

Beyond the benefits to employers (more focused and attentive staff, better customer relations) and employees (enhanced well-being and engagement), there are potentially wider social benefits too.

More leisure time equals greater opportunity

Reduced commuting times due to fewer days in the office mean fewer cars on the road, less congestion and lower CO₂ emissions. Offices use less power and, if an organisation is growing, potentially feel less pressure to expand if a rotating day off is in place.

If supporting tourism is the goal, business owners might be encouraged to close for one day a week, ideally a Friday or Monday, perhaps in split shifts if they need to remain operating five days a week. This would maximise people’s ability to plan a three-day weekend of travel – potentially within a “trans-Tasman bubble”.




Read more:
Why a trans-Tasman travel bubble makes a lot of sense for Australia and New Zealand


Were Australian organisations to adopt a four-day week too it could significantly increase two-way traffic, enhancing both economies.

Paying workers 100% of their salary for 80% of a traditional working week while maintaining productivity would, in theory at least, increase opportunities for discretionary spending.

Combined with a patriotic call to use the extra time to support hospitality and tourism, it could align with the prime minister’s desire to find innovative ways to stimulate economic activity.

Healthier, happier and more productive workers helping other businesses stay viable? That sounds like a win-win for all.The Conversation

Jarrod Haar, Professor of Human Resource Management, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Open, honest and effective: what makes Jacinda Ardern an authentic leader


Andrei Alexander Lux, Edith Cowan University

The qualities that have made Jacinda Ardern New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century were on display this week as she took an earthquake in her stride during a live television interview.

“We’re fine,” she declared cheerfully as the 5.9-magnitude quake shook New Zealand’s parliament house in Wellington for 15 seconds. “I’m not under any hanging lights.”

Her coolness under pressure, self-discipline and the decisiveness of her government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led some to call Ardern the most effective national leader in the world.

But the key ingredient to her popularity and effectiveness is her authenticity.

In the words of Helen Clark, New Zealand’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, Ardern is a natural and empathetic communicator who doesn’t preach at people, but instead signals that she’s “standing with them”:

“They may even think: ‘Well, I don’t quite understand why the government did that, but I know she’s got our back.’ There’s a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

These insights are confirmed by my own research into authentic leadership.

How we respond to authentic leaders

As a lecturer in business leadership, I’m particularly interested in the value of authenticity in the workplace. Part of my research (with colleagues Steven Grover and Stephen Teo) has involved surveying more than 800 workers across Australia to find out how the behaviour of their leaders shapes their feelings about work.

For better or worse, leaders often represent the entire organisation to their employees. How we feel about our boss transfers into how we see the company as a whole, just as political leaders represent the nation.

The results from that survey were decisive: employees were, on average, 40% more likely to want to come to work when they saw their line manager as an authentic leader; and those who came to work because they wanted to were 61% more engaged and 60% more satisfied with their jobs.

At a time when careers routinely span multiple organisations and the nature of work becomes more transient, these results demonstrate the value of positive personal connections in the workplace.

Our research also sheds light on four qualities we value in authentic leaders.

But first, let’s dispel a common misconception.

What authentic leadership isn’t

Authentic leadership doesn’t just mean “being true to yourself”. This notion has led some to describe the likes of Donald Trump as authentic.

But authentic leaders are not simply callous, self-serving individuals with no social filter. According to Claudia Peus and her co-authors of a seminal 2012 article on authentic leadership:

“Authentic leaders are guided by sound moral convictions and act in concordance with their deeply held values, even under pressure. They are keenly aware of their views, strengths, and weaknesses, and strive to understand how their leadership impacts others.”

1. Authentic leaders know themselves

Authentic leaders manifest the Ancient Greek maxim to “know thyself”. They know what truly matters to them, and their own strengths and weaknesses.

Our values are often hidden assumptions; revealing them requires an active and honest process of personal reflection.

Before we can lead others, we must first lead ourselves.




Read more:
Leadership: what it is (and isn’t)


2. They follow a moral compass

Authentic leaders have the courage to stand up and act on their values, rather than bending to social norms. Doing what you feel is right is rarely easy, especially when lives are on the line, but that’s when it matters the most.

An example comes from the last time businesses around the world were struggling this badly, the 2008 global financial crisis. When the board of US-based manufacturing company Barry-Wehmiller wanted to discuss layoffs, chief executive Bob Chapman refused.

Instead, Chapman asked everyone to take four weeks’ unpaid leave, saying: “It’s better that we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot.” The company has since gone from strength to strength under his “truly human leadership”.

3. They appreciate their own biases

Authentic leaders are aware of their own biases and strive to see things from multiple viewpoints. We cannot know all sides to an issue and must work to understand and respect others’ perspectives before forming opinions or making decisions.

Acting in the best interests of the collective requires a lucid and compassionate understanding of how our actions affect other people.




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4. They are open and honest

Authentic leaders cultivate open and honest relationships through active self-disclosure. Dropping one’s guard and letting people in isn’t always easy, especially in the workplace. Yet only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in front of another person can they open up to us in return.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison appears to have learnt this lesson since the beginning of the year, when his response to Australia’s catastrophic bushfire season led to unfavourable comparisons with Ardern.




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After the Morrison government revealed a $A60 billion budgeting error over its COVID-19 JobKeeper package, he swallowed his pride and accepted fault, acknowledging that “responsibility for the problem ultimately rested with him.”

It’s a stark contrast to Trump’s refusal to admit any mistake in his handing of the US response.

Authenticity: the power to unite

Support for an authentic leadership approach isn’t unanimous. A notable critic, professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, has stated that: “Leaders don’t need to be true to themselves; in fact, being authentic is the opposite of what they should do.”

But our research reveals the power of authenticity to unite people behind a collective cause. Relationships built on mutual trust and shared values are the key.

Jacinda Ardern’s unprecedented popularity mirrors these results. When we see authentic leadership, we know instinctively that we prefer it.The Conversation

Andrei Alexander Lux, Lecturer in Leadership and Organisational Behaviour, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update: International


General

Greece

Ukraine

United Kingdom

China

Japan

USA

New Zealand

Beyond travel, a trans-Tasman bubble is an opportunity for Australia and NZ to reduce dependence on China



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Hongzhi Gao, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington and Monica Ren, Macquarie University

When it comes to our economic over-reliance on China, New Zealand consumers need look no further than their most popular big box chain, The Warehouse. The familiar “big red shed” sourced about 60% of its home brand stock from China in 2017 – and a further NZ$62 million in products directly through offices in China, India and Bangladesh in 2019.

In Australia, many major chain stores as well as online retail giant kogan.com are in a similar position. Reliant on China for much of what they sell, including exclusive home-brand items, they are part of what has been described as the world’s most China-reliant economy.

The COVID-19 crisis has thrown Australian and New Zealand businesses’ dependence on China into stark relief. With countries reportedly competing with and undercutting each other to secure desperately needed medical supplies from China, many are now waking up to their economic exposure to a single manufacturing giant.

Understandably, discussions about creating a “trans-Tasman bubble” between Australia and New Zealand have focused on kick-starting economic activity in the short term, particularly through tourism. But both countries also need to take a longer-term view of boosting economic activity – including through increased manufacturing and trade integration.




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The statistics support this. In 2018, 20% of global trade in the manufacturing of “intermediate” products (which need further processing before sale) came from China. Chinese manufacturing (including goods made from components made in China) also accounted for:

  • 35% of household goods
  • 46% of hi-tech goods
  • 54% of textiles and apparel
  • 38% of machinery, rubber and plastic
  • 20% of pharmaceuticals and medical goods
  • 42% of chemical products.

Australia and New Zealand are no exception, with China the number one trading partner of both. Australia earned 32.6% of its export income from China in 2019, mostly from natural resource products such as iron ores, coal and natural gas, as well as education and tourism.

Inside a Bunnings store in Australia: many of the shelves would be empty without goods sourced from China.
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From New Zealand, 23% of exports (worth NZ$20 billion) went to China in 2019, and much of the country’s manufacturing has moved to China over the past 20 years. The China factor in New Zealand supply chains is also crucial, with a fifth of exports containing Chinese components.

Supply shortages from China

The world is now paying a price for this dependence on China. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 there has been volatility in the supply of products ranging from cars and Apple phones to food ingredients and hand sanitiser packaging.

More worryingly, availability of popular over-the-counter painkiller paracetamol was restricted due to Chinese factory closures. This is part of a bigger picture that shows Australia now importing over 90% of medicines and New Zealand importing close to NZ$1.59 billion in pharmaceutical products in 2019. Overall, both countries are extremely vulnerable to major supply chain disruptions of medical products.

For all these reasons, a cooperative trans-Tasman manufacturing strategy should be on the table right now and in any future bilateral trade policy conversations.

The big red shed: New Zealand’s Warehouse chain sources 60% of its products from China.
http://www.shutterstock.com



Read more:
Australia depends less on Chinese trade than some might think


Opportunities for Australia and NZ

Rather than each country focusing on product specialisation or setting industrial priorities in isolation, the two economies need to discuss how best to pool resources, add value and enhance the competitive advantage of strategic industries in the region as a whole.

Currently, trans-Tasman trade primarily involves natural resources and foodstuffs flowing from New Zealand to Australia, with motor vehicles, machinery and mechanical equipment flowing the other way. Manufacturing is skewed towards Australia, but closer regional integration would mean increased flows of capital, components and finished products between the countries. We have seen this already in the primary and service sectors but not much in the manufacturing sector, especially from New Zealand to Australia.

Medical technologies and telecommunications equipment manufacturing (both critical during the pandemic) stand out as potential new areas of economic integration. In that sense, it was heartening to see major medical tech companies such as Res-Med Australia and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare in New Zealand rapidly scale up their production capacities to build respiratory devices, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment products.




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These brands enjoy a global technology edge, smart niche positioning and reputations for innovation. We need more of these inside a trans-Tasman trade and manufacturing bubble.

China still vital but balance is crucial

Key to successful regional integration will be the pooling of research and development (R&D) resources, mutual direct investment, subsidising R&D and manufacturing in emerging markets with profits from another (such as China), and value-adding specialisation in the supply chain. For example, Tait Communication in New Zealand recently invested in a new facility based in one of Australia’s largest science, technology and research centres.

Together, we can make a bigger pie.

None of this means cutting ties with China, which will remain the main importer of primary produce and food products from Australasia for the foreseeable future. And Chinese exports will still be vital. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare sells its products in about 120 countries, for example, but some of its key raw materials suppliers are Chinese.

Getting this dynamic balancing right will be key to Australia and New Zealand prospering in the inevitably uncertain – even divided – post-pandemic global business environment. And you never know, maybe one day we’ll see a “made in Australia and New Zealand” label in the aisles of The Warehouse and Bunnings.The Conversation

Hongzhi Gao, Associate professor, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington and Monica Ren, Lecturer/ Assistant Professor, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We may well be able to eliminate coronavirus, but we’ll probably never eradicate it. Here’s the difference



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Adrian Esterman, University of South Australia

Compared to many other countries around the world, Australia and New Zealand have done an exceptional job controlling COVID-19.

As of May 7, there were 794 active cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Only 62 were in hospital.

The situation in New Zealand is similar, with 136 active cases, only two of whom are in hospital.

If we continue on this path, could we eliminate COVID-19 from Australia and New Zealand?




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Control –> elimination –> eradication

In order to answer this question, we first to need to understand what elimination means in the context of disease, and how it differs from control and eradication.

Disease control is when we see a reduction in disease incidence and prevalence (new cases and current cases) as a result of public health measures. The reduction does not mean to zero cases, but rather to an acceptable level.

Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on what is acceptable. It can differ from disease to disease and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

As an example, there were only 81 cases of measles reported in Australia in 2017. Measles is considered under control in Australia.

Conversely, measles is not regarded as controlled in New Zealand, where there was an outbreak in 2019. From January 1, 2019, to February 21, 2020, New Zealand recorded 2,194 measles cases.

For disease elimination, there must be zero new cases of the disease in a defined geographic area. There is no defined time period this needs to be sustained for – it usually depends on the incubation period of the disease (the time between being exposed to the virus and the onset of symptoms).

For example, the South Australian government is looking for 28 days of no new coronavirus cases (twice the incubation period of COVID-19) before they will consider it eliminated.

Even when a disease has been eliminated, we continue intervention measures such as border controls and surveillance testing to ensure it doesn’t come back.

For example, in Australia, we have successfully eliminated rubella (German measles). But we maintain an immunisation schedule and disease surveillance program.




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Finally, disease eradication is when there is zero incidence worldwide of a disease following deliberate efforts to get rid of it. In this scenario, we no longer need intervention measures.

Only two infectious diseases have been declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation – smallpox in 1980 and rinderpest (a disease in cattle caused by the paramyxovirus) in 2011.

Polio is close to eradication with only 539 cases reported worldwide in 2019.

Guinea worm disease is also close with a total of just 19 human cases from January to June 2019 across two African countries.

What stage are we at with COVID-19?

In Australia and New Zealand we currently have COVID-19 under control.

Importantly, in Australia, the effective reproduction number (Reff) is close to zero. Estimates of Reff come from mathematical modelling, which has not been published for New Zealand, but the Reff is likely to be close to zero in New Zealand too.

The Reff is the average number of people each infected person infects. So a Reff of 2 means on average, each person with COVID-19 infects two others.

If the Reff is greater than 1 the epidemic continues; if the Reff is equal to 1 it becomes endemic (that is, it grumbles along on a permanent basis); and if the Reff is lower than 1, the epidemic dies out.

So we could be on the way to elimination.




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In both Australia and New Zealand we have found almost all of the imported cases, quarantined them, and undertaken contact tracing. Based on extensive community testing, there also appear to be very few community-acquired cases.

The next step in both countries will be sentinel surveillance, where random testing is carried out in selected groups. Hopefully in time these results will be able to show us COVID-19 has been eliminated.

The development of a vaccine can help control and eliminate a disease.
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It’s unlikely COVID-19 will ever be eradicated

To be eradicated, a disease needs to be both preventable and treatable. At the moment, we neither have anything to prevent COVID-19 (such as a vaccine) nor any proven treatments (such as antivirals).

Even if a vaccine does become available, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) easily mutates. So we would be in a situation like we are with influenza, where we need annual vaccinations targeting the circulating strains.

The other factor making COVID-19 very difficult if not impossible to eradicate is the fact many infected people have few or no symptoms, and people could still be infectious even with no symptoms. This makes case detection very difficult.

At least with smallpox, it was easy to see whether someone was infected, as their body was covered in pustules (fluid-containing swellings).

So while we may well be on the path to elimination in Australia and New Zealand, eradication is a different ball game.




Read more:
Why a trans-Tasman travel bubble makes a lot of sense for Australia and New Zealand


The Conversation


Adrian Esterman, Professor of Biostatistics, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why a trans-Tasman travel bubble makes a lot of sense for Australia and New Zealand



BIANCA DE MARCHI/AAP

Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, University of South Australia and James Higham, University of Otago

We are hearing increasing talk about a trans-Tasman “travel bubble”, which could see Australia and New Zealand open their borders to each other.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was a special guest at Australia’s national cabinet meeting on Tuesday, which discussed the possibility of setting up a travel safe zone.

Both Ardern and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison have cautioned a travel bubble will not happen immediately. After the meeting, Morrison said a safe zone is “still some time away”. But he also stressed, “it is important to flag it, because it is part of the road back”.




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What would a travel bubble mean in practice for Australia and New Zealand?

As tourism researchers in both countries, we see a travel bubble as a great opportunity to kick-start the post-COVID economic recovery, while also focusing on more sustainable tourism.

Why the trans-Tasman bubble makes sense

A travel bubble would see quarantine-free travel allowed between Australia and New Zealand.

The two neighbours have a unique opportunity to do this. Not only are they geographically isolated, both have so far had success containing – perhaps even eliminating – COVID-19 cases within their borders.

It is not yet known when international flows of tourists will be possible again. But it is understood that global tourism as we once knew it will not be possible until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.

Historically, limited travel circuits have been associated with former and current Communist states. Nevertheless, for Australia and New Zealand in 2020, the idea of a travel safe zone makes a lot of sense.

In 2018, New Zealand was Australia’s second largest inbound market for visitor arrivals and fourth largest market for visitor nights and total visitor spend. Australia is New Zealand’s largest visitor market, generating 1.5 million visitors a year as of 2017.

Australians make up more than half of international arrivals to New Zealand each year.
Lukas Coch/AAP

The beauty of our shared travel markets is our visitors are generally repeat visitors who head to diverse regions. Because more than 70% of Australians book self-drive holidays, for example, their spending spreads more widely than some other visitors.

Australians seek skiing and adventure in Queenstown, wine in the Martinborough or Waiheke Island regions. They also support Australian sports teams competing in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. In reverse, lots of Kiwis head to the Gold Coast but also visit the Hunter Valley for wine or Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane for sports events.

Starting to rebuild these markets while the rest of the world remains in lockdown would represent a huge boost to both economies.

What is needed to make a bubble work?

After the national cabinet meeting, Ardern stressed “there is still a lot of work to be done” before the travel safe zone idea can progress.

The key to a successful trans-Tasman travel arrangement will be sound planning and implementation.

Rigorous public health measures to facilitate safe travel will be essential, including being prepared for all travel to be halted again if the situation changes.




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Broad stakeholder involvement and coordination will be necessary, including between tourism commissions, airlines and airports, industry associations and a range of government agencies, to ensure any reopening is managed well.

Local councils and businesses must also be involved to ensure that the tourism restart is planned, coordinated and controlled.

A chance for greener travel

A trans-Tasman travel bubble could also lead to a change in both countries’ tourism strategies.

Like other countries, Australia and New Zealand have historically prioritised international tourists, particularly “high value travellers”, who spend more and stay longer.

A COVID-era focus on domestic and trans-Tasman travel will likely result in lower yield but could also lead to a more sustainable tourism future. Trans-Tasman travel is the least carbon emitting of our international markets, because it does not rely on long-haul flights.

A focus on domestic and trans-Tasman travel also provides a chance to create a greener tourism industry.
Lukas Coch/ AAP

Trans-Tasman visitors also tend to have a lower carbon footprint at their destinations. In 2018, more than half of all Australian visitors to New Zealand (57%) were repeat visitors. Repeat visitors tend to spend more of their time at regional destinations, and less time incurring the carbon costs of transporting themselves around the country.

New Zealand has already begun to rethink its tourism economy to establish greater sustainability. A trans-Tasman bubble presents an opportunity to foster tourism with a lighter footprint.

Could the bubble be expanded?

There is a call for an extension of this travel bubble to the Pacific neighbourhood, where there are also low infection numbers.

Such a move would not only provide economic support to the Pacific community, it would also represent another step in the long process of restoring normality in different regions of the world.




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Ardern has kept the door open on this aspect, but noted “at the moment, we are focused on Australia”. She has also cautioned about not introducing COVID-19 to parts of the Pacific untouched by coronavirus.

Even if it remains just Australia and New Zealand, any travel bubble will obviously elevate the risk of COVID-19 reinfection. So, public health priorities must trump the desire to kick-start economies, to make sure we don’t squander our success against coronavirus so far.

But if the governments and tourism industries can find the right balance between public health and economic needs, then Australia and New Zealand stand to benefit from a head start on the long road to economic recovery.The Conversation

Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, Senior Lecturer in Tourism Management, University of South Australia and James Higham, Professor of Tourism, University of Otago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update: International


General

USA

Brazil

Italy

Singapore

New Zealand

South Africa

Coronavirus Update: International


General

France

Russia

United Kingdom

Turkey

China

USA

Nigeria

New Zealand

Why coronavirus emerges in clusters, and how New Zealand plans to eliminate outbreaks after lockdown



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Arindam Basu, University of Canterbury

After four weeks of some of the world’s strictest lockdown conditions, New Zealand now records much higher numbers of people who have recovered from COVID-19 than new infections.

In its April 23 update, the Ministry of Health reported only three new cases – though another two people died, taking the death toll to 16. The total number of cases is 1451, with more than a thousand people having now recovered from the illness.


April 23 update, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health

As New Zealand prepares to ease lockdown conditions from April 28, it can expect new clusters of infections to emerge, as has been happening in northeast parts of China.

But it plans to continue using a combination of testing and contact tracing to stamp out the spread of COVID-19.




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How new clusters can emerge – even with closed borders

New Zealand moves on to two weeks of level 3 lockdown from Tuesday, and people who cannot work from home will start returning to their workplaces, if they can maintain social distancing measures.

Border controls will remain in place indefinitely to avoid new introductions of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said New Zealand will continue to pursue its goal of elimination with a strategy that differs from most other countries.

Success doesn’t mean zero COVID-19 cases. It means zero tolerance, which means that as soon as we know we have a case, we go in straight away, we’re testing around that person, we’re isolating them […] we do our interviews and contact trace to find all the people who have been in contact with them while they may have passed it on, and we ask them to isolate. That’s how we keep stamping out COVID cases.

New Zealand now has 16 significant clusters, with more than 90 people associated with the two largest of them. People in each cluster are from different households, but they are connected through transmission.

The location of identified COVID-19 cases across New Zealand, shown by district health board area, as of April 23.

As of April 23, 1,065 of New Zealand’s 1,451 COVID-19 cases had recovered, while 16 people had died. This shows total cases by district health board area.

Clusters are the starting points of epidemics or local outbreaks. Epidemiologists think of clusters like networks through which an infection can propagate. If different networks are connected by one or more common members who can travel from one network to another, clusters can join and grow.

Likewise, if networks are kept isolated from each other, the chain of transmission is broken. This is how lockdowns work. Each of our household bubbles is a small network, and as long as we can maintain that bubble without connecting with others outside of our own, we prevent new clusters.

But new cases have continued to emerge because:

  1. even under stringent lockdown conditions and self-isolation, people still need to access public places such as supermarkets where they are at risk of exposure

  2. COVID-19 has a variable infectious period and many people don’t show symptoms but can still infect others

  3. some people within clusters were infected before lockdown started, and continued to infect others within small networks.

Why contact tracing is crucial beyond lockdown

When lockdown conditions ease, people who return to work and children who go back to school will move between networks. This will increase the risk of new infections, but testing has ramped up significantly during the weeks under level 4 conditions and will continue to increase to capture new infections. In some regions, sentinel community testing was carried out to identify any symptom-free cases.

Testing laboratories now process thousands of COVID-10 tests every day, with a record 6480 tests carried out on April 22. The total number of tests is now 101,277.

At the same time, contact tracing has also increased to identify different network structures and clusters. Contact tracers start with an “index” person and track everyone who was connected to that individual to interrupt any forward transmission as the contacts are isolated.




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When the COVID-19 outbreak began in New Zealand, the capacity for contact tracing was limited, but rapid case detection, contact tracing and isolation now has over 90% efficacy against COVID-19 at the population level.

Contact tracing is important for mapping the networks of infected people. “Super spreaders” – individuals who move between clusters – can be identified quickly and their movements tracked. This will help to contain any new clusters.

Manual contact tracing for an outbreak on the scale of COVID-19 needs to be supplemented with digital tools such as Flutracker. The Ministry of Health is also considering a contact tracing app like Singapore’s TraceTogether to prevent large clusters.

With continued contact tracing, we expect the number of new cases to remain low and with border controls preventing imported cases, any emerging new clusters should be able to be detected and contained rapidly. This intervention is central to COVID-19 elimination in New Zealand.The Conversation

Arindam Basu, Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Environmental Health, University of Canterbury

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trust in government is high in NZ, but will it last until the country’s elections later in the year?


Richard Shaw, Massey University

New Zealand’s general election is currently set for September 19. Under ordinary circumstances, campaigning for the election and two referenda that will take place alongside would be heating up by now, but the country is three quarters of the way through a comprehensive level 4 lockdown.

The first question is whether the election should take place at all. Misgivings are beginning to emerge, including within the coalition government, but at the moment the answer is still a qualified yes.

Regardless of the precise date, New Zealand will be one of the first liberal parliamentary democracies to go to the polls since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it will be the most consequential election any of us have participated in.




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Potential for a reverse snap election

Attempting to look five months out is a fool’s game at the best of times (which these are not), but elections are how we hold elected representatives to account. Unless the numbers of ill, hospitalised or dead New Zealanders take a sharp turn for the worse, the election is likely to go ahead.

If the numbers do worsen and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opts to delay the election, there are several ways in which the date can be pushed back, but it would still likely have to be held this year.

New Zealand’s three-year parliamentary term is entrenched in the Electoral Act, under which the last possible election date is on December 5, unless 75% or more of all MPs vote to extend the term of the 52nd Parliament.

What ever happens, it does not take much to imagine the logistical challenges that COVID-19 is posing for electoral agencies. Contingency planning for various scenarios is already underway, focused on identifying ways in which people can vote if they can’t get to a booth.

Postal voting is one option, but online voting on any significant scale is probably not, because of privacy risks and technical challenges.

Trust in government to make the right call

Ardern’s calm, measured and reassuring leadership during the COVID-19 crisis has attracted plaudits at home and away – as it did a year ago following the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Unlike other Western countries, New Zealand has a goal to eliminate COVID-19, rather than containing it, and after almost three weeks in lockdown, the number of people who have recovered from the illness now exceeds the number of new cases each day.




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According to a recent Colmar Brunton poll, 88% of New Zealanders trust their government to make the right decisions about COVID-19 (well above the G7 average of 59%), and 83% trust it to deal successfully with national problems.

Ardern has fronted the mainstream media more or less daily, her Facebook Live appearance in a hoodie on a sofa received more views than New Zealand has people, and her communication has been crisp, clear and consistent. Go hard and go early. Stay home and save lives. Be kind.

But this is now. Come September, when people’s memories of this phase of the crisis have dulled and they are looking for a path through the social and economic damage COVID-19 is wreaking, a different political calculus will apply.




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The role of the state

Few may hold Ardern directly responsible for the wreckage, but she will be held to account for her administration’s response to the challenges that lie ahead.

At that point the contest becomes one of ideas. The pandemic has dragged some venerable old political issues to the surface, chief among them the relationship between state and economy.

In New Zealand, there is broad support for the speed, decisiveness and competence with which the government and its officials have acted. The language of “government failure” has largely vanished and the importance of public institutions has become clear to everyone.

So has the extent to which markets rely upon the state. Except for the truest of believers in market forces, the argument that governments should get out of the way and give the private sector free reign has become untenable. For the time being.

There is burgeoning hope that once the crisis passes we will do a lot of things differently, but a new political and economic order is not a done deal.

New political order

It may seem unlikely that swathes of voters will embrace a return to unfettered markets but it is equally improbable that many will be clamouring for a permanent highly centralised state.

Trust in government is back in fashion for the moment in New Zealand, but we simply cannot tell how widespread support for a more active state will be once the COVID-19 health crisis has waned and the country faces the economic impacts.

New Zealanders talk a good fight about egalitarianism but we are remarkably tolerant of income and wealth inequality, health disparities and homelessness. Those things and more are waiting for us on the other side of COVID-19, and while we may yet come out of this crucible with a new social contract, it will need to be fought for.

That is why the 2020 election in New Zealand matters so much. Constitutionally, New Zealanders will be choosing a House of Representatives. Really, though, we will be choosing a future, because the next government will get to chart a course not just for the next parliamentary term but for a generation.The Conversation

Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.