Covid is manageable. Facebook and social media disinformation campaigns are not. They threaten to be the death of our social democracy.

(Response to a post by Sir Ray Avery) I work in an emergency department in NZ and since you seem earnest but confused, I’ll respond to some of your concerns.

1) As a doctor, I have adequate PPE to treat Covid patients and suspected Covid patients. Thanks to the government, I am vaccinated. That doesn’t mean I’ll be perfectly safe, but it darned-sure helps.

2) No one is pretending we’ll eliminate Covid, we are trying to tamp it down long enough to get the majority vaccinated. Would I personally want to see mandatory vaccination aged 12 and over? Of course. Worldwide the willfully unvaccinated are harming the health of millions. Their irresponsible, selfish, and ignorant actions are equivalent to dousing our schools, shops, airports with petrol while we have a bushfire raging.

3) Eventually borders will open and Delta (or whatever variant is floating around that month) will flood in. (If it hasn’t already weeks ago.) It is our (and the government’s hope) that everyone who wanted a vaccine will be vaccinated by that point, so ICUs and the medical system aren’t overwhelmed. That’s the reason for the lockdown, surely you understand that.

4) Opening right now, which neither you nor any sensible person is supporting, would be harmful to New Zealanders.

“We are way behind with our vaccination program and don’t have ubiquitous use of face masks ,our own prime minister has said you don’t need to wear a mask if you are going out jogging.”

5) We are ‘behind’ on our vaccination, as far as I can tell, because we didn’t pay bribes, bully (US), overpay, commandeer other countries’ allotments (Europe, India) or do other despicable things. In fact, we gave tens of thousands of ‘our’ doses to protect our island neighbours who have no ICU-level care and few health resources. I just got back from helping support the Cook Islands vaccination program, one of the most successful programmes in the world (96% of eligible adults vaccinated in 2.5 months). The New Zealand government’s actions (Labour, National, the lot of them) were noble, effective, and awesome to behold. We have immunised medical frontline workers (doctors, receptionists) many months ago, but still have a long way to go. I agree with your feelings that we should be all done by now….but that’s just not reality. We got a great vaccine at a time when other ‘highly-vaccinated’ countries were getting lower-quality vaccines (Russian and Chinese).

6) Did the government do a good job? Yes. Can they have gone 100% faster, I do not know. They say no, supply was a limiting factor, and I believe them vastly more than I trust the Mike Hoskings of the world who gain financial benefits from sowing hatred, division, paranoia, and anger. Please don’t feed into that narrative, Facebook and dogwhistling political parties may ultimately prove a bigger harm to society than Covid.

7) Lastly, did our PM say you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re going out jogging? Good on her. You were a scientist, look at the studies on Covid spread: it’s largely a disease of dense indoor spread: ICU, hospital wards, nursing homes, bars, nightclubs, churches are extremely high-risk. Full stop. Well ventilated crowded spaces (airplanes) are dangerous, but nothing like a bar or crowded restaurant. Well ventilated non-dense spaces (supermarkets) are significantly less dangerous. Outdoor dense spaces (concerts, gatherings) pose a risk, but it is moderate, depending on mask wearing (which, of course, should be mandatory) and spacing.

When we get to non-dense outdoor well-ventilated spaces, the spread of Covid is negligible. Walking, running, bicycling by yourself? Come on now, sir. That risk is as close to zero as one can come. Surely you understand this.

To simplify: wear masks indoors, wear masks around people not in your bubble, wear masks and distance when around gatherings of people.

Please use your considerable talents, energy, money, and influence as a ‘game changer’ to support things that work: masks, vaccines, distancing, outbreak suppression, citizen cohesion, and the de-fanging of groups that seek to weaken our country through feeding frenzies of anger and misinformation/disinformation. We will surely see more variants and need a country that operates as an effective unit to respond to these challenges.

Regards, Gary Payinda