The real cost of COVID

Published on 09 September 2020


On Friday last week we received a sharp reminder about the real cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. We learned of two deaths from the virus, the first in New Zealand for several months. One was a 50-year-old man, who worked at the Americold company in Auckland. The other person to succumb to the virus was an 85-year-old. He was a friend of mine. It was with considerable sadness that I learned that former Cook Islands' Prime Minister Dr Joe Williams had died from coronavirus.

After leaving Parliament in 2011, I was New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands until 2013 and I know how highly respected and well-loved Dr Williams is in that country. However, it was during my years as an MP that I got to know Joe. He was a great guy and a true ‘people person’. He was well-loved because of the tireless work he undertook for his people in New Zealand and in the Cooks. His death is a blow for both nations.

In the days following that tragic news, new cases of the virus have been confirmed. This underlines the need for continued vigilance against this disease and why Alert Level 2 restrictions should continue across the country until midnight Wednesday, 16 September.

These latest events also bear out another fact about this disease. While older people like Dr Joe Williams are certainly more vulnerable, this disease is a very real threat to much younger people too. The father of four, who also died on Friday, was the youngest person in New Zealand to be claimed by the disease so far. These cases demonstrate why we all need to follow the advice of medical experts. We must continue to practice physical distancing and wear a face covering if we can. Please also get into the habit of using the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing app to record of where you have been and when. These are relatively simple changes to adopt and will help to prevent more avoidable deaths.

If we all continue to follow this advice, we can retain our reputation as one of the safest places to be when it comes to COVID-19. That was borne out by an international survey released recently that ranked New Zealand as the second-safest place to be in the world. The assessment was based on over 140 COVID-related parameters and placed us closely behind Germany, ranked the safest country to be.

Here in Northland, we have recorded no new COVID cases since April. As the weather gets warmer, we will welcome more visitors to our region from Auckland and elsewhere in the country. That’s a good thing. We need friends and whanau to come here to help our tourism and hospitality businesses. I’m confident that if we all follow the advice of medical experts, we can maintain our virus-free record. If we work together, we will continue to enjoy the benefits of being one of the safest places in the world.