Covid kills people. That’s the message the Prime Minister is ramming home as Auckland battens down the hatches for a seven-day lockdown. Putting the fear of death in people is the latest tool the Government is using as compliance whittles away, writes political editor Jo Moir.

While the rest of the world suffers through endless lockdowns and a daily death rate that’s clocking up, New Zealand has experienced a summer of freedom and festivals.

Complacency has been born out of that freedom with Covid scanning dropping away, people not isolating when told to and in the latest case – getting tested for Covid then immediately hitting the gym.

In some cases where people have broken the rules and headed to work, there is some public sympathy.

The roughly $1080 paid to a full-time worker in South Auckland forced to stay home for 14 days leaves barely $100 in the bank after rent.

And in those cases, the Government needs to take a proper look at whether it’s doing enough to ensure potential Covid cases actually stay in isolation.

In the instances where people are simply just not complying, the National Party is right to be pushing for greater enforcement through sanctions and spontaneous door-knocking.

Jacinda Ardern says she will look into penalties.

Given early on in the pandemic police weren’t doing the routine checking of those self-isolating the public was assured of – a check on the people tasked with doing the check-ups wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

The balancing act for Ardern is making sure people still go get tested and aren’t scared off by any hardline action.

Level 4 lockdown last year was supported by about 90 percent of New Zealanders and Ardern and Director-General of Health Doctor Ashley Bloomfield have long enjoyed the loyalty of the team of five million.

With Covid mostly absent from our day-to-day lives, the virus has for many become a mythical creature only seen and heard about in distant lands.

And it’s for that reason Ardern and her colleagues have momentarily sailed into the uncharted waters of calling out those who failed to do the right thing and stay home.

But in an effort to keep up the kindness, Ardern has also called for New Zealanders not to turn on each other.

In other words, the Government can point the finger at those breaking the rules – but the message to the public is to back off.

There’s finger-pointing at the Government too, and its decision to leave lockdown after just three days.

Ardern stands by that decision and says there wasn’t enough evidence of transmission at the time to justify staying at Level 3.

However, similar circumstances so soon after have prompted a seven-day shutdown of the country’s largest city.  

It begs the question whether that in itself is an admission the Government got it wrong last time.

One thing’s for certain, there won’t be any desire to lift this lockdown early.

The combination of it being the more transmissible variant and questions over its incubation period, coupled with another lockdown in such quick succession will have made Cabinet more cautious.

With a vaccine in the country and already being administered, there’s no room to stumble with the finish line in sight.

Getting the country to play ball for the next six days and once again nip Covid in the bud is the biggest test the country’s faced in quite some time.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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