I’ve lingered long and hard over the topic of this week’s blog.

The growing public murmurings have led me to say what I’m feeling, and I know many others are feeling it too. Elimination is over as a strategy for containing Covid-19 in New Zealand now that we have experienced the Delta strain.

This latest lockdown of the whole country has shown me, from discussion with our industry and many others, that we have to stop running from this virus and accept that there will be a point where we have to live with it. There is too much at stake if we don’t. We will continue to be cowered in a state of fear by something that we now have the tools to overcome  – with a vaccine. 

We must start building our psychological, physical, social and economic resilience and not driving ourselves into lockdown every time we have a community case. Follow the rules? Absolutely. Get vaccinated and keep yourselves safe? There is nothing more important. And by all means be cautious, take care not to expose yourself to lots of people in public places and events if you must. But more lockdowns like this as we run scared? Not once we are vaccinated in numbers significant enough to satisfy safety. 

The shadow emerging over many psyches at this time is worrying. People feel as though we have a great, black unknown in front of us. If we keep feeding into the fear and reacting as we do, then they are correct. Instead, let’s get the jab, stay well, and open up our country again. 

The shrill cries of the comfy well, most bundled up in big cities, livelihoods unimpeded by lockdowns,  will ring out in opposition to the position I have described above. “We can’t afford to have anyone die; don’t you care about people? Our hospitals can’t cope. Don’t you have a conscience?” I can hear it all now. Those emotive arguments, shouted loudly enough, will force many to keep their opinions to themselves. As someone who lost a family member in the first lockdown, arguably because of it, I can see the risks on both sides. 

The people who support our elimination course have a big say in the rule making in our current politics, but generally, they don’t drive the engine room of the economy that keeps this country going. That, despite what they hope for, is still very much in the primary sector with the production of food and other primary products. It’s in small and medium-sized businesses who take the risks, employ people, and make things happen.

Now, everything I have suggested above would be more straightforward if the New Zealand Government had managed to roll out vaccination in an effective way. They haven’t, and now our industry is being asked to help them play catch-up with their programme, otherwise we risk being unable to operate at a time when we are needed most. 

Our industry leaders have to step up in the coming weeks and months and show support to their staff; show them that they and their families are valued and appreciated by helping them get vaccinated as soon as possible. That might be going further than the usual good employer, but now is the time when people are fragile and need support. It also will aid your business to be able to keep operating, as a vaccination record card might be the entry permit to many workplaces, and even across borders between regions. 

Road transport is a sector that lives every day with high stress, deadlines, and uncertainty. Our people are perfect for functioning well during this period and most customers, let alone the public, never notice when there are problems. But there is a limit, and more of our businesses are being impacted than we might believe at first glance – reduced loads, customers not operating, fewer backloads, and the like all impact the bottom line. For an industry that struggles to secure enough drivers, we don’t need more barriers, be they physical or psychological, that make the job harder. That will just drive more people out and make them harder to replace.  

Finally, a shout out to our Minister of Transport Michael Wood this week. He’s a hands on Minister who not only knows about, but cares about what is happening in our sector and across other transport modes. He is asking questions and looking for solutions to our major impediments at this time, and I think it’s very important to recognise that.

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