Elimination was so popular with voters that every major political party backed it.
But over the past two weeks, the National, Act and Green parties have all peeled off from the government, vocally denouncing the new approach or offering new plans of their own. Ardern and her ministers continue to equivocate on whether elimination is over at all – a hemming and hawing that Smith says could hinder them from communicating a clear new vision for New Zealand’s path forward.
In one sense, Ardern could now be a victim of her own success, says Ben Thomas, a communications consultant and former National government staffer. The government’s elimination campaign was so compelling and its results so strong, that it won huge support – polling above 80% through most of the pandemic.
“Part of the prime minister’s problem is that she did such a good job of rallying New Zealanders to this cause, of convincing them – correctly – that elimination was an achievable goal, and of instilling a real fear of the virus. That’s a very hard thing to unwind from,” Thomas says.
Smith says: “Elimination was something that New Zealanders could be proud of, it brought us together and became a common goal.” And the challenge now is to find – what is the common goal during a suppression strategy? Probably vaccination rates – but to give us this same pride that we had last year in our Covid response again that is the big challenge facing Jacinda and her team now.”
The most likely candidate for that new vision is vaccination, but it’s harder to capture the urgency of that message while simultaneously arguing the country is still eliminating the virus.
Here is the full story, via Rich Dewey.