The UK’s Telegraph puts the boot into NZ’s Covid response.

August 23, 2021
3 mins read

Is it just envy? A popular UK media outlet slams NZ’s Covid-19 response, and our own PAT PILCHER hits back with the facts.


The UK’s Telegraph newspaper ran a comment piece titled “Poor Jacinda Ardern, trapped in her arrogant Zero Covid policy“. Its author, Matt Leash, is part of the conservative Adam Smith institute and he didn’t hold back. He didn’t let details or facts get in the way of his poorly thought out rant either.

Leash smugly states that “New Zealand’s Covid-19 response was idealised last year. The small island nation eliminated the virus – with short lockdowns, closed borders, and effective contact tracing – and largely lived without restrictions. Economic growth has been high, and mortality has been low. But what worked in 2020 is not the same as what makes sense in 2021.”


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By way of explanation, he then goes on to say that vaccines “change the calculation: elimination becomes a costly strategy with very limited benefit. What’s the point of lockdowns and maintaining closed borders for a virus that, with vaccines in the mix, no longer causes much harm to individual people?”

It has eluded Leash that although a million New Zealanders have already had their first jab, many cannot be vaccinated, owing to medical conditions. For this group of people, a dalliance with delta will be deadly.

But that seemingly small detail didn’t faze the Telegraph at all. Leash goes on to say that “Indeed, for all the screams of Slay Queen Jacinda on social media, Ms Ardern has shown little serious interest in protecting her people. New Zealand has fully vaccinated just one in five of its population, the second-lowest in the OECD. It even shut down vaccination centres when it entered “Level 4″ restrictions this week. Lockdown first, foremost and forever.”

If the Telegraph had bothered to fact-check and review the latest OECD data, it would have found that New Zealand’s vaccination rate has increased significantly. New Zealand no longer occupies the second lowest slot in the OECD’s most recent data. Sadly, Leash seems to have confused compassion with arrogance. He also conveniently doesn’t discuss the not so insignificant fact that New Zealand’s elimination policy had been very successful until last week.

According to Statista, as of August 20, 2021, the UK recorded 1,960.89 Covid-19 fatalities per million, whereas New Zealand’s were tiny by comparison at just 5.29 per million.

Then there is the not so small matter of Leash’s claims of the Labour government shutting down vaccination centres. While Leash is partially correct in that some vaccination centres had to temporarily close in Auckland, he neglects to mention that the closures were due to the surge in demand for Covid-19 tests (nurses who would have administered vaccines were instead needed in testing centres). This isn’t a case of “Lockdown first, foremost and forever”. Only five vaccination centres were closed in Auckland, and eight continued to operate. The other five are again fully operational.

Not content with glossing over details and twisting the narrative to suit his story, Leash continues. He writes what bizarrely sounds like the ravings found on a trashy Facebook anti-vaxxer page, saying that a “Zero risk” gives the state limitless justification to interfere with our lives in the most extreme of ways. “Individual choice, bodily autonomy and basic privacy become subsumed to the goal of taking away anything that could do us even the smallest level of harm.”

I suspect that the 32,058 Coronavirus cases and the 104 people who died from Covid-19 just in the UK in the last 24 hours might dispute Leash’s logic.

On the plus side, Leash didn’t encourage anyone to burn down any 5G towers (but it wouldn’t have been all that surprising if he had). Sadly, it has escaped his attention that the Delta variant has killed many people and created economic mayhem. Leash seems to ignore the fact that any sane government would do whatever it can to protect its population from this terrible disease.

The Telegraph’s hit job on New Zealand’s Covid response not only reeks of hypocrisy but also ignores the mess the UK government’s made of their own pandemic response. New Zealand is enduring its second lockdown after close to a year of Covid-19-free normalcy. A quick check-up on the UK’s institute of government website reveals that UK residents have had to endure 4 lock-downs. New Zealand’s economy has recovered and prospered after dodging the first covid bullet. Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper reports that the past year of Covid-19 lockdowns has cost Brits an eye-watering £251 billion.

Perhaps the Telegraph should start acting like they’re part of the Fourth Estate. They should be asking their own government hard questions instead of throwing stones at a small country that’s so far away from them.




Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.


  1. Completely agree.

    Overseas commentators often make the mistake of applying their own local context to NZ when it often is not relevant. The UK botched its C19 response in many ways with the sole exception of the vaccine rollout. “Dine out to help out” being a spectacular example of how to encourage its population to spread the virus and kill each other. I didn’t really think we should be taking advice from that lot to be frank.

    We don’t really have a choice to avoid locking down right now as the vaccination rate is too low. However we will have a choice when vaccinations are maximised and start levelling off. It will be interesting to see what the government decides at this point as I think the social license for lockdowns will be exhausted.

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