CENSORED ARTICLE BY DEPUTY CHAIR OF NZ COUNCIL FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
In his video Billy discusses two articles.
This one, penned by Andrew Ecclestone of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties but appears to have been taken down.
I could not find it on the search engines but I found a version of the article published elsewhere.
I also noticed that Billy’s version said an advertisement had been withdrawn.
This is censorship writ large when someone from the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties has their article censored
Vaccination certificates can be a useful tool to stop the spread of Covid-19, although they’re not a magic shield: they reduce risk rather than eliminate it.
But they are also government-issued identity cards that, if were not careful, could enable the government to track our movements and who we meet with. That means we need to think through the details and implications carefully.
After 19 months of the strain and anxiety caused by the pandemic, it’s easy to accept things that we hope will speed our return to normality. It’ hard to find the energy to conduct thought experiments, but bear with me.
Scanning in to record a visit may have been widely accepted to counter Covid-19, but the introduction of a vaccination certificate raises a new set of privacy questions.
Imagine it’s five years ago. You leave the house to go to work. When your bus arrives, you don’t just swipe your payment card, but have to show the driver a government identity card they scan to check its really you. When you arrive in town, you want a coffee and have to show your ID card again. The same again, to enter your office. And again if you visit a cinema or restaurant after work. And on the bus home.
Each time your ID is scanned, it not only tells the business who you are, it tells the Government exactly where and when your ID was scanned. Everyones ID is scanned so it knows who was there with you. Your ID card isn’t like a drivers licence, which proves you have passed a test and have the right to get behind the wheel of a car. Your ID card is your licence to work, to exist in society.
Now imagine the uproar there was when the Government-imposed this ID card with no public consultation. No information provided to us about what it would do with this data on our movements. No information about which government agencies it would share this data with. Or how long it would retain this data. Or how it might analyse this data to draw inferences about what youre interested in.
Details of the database this information is saved in isnt published for independent scrutiny. The advice from the Privacy Commissioner is kept secret. The Privacy Impact Assessment isnt published.
The Government also keeps secret the expert advice on whether ID cards are consistent with the non-discrimination obligations under the Human Rights Act, and whether it is a reasonable limitation against our rights to freedom of movement and association.
Sadly, we dont have to use our imaginations any more, because this is actually whats happening in Aotearoa New Zealand today. You havent previously had to identify yourself to a café owner to buy a coffee, but now you will, as the Prime Minister has said that businesses scanning vaccination certificates will also be told your name.
Far more troubling is what the Minister for Open Government also the Covid-19 Minister isnt telling us: what data it will capture each time our certificate is scanned. Supermarkets, doctors and pharmacies are excluded, but it hasnt ruled out having certificates scanned to catch a bus or train, and the logic of requiring them when people are close to each other suggests doing this.
You might be in favour of that, but do you want that information retained by the state? None of the advice or assessments described above have been published by the government. The Government has provided no criteria for when well stop having to carry them. The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Prime Minister seeking answers but has not received a reply.
In a democracy, you might hope the Opposition would be asking questions about this in Parliament. You might hope that at daily press conferences, reporters the eyes and ears of the public would be pressing ministers for details of this tool that could so easily be misused.
This hasnt happened. Justified anxiety about Covid is leading to complacency about the kind of society were creating.
The Government will say that some information will be published when a bill is introduced to Parliament. That we can make submissions to a select committee that will have 48 hours to consider the matter.
But if you think this sounds like a done deal, your hearing is working just fine. Cabinet has decided; the Government has a solid majority.
Vaccination certificates can be useful. But we agree with the Privacy Foundation that they should be done in a way that reduces to an absolute minimum the data collected, and not exceed whats needed to achieve the Governments lawful purpose.
If the purpose is only to verify the authenticity of a certificate, only the fact that a certificate was verified (or not) should be collected. Not a place or time. Retaining more data would indicate the Government has other purposes for this ID card.
You can be in favour of introducing certificates that will exclude those who cant get vaccinated. You can even be in favour of government ID cards, although many would argue that a key aspect of individual liberty is protecting your privacy from the state.
But in a democracy, the government needs people to trust the system theyre being forced to use. Earning that trust means minimising data collection, maximising privacy, and being open about what exactly theyre doing and why.
Andrew Ecclestone is deputy chair of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties.
This is the other article cited in the video
Auckland’s Delta Covid-19 outbreak continues to grow with each passing day.
Last week saw a number of record high case days, creeping up from 94 new cases on Tuesday, to 102 on Thursday, and 129 on Friday, all while the region has been in lockdown for 10 weeks.
As the region teeters on the edge of 90 per cent of eligible people with one dose of the vaccine, and nearly three-quarters fully vaccinated, daily case numbers, the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19, and the number of unlinked cases all continue to rise.
So why is this happening so far into lockdown? And where is the outbreak likely to go from here?
Why are case numbers continuing to rise?
Te Pūnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller and University of Auckland physics professor Shaun Hendy says there are a couple of explanations for this.
The first is simple: we are dealing with Delta.
The variant is highly transmissible and spreads very effectively among households. It has a shorter incubation period and Delta-positive people can carry a viral load roughly 1000 times higher than those infected with earlier variants..
Then there’s the virus’s reproduction rate. The effective reproduction (or R) value (this number, on average, is how many people an infected person will pass the virus on to) is currently sitting around 1.3 due to the restrictions that have been in place.
This has remained relatively steady, but we are now starting to see “exponential growth”, Hendy says.
It’s a balancing act: what we are gaining in having relatively high vaccination rates, we are balancing with having loosened restrictions.
Part of this is also because we’re in a slightly watered-down version of alert level 3, which on its own was “never likely” to control Delta, based on how transmissible the variant is, he says.
Though vaccination rates are improving, if you take that away, it is evident level 3 restrictions are not working as well over time, Hendy says.
There is also likely a degree of “complacency” at work here too, with people perhaps not adhering to the restrictions as stringently as they should be, he says.
While the R number is above 1, there will be spread: “unfortunately, the case trajectory will continue to rise, despite high vaccination rates”.
So what impact are vaccination rates having?
Hendy says Auckland’s relatively high vaccination rates are “almost certainly” playing a role in stopping transmission. Increasing levels of vaccination will also help to bring the R number down.
However, we will “probably never” achieve population immunity with vaccination alone for Delta.
“You’re always going to need other measures, even once we push up vaccination rates.”
Hendy says vaccination rates will continue to help us, but we cannot relax just because rates are going up.
The sooner the R value is below 1, the sooner we can consider relaxing restrictions, but at the moment it remains “important we do both things”.
University of Auckland Associate Professor and vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris says the outbreak is playing out as anticipated, in that unvaccinated people make up the vast majority of cases.
Vaccination makes a “big difference”, she says.
There are still several hundreds of thousands of people in Auckland who have not vaccinated that the virus can infect, she says.
While the Pfizer vaccine greatly reduces both the likelihood you will become infected with Covid-19 and the chance you’ll pass it on, it doesn’t prevent this entirely.
How much worse is it going to get?
The outbreak remains on track to double the number of new cases within about a two-week period, Hendy says.
At the moment this is “roughly like where we were expecting it to be”.
However, we don’t have a choice but to bring that down, or we will “crash our health system” – this is the reason he and others have been calling for a circuit-breaker lockdown.
One of the effects of not bringing the R value down is that contact tracing capacity becomes “exhausted”, and targeted public health controls fall over a bit at a certain level.
Hendy says it is likely we will see a bit of a slump from over the long weekend as testing and processing winds down, but by the middle of the week we will likely be “solidly into triple digits” – with daily case numbers on the way to 200.
These will continue to be “pretty steadily on the rise”, he says.
“The longer it takes to bring [the R value] down, the longer it will take to bring case numbers down.”
When do daily case numbers stop being the main metric?
At this stage in the transition to a framework system, daily case numbers remain “really important”, Hendy says.
“We can’t let that case number continue to climb.”
The long-term transition to a traffic light system will only work well if there are a “manageable number of cases”.
If not, contact tracing measures won’t be there to help us – we will be stuck in the ‘red light’ zone with lockdowns, in a position no different to now, he says.
The other critical measure is what is happening with hospitalisations.
As vaccination rates increase, it isn’t likely we will continue to see the rate of hospitalisations rise. Earlier in the outbreak, about 10 per cent of all cases ended up in hospital.
But while we continue to be in a period of exponential growth, we won’t be far off from “saturating” hospital capacity, he says.
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