COMMENTARY: By Nick Rockel
On Friday I watched Ashley Bloomfield’s last afternoon health update. After all we’ve been through over the past couple of years, and the major role he had in communicating to us and keeping us safe, I’ve got to say I felt a bit emotional.
The end not of an era, sadly the virus is still very much with us, but in a way a part of what has been one of the major events in all of our lives.
His humble, calm, well informed voice was a great antidote to some of the stupidity that we saw overseas in the early days of the pandemic, I’m looking at you America, but sadly we see more and more of that here in Aotearoa.
Maybe it was always there; I guess you’d have looked pretty stupid slagging the guy off in the comments section two years ago.
Not anymore apparently.
I was going to include some of the negative comments here from during his last briefing to demonstrate how full of hatred, conspiracy theories, and misinformation these people are. But when I went back and looked at them they just made me feel sad and I decided I didn’t want to repeat any of them even to mock them.
Of course the poisonous hatred and stupid fuelled negativity aimed at Dr Bloomfield on social media is minor compared to the Tsunami of Bile frothed by those attacking Jacinda for things like — it being her Birthday the other day.
Isn’t it reassuring to know we live among people who see red fury at people wishing the Prime Minister a Happy Birthday, or a Doctor giving medical advice?
What must celebrations be like at their place?
“Don’t say Happy Birthday to that little bastard he hasn’t even finished putting 100 pins in his Jacinda and Ashley dolls yet”
“C’mon Kev he is only four!”
But let’s rewind back to the beginning, the early days of the daily update…
We were listening to scientists not business people. The messages were clear about putting our lives, our family’s lives, and the lives of those around us in the community first; the message wasn’t filtered through what CEOs or corporate sponsors wanted.
We were told saving lives mattered, washing hands mattered, and commerce would just have to wait for once as much of it was put into an induced coma until it was safe to listen to business people, or certain politicians, again.
The cryogenic switch
And who was flicking that great cryogenic switch, who was saying “don’t go to work stay at home and chill, if you’re able work online in your underpants” as if some deadbeat mate you knew in high school had turned up to stay indefinitely.
It was Dr Bloomfield.
Who told us of each new outbreak, scientific break through, the vaccine rollout, or sadly life lost?
It was Ashley. I’m sure we can all remember certain updates, I particularly remember the spread in a West Auckland old peoples home, which wasn’t far from us and brought it very close to home.
The youngest member of our household would listen to the updates hoping there would be an increase in numbers, not too many he didn’t want people to be ill, but just enough to keep schools closed a bit longer. Funnily enough he was less enthusiastic about the restrictions applying to football and dance classes.
Dr Bloomfield called those making racist comments about people infected with covid “gutless” — could he have been any more awesome?
And who could forget the day we went to zero community cases – what a day! It was like we had won the World Cup except it was something that actually mattered.
The Vaxathon spirit
A little later there was the Vaxathon that made those of us of a certain age fondly remember Telethons of old. It even remarkably captured some of that same spirit in the age of everything on demand — or maybe it was just us oldies that thought so.
We had this guy telling it like it is, the Doc was giving it to us straight. Of interest especially to we middle aged white guys was the fact here was a guy capturing the nation who if push came to shove and he had to take to the dance floor he’d probably dance a lot like us.
So what turned people?
Was it the positivity, the being well informed and not putting up with any nonsense? He didn’t outright mock “alternative theories” but it was pretty clear what he thought of them.
Was it standing alongside The Prime Minister the two singing in unison how we could all be kind in our socialist utopia that put people first?
Was it having certain media people and opposition politicians finding any angle to criticize the approach we were taking and attacking Dr Bloomfield for his performance? I remember one of the reporters at a press conference even asked him if he should offer his resignation.
Or was it having a nerd tell them whether they could go out and play with their friends and their toys or not?
The silent majority
It struck me, as it often has looking at comments; surely the silent majority are decent people grateful for how well we have been served by Dr Bloomfield. Is it really possible that this many people are filled with anger and disinformation, or are they just the loudest and actually mainly fake?
We saw people opposing health measures increasingly of course. First they were anti the vaccinations, then anti the mandates that were there to keep people safe and could so easily be avoided with a little prick.
Now that life is by and large back to normal, albeit with a disturbing number of daily cases and deaths, they are anti any ongoing measures — anti the wearing of masks!
People who genuinely believe, or at least claim, that masks not only don’t inhibit the spread of disease but will actually say until they are blue in the face that masks make the spread worse!
The mind goggles. Imagine if the anti-mask crowd took that approach to other areas of life?
“Don’t you throw that water on me everyone knows it only makes being on fire worse!”
What else do people decide — meh I’ve been doing this a couple of years I can’t be bothered any more?
We didn’t decide a couple of years after seat-belts were introduced that, you know what, people are still dying in car accidents so I’m not wearing one any more — in fact if you do your research you’ll find seat-belts make car crashes more dangerous!
People don’t say you know when I’m driving home tonight in the dark I’m going to go with Natural illumination – the light from the moon. No more artificial illumination for me, everyone knows this has worked for thousands of years.
Walking on the footpath instead of the road or wearing a parachute jumping from a plane? Not for them, you can only hope they’re wearing condoms.
Have these people always been around? Will they always be like this? Is this Darwin at work?
Evolution is painful to watch.
For the rest of us Covid hasn’t actually gone away but could it be that some us are already looking back to the height of the pandemic, the lockdowns as inconvenient as they were on occasion, as a better simpler time?
Getting our priorities right
A time when we got our priorities right of family and caring for each that doesn’t always occur?
A time of people over profits – it was a bit of an adventure – it didn’t feel much like it queuing in the rain for groceries, but in hindsight….
Didn’t he do well – Ashley, there he was yesterday getting a standing ovation, still smiling, still calm – he really did us proud!
Thank you Dr Bloomfield, we will remember what you did.
Nick Rockel is a “Westie Leftie with five children, two dogs, and a wonderful wife”. He is the publisher of The Daily Read where this article was first published. It is republished here with the author’s permission.