Collectivism is when the interests of the group are given priority over the individual.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used the word twice last week to describe the way New Zealand had managed to keep Covid-19 at bay, in a slight variation on the team of five million.
But her own Ministry of Health appears not to be practising it.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has decided to delay identifying 30 locations in Northland visited by someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
It is deemed more important to let the owner of the business know first that a Covid-position person entered their premises than to tell the public of Northland.
Anyone who scanned the relevant QR codes will be lucky. They will be informed electronically because to her credit, the woman scanned religiously – still after the owners have been told.
But thousands of forgetful or neglectful New Zealanders will be wondering if they frequented the same places and will then have to keep checking various websites (www.nzherald.co.nz) to see if new businesses have been added.
Many won’t check. And that could well mean that someone with the virus who doesn’t know they have it will spread it further.
It would make much more sense to reveal the 30 locations in one go, in order to get maximum exposure to the public.
In an ideal world, an owner or manager of a business should be told first so they have a chance to manage their response and their staff.
In a recent case of community transmission, that happened.
The young woman in question, a shop assistant and student in Auckland, identified five locations of interest she had been to when possibly contagious.
Those locations were revealed publicly within hours of the Ministry of Health finding out about them.
In this case, there are 30 locations, not five.
That would seem to be a bigger risk and an obvious reason to get the information made public quickly.
Instead, it is the reason has been delayed to give officials time to contact the individual business owners. It makes no sense.
The lists will be put up progressively, Bloomfield said.
But every hour counts and every day counts in the life of the Covid-19 virus, and more so with the contagious strains from Britain, Brazil or South Africa that are showing up at the border.
Unnecessary delays in identifying a case could lead to more infections.
The collective interests of public health are clearly more important than the individual interests of businesses.
Jacinda Ardern needs to remind her officials of that.
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