In the back-rooms of political campaign offices, people must be furiously putting a red pen through plans for the election campaign with only six months to go. Those schedules are now out the window, with the Covid-19 coronavirus front and centre.
Last year, when we were predicting big election issues, we did not pick a world-wide virus.
The Government is trying to grapple with what’s happening, while keeping the public informed and presenting the message that it’s onto it. Add to that, it’s preparing for a recession - the ripples from the international markets are already lapping at our shores.
The advantage for the Government is that we had weeks to prepare for coronavirus before any cases hit New Zealand.
The Prime Minister has now assembled her cabinet committee to make decisions on the virus. It includes Ministers of Health, Education, Immigration, Building and Construction, Agriculture, Tourism, Finance and Social Development. They will meet every Wednesday from now on.
The Director General of Health is now giving daily briefings at 1pm after a situation this morning where the Health Minister was interviewed by one media outlet and announced details of a third case - leaving others in the dark.
It’s taken a few days to get here, but it looks like now it’s in a rhythm to keep the public informed.
It’s a challenging time for the Opposition because it needs to talk about coronavirus to be on television just months out from an election, but it has to be careful not to look like it’s being overly political on a health issue.
It’s been criticising and questioning the Government on it’s handling of this issue – that’s its job – but it has to get the tone right.
It feels like we are still in the processing phase at the moment and trying to figure out what it means for jobs, schools, travel, the economy, the Olympics and food supply.
It’s a little bit brain-hurting to think about what it could mean. It’s hard to know how long this will take to play out, but you can be sure that coronavirus and the Government’s handling of it will be fresh in the minds of Kiwis as they go to vote.