DCC Annual Plan promises Increased Rates, Debt, & Staff-costs again [far in excess of inflation] when the Tax-Payer’s Union has 102 Ways Councils can save money…

The DCC has done just some of 2 of the 102 ways…

102_Ways

From: Lee Vandervis <lee@vandervision.co.nz>
Date: Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 10:40 AM
To: “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <council.2019-2022@dcc.govt.nz>
Cc: Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Dave Tombs <Dave.Tombs@dcc.govt.nz>, Simon Drew <Simon.Drew@dcc.govt.nz>, Tom Dyer <Tom.Dyer@dcc.govt.nz>, David Bainbridge <David.Bainbridge@dcc.govt.nz>, Clare Sullivan <clare.sullivan@dcc.govt.nz>, Robert West <Robert.West@dcc.govt.nz>
Subject: 102 Ways to Save Money in Local Government. attached

Dear Councillors,
During our Annual Plan deliberations it has been claimed that with rising costs we must always increase debt and/or rates to maintain current levels of service. Even if this were true, our increases so far above inflation are unjustifiable in my view. [e.g. staff costs up 7.4% last year on top of 8% the previous year]

The opportunities for reducing waste, better strategic contracting and getting better value for significant spending remain under-explored in my business-experienced view.
The TaxPayer’s Union 102 Ways to Save money in Local Government attached has 102 suggestions of which I believe the DCC have only actioned 2. [can you identify more than 2 actioned by the DCC?]

The other 100 ways of maintaining levels of service and saving money without raising debt and rates await serious consideration by Councillors and by staff.  [And there are many more DCC/CCO-specific opportunities to save money…]
Looking forward to comments,

Regards,

Lee

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The George st 10kph Pedestrian Shared Space debate

Abuse of the Chair’s powers and Zoom muting of my comments – 18.10 is where these abuses begin.

I agree that DCC Standing Orders should be rigorously observed at meetings to promote transparency and Democracy. 
The relevant Standing Order 25.2 specifies:
A member who is raising a point of order must state precisely what its subject is. Points of order may be raised for the following subjects: 

(a)  disorder – bringing disorder to the attention of the Chairperson; 

(b)  language – use of disrespectful, offensive or malicious language; 

(c)  irrelevance – the topic being discussed is not the matter currently before the meeting; 

(d)  misrepresentation – misrepresentation of any statement made by a member or by an officer or council employee; 

(e)  breach of Standing Order – the breach of any Standing Order while also specifying which Standing Order is subject to the breach; 

(f)  request the recording of words, such as a request that the minutes record words that have been the subject of an objection. 


My statement that ‘Cr Staynes had misled Council by saying that it was impossible for him to attend a delayed meeting’ was manifestly true and relevant to the meeting that Cr. Staynes surprisingly did attend, and therefore not possible to be characterised by Mayor Hawkins as a Point of Order. Mayor Hawkins’ claimed point of Order simply was not a Point of Order and should have been rejected by Chair Benson-Pope. 

Since it was not a Point of Order and Mayor Hawkins had not stated precisely what the Point of Order subject is, it was inappropriate for Cr. Benson-Pope to rule on it as a Point of Order and to rule in favour of what was not a Point of Order.
Cr. Benson-Pope’s subsequent insistence that I should withdraw a true statement, and apologise for it, was inappropriate, and his threat to have me removed from the Zoom meeting on this pretext was beyond his authority, [Ultra Vires] and an abuse of the important right to Democratic vote due to follow. 
Cr. Benson-Pope’s repeated muting of my Zoom microphone connection was also an inappropriate breach of his responsibility to allow elected representatives to speak and to raise a real Point of Order or to object to his attempted removal of me from the meeting, especially as Cr. Staynes had confirmed that he did say what I had accurately quoted him as saying.

 

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George st now Pedestrian Shared Space

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 10.39.59 PM George st retail area Traffic Lanes have just today become a Pedestrian Shared Space, with speed humps, a 10kph speed limit, and over $10,000 worth of 10kph signs that were already purchased in advance of the Council 9-4 decision.
The change is claimed for space distancing safety and not pedestrian ideology.

Just in – a correction from DCC CEO Bidrose regarding her previously advised pre-purchase of 10kph signs:

From: Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>

Date: Saturday, 16 May 2020 at 11:42 AM

To: “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <council.2019-2022@dcc.govt.nz>, “Executive Leadership Team (ELT)” <elt@dcc.govt.nz>

Subject: 10kph sign purchase correction. There was NO commitment to spend for 10kph signs prior to your resolution.

Hi Councillors

During the meeting yesterday, I was asked about purchase of the 10kph signs and staff commitment to spending ten thousand dollars on those prior to any council resolution on the shared street resolutions. I had checked this out earlier and been told that street signs had been purchased, but if the resolutions did not pass, they could be used elsewhere. I interpreted that as ‘10pkh signs had been ordered’. During the meeting, I was corrected my Mr Drew, who’d been told that signs had been ordered but the arrangement was that if the slow street recommendation did not pass, council would not be paying for any 10kph signs.

I did advise the Mayor and Chair of that just prior to the meeting’s end, but there was no reasonable opportunity for me to make the correction during the meeting.

So – to be utterly clear, the road signs were made and produced without the ‘10’ in the centre – that was done immediately following the resolutions being passed. If the council had voted No yesterday, there would have been no money spent on any 10pkh signage, decals etc.

Regards

Sue

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Personally Positive ODT Letters this week.

My letter to the ODT:

“Don’t see the value”. Letter to the ODT Editor

Dear Barry,

Mayor Hawkins “don ‘t see the value in us going through a process where we significantly reconfigure what it is that we offer our community.” [ODT 1/5/20] He and Cr.Benson-Pope want the $60 million George st/Exchange ‘surface treatments’ project to proceed and the DCC pre-covid budget to mostly continue in blind ignorance of the economic world that has suddenly vastly contracted, along with Dunedin citizen’s ability to pay rates and Council Companies’ ability to pay dividends. We can do it on “increased debt” Hawkins says, proving his total lack of business understanding and the weakness in our already budgeted BILLION$ DCC group debt.
Kind regards,

Cr. Lee Vandervis

IMG_0759IMG_0758

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How the Dunedin 2019 Mayoral Election was won…

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 7.37.08 PM

My submission to the Electoral Commission and the Minister of Local Government raising issues from the 2019 Election, with the Minister’s reply recently received:

From: Lee Vandervis <lee@vandervision.co.nz>
Date: Friday, 28 February 2020 at 10:31 AM
To: Justice department <ju@parliament.govt.nz>, Nanaia Mahuta <n.mahuta@ministers.govt.nz>
Subject: Electoral Commission 2019 Dunedin election submission

Dear Nanaia and the Committee Secretariat,

As the Mayoral candidate with the majority of first preference votes in Dunedin in 2019 but still not the Mayor, I wish to submit that your proposed review is welcome and the suggested administration of elections by the Electoral Commission rather than local government staff is long overdue.

The inevitable codependence of Mayor and CEO compounded by agendas differing between Council staff and elected Councillors create many tensions and vested interests in election outcomes that speak against local staff running those local elections.

I have a largely different view to the DCC submission on the 2019 Election review created by our new Mayor Hawkins, who won on subsequent-to-first-preference votes with the help of a both Green and Labour Party machinery, and a local monopoly media smear campaign against me using DCC staff-leaked untrue claims of 11 staff complaints against me.

The Otago Daily Times DCC reporter responsible for the election-year smearing stories based on the untrue staff-complaint claims has now changed jobs post-election receiving the top Dunedin City Council Marketing and Communications job.
The undemocratic and self-serving role of the local monopoly media and our local Council bureaucracy has, in my opinion, skewed the Mayoral and Councillor election results in a number of anti-democratic ways:

The leaking of damaging scuttlebutt and the breaching of the Privacy Act by DCC staff in relation to a number of issues including election signage and supposed DCC staff ‘complaints’ of me have been pushed by the out-going Mayor Cull and the ODT in the election run-up, and further compounded on social media.
The only confirmed staff complaint against me [leaked in another breech of the Privacy Act pre-election by DCC staff] was a response to my initial complaint of staff, and the resultant staff Code of Conduct process against me which is currently being challenged at my personal cost by a Judicial Review.

I support your proposal to have local elections run at arms’ length by a non-local Electoral Commission group rather than by local council staff, and to review voting methods.

DCC CEO, senior staff, the Greens and Labour local politicians, and some local big business interests had very strong self-interests in maintaining a status-quo Mayor in the Dunedin 2019 election, and they only narrowly achieved this in a variety of ways.

I believe that DCC staff involvement in organising election events, [eg specifically targeting University voting], DCC staff provision of candidate advice and nomination information, staff handling voting papers and their delivery to Christchurch for counting, changing election signage rules, again breaching the Privacy Act leaking damaging signage rule stories to the media, and DCC staff leaking defamatory claims against me personally are all weaknesses in the current electoral system that need to be investigated.

Most of these issues could be avoided if local body election administration was undertaken by the Electoral Commission or other non-local delegated organisation.
I believe that there would be overall positive economies of scale with centralised electoral administration, and more confidence amongst candidates that there was a more level consistent campaigning field.

I have also vainly complained for many elections past about the hundreds, possibly thousands of voting papers that literally litter North Dunedin streets and student halls of residence during election time, and the opportunity they present of being hoovered up and used illegally. Anecdotal suggestions on social media that this has been happening, and even support of this vote tampering, are deeply concerning. The practice of sending out voting papers to students for years after they have moved on from Otago University has created a large-scale tampering opportunity that would be lessened by a secure on-line nation-wide [FPP] voting system which I support.

Local body staff interest in local body election outcomes can be significant, especially when some of the local bureaucrats very jobs may depend on a certain election outcome.
In my view the STV system [that was approved in Dunedin after a big Political Party and University push] has resulted in a more diverse range of elected representatives at the expense of democratically popular representatives. Our ‘modified’ STV system used since 2004 was cobbled together by 2 Internal Affairs computer programmers to rank winning candidates based on arbitrary thresholds, and the cumulative over-weighting of subsequent-to-first-preference votes that are severe weaknesses in the opaque STV system.

In our 2019 Mayoral election the STV system required more than 10 iterations to swamp the popular democratic first preference Mayoral votes.
Many voters have complained to me of STV complexity, and the confusion of having DCC STV voting alongside ORC FPP voting. Anecdotal evidence points to confusing voting systems that have put people off voting at all.
Even the University ‘experts’ Hayward and Geddes could not agree prior to the election on how to advise people to vote in the confusing, opaque, and unverifiable modified STV system.
Electionz’ Warwick Lampp has been unable to provide convincing evidence that our modified STV system outcomes are truly representative, saying only that the STV system gives consistent results when test run.

I was an initial supporter of STV based on University ‘expert’ claims, but since being involved and seeing how it really ‘works’ I am completely opposed. It is arbitrary, unrepresentative, unverifiable, and widely misunderstood and mistrusted by many voters.

The claim by the beneficiary of this STV system Mayor Hawkins in his DCC submission that STV is a more representative system than FPP is not supported by the facts or by the outcomes in my view.
STV is widely acknowledged now locally as punishing strong candidates with specific policies and strong first voter preference, in favour of candidates who forward few policies or specifics.

Other issues which speak against local election administration include a resistance by local staff to investigate hidden electoral donations, answering questions regarding the handling of votes, and creating electoral signage rules that favour some candidate’s traditional signage advertising while out-lawing others.

All of the above issues have email trails, many extensive, which I am happy to forward and to personally present when addressing an investigative Electoral Commission panel, which is now absolutely necessary to restore public confidence in our local government electoral process.

Kind regards,

Cr. Lee Vandervis
021-612340

47 Garfield Avenue
Roslyn
Dunedin 9010

Office of Hon Nanaia Mahuta
MP for Hauraki-Waikato
Minister for Māori Development Associate Minister for the Environment
Minister of Local Government Associate Minister of Housing (Māori Housing)
Associate Minister for Trade and Export Growth
+64 4 817 8711 Private Bag 18041, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160, New Zealand n.mahuta@ministers.govt.nz beehive.govt.nz
29 April 2020
Lee Vandervis
Councillor, Dunedin City Council
lee@vandervision.co.nz
Tēnā koe Lee
Thank you for your email of 28 February 2020, sharing your views on local elections in New Zealand.
I note your concerns with the Single Transferrable Vote (STV) system. This is a system that local authorities can choose to adopt, and it is a matter for the Council as to whether to keep the STV system or go back to First Past the Post electoral system.
You may be interested to know officials at the Department of Internal Affairs are working on options to modernise voting in New Zealand, which includes online voting trials. Online voting has the potential to assist certain groups of electors who currently have issues exercising their right to vote under the postal system, such as people voting from an overseas location.
You may also be interested to know that the Justice Committee is conducting an inquiry into the 2019 local body elections, to identify opportunities for improvements to the legislation. The submission period for this inquiry closed on 29 February 2020, and the Committee’s report will be made available on the parliament website. Further information can be found at http://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/scl/justice.
I appreciate your views and suggestions on improving local governance. As you know, the Productivity Commission has completed its inquiry into local government funding and financing. The Government was presented with the Commission’s final report and recommendations and will be responding to the Commission’s report in due course.
Thank you again for writing.
Heoi anō
Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Local Government

 

 

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DCC borrowing $60 million for “Surface Treatments” from George St. to the Exchange, is being ‘justified’ by underground pipe renewals.

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 10.39.59 PM

I am all for spending on needed deferred maintenance of pipes and cables, but the $60 million still planned for Surface Treatments is unjustifiable.

From: Lee Vandervis <lee@vandervision.co.nz>
Date: Wednesday, 29 April 2020 at 10:11 PM
To: <jared.oliver@dcc.govt.nz>
Cc: "Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)" <council.2019-2022@dcc.govt.nz>, Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Simon Drew <Simon.Drew@dcc.govt.nz>
Subject: Discussions with ex DCC water manager Darrel Robison

Hi Jared,

Thank you for your engineering insights into the George st water systems today.

I have had a few discussions with Darrel on the subject recently, as it applies to the George st upgrade proposal.
Darrel was quick to point out that initially doing up the pipe-work while we were at doing up George anyway made some sense, but that this sound argument had lately morphed into ‘we have got to do up the pipe-work now so we should do the George st upgrade while we are at it’.

But to the technical stuff as below, Darrel seems to have a more optimistic view of pipe maintenance needs than I have heard recently. It was interesting to have confirmed that some brick/tile drains built by the Romans are still in use in London!

Looking forward to your further advice, and if it is similar to what Darrel lays out in detail below, including a block-by-block analysis:

From: Darrel Robinson <dlrobinson@xtra.co.nz>
Date: Saturday, 18 April 2020 at 1:45 PM
To: Lee Vandervis <lee@vandervision.co.nz>

Comments of Wastewater, Stormwater and Water Mains in George Street from Octagon to Albany Street

Hi Lee

I have spent a bit of time looking at the DCC Water Services Maps and supplementing / verifying that information from my own recollections.  The maps themselves were put together by a diligent team who had excellent base maps which were created in the 1960’s to start with so I expect them to be extremely reliable.  However not all data would have been available to them and thus there will be some information gaps, particularly on repair data.

The extent of the proposed George Street upgrade I understand to be from the Octagon to Albany Street so will comment on the services on a block by block basis.

An area of significant risk of needing repair are the stormwater and wastewater drains serving individual premises.  These are owned by the properties they serve and thus are not the responsibility of Council.  There is much greater risk of structural failure on one of these drains than of the wastewater / stormwater sewer they connect to.  They may also be older than the sewer connected to as this area was originally served by a combined sewer system (both wastewater and stormwater in the same pipe) and it was only in the 1990’s that separation of these combined sewers was completed.  In the case of George Street, the separation work immediately preceded the George Street upgrade programme those almost 30 years ago.  I know that there is an investigation underway within Council staff about assuming ownership of these sections of private drains (and also watercourses) but am unaware of where that work has got to.  The same issue does not really apply to water services as the service from the main to the property stop cock is part of the Council’s asset and it is only the short (300 mm) section of the service from stopcock to the street boundary that is privately owned.  Given that these services are quite shallow, that does not pose an undue risk.  However the vast majority of water repairs are on water services so I would advocate that the services be replaced as part of any street upgrade.

There will be a number of fire services from water mains and connected to building fire sprinkler systems.  I am pretty sure that those too are owned by the property served. You would need to check on that.

Before a block by block comment, a general comment on the 300 mm water main and the 900 x 600 stormwater sewer running along the George Street centreline.

The 300 mm watermain is of cast iron material and is the City’s first main and dated from the 1860’s and installed as part of the system that followed the construction of the Ross Creek Dam and Reservoir.  It has been very reliable to the best of my knowledge.  When the concept to upgrade George Street along with the replacement of services was first mooted, I thought quite a bit around “if it was my call, would I replace the 300 mm watermain and the 900 x 600 mm stormwater sewer?”  I didn’t reach a firm position and to me, it is a very tough call to make.  To some degree, I guess it comes to the Council’s tolerance of risk which I perceive to be quite low.

Both are old but neither seems to give any significant trouble so it’s quite a big call to make.  The length of street being redeveloped is in the order of 900 metres and at a rate of say $1500 / metre on the stormwater and $1100 / metre on the water, that represents a spend of $2,340,000. To that must be added valves, hydrants, manholes, traffic management, engineering fees, and other sundry items so I would suggest the final figure would approach $3,500,000.  So quite a big spend if it’s not actually necessary.  To me, before making a decision, a robust engineering assessment of condition needs made.  Currently, a lot of emphasis seems to be placed on an asset’s age as an indicator of condition.  Sound engineering judgement has always been a fundamental input to sound asset management practice but it seems that element has been given reduced importance in the modern application of asset management.  Nothing can replace sound engineering judgement.

The 900 x 600 mm stormwater dates from the 1870’s and was part of the original drainage scheme for the Central City.  The sewers are egg shaped (pointed end down) and constructed of brick.  The brick was source from local brickworks and thus were of varying quality.  To counteract wear, the invert of the pipe was a shaped ceramic tile set in to the brickwork.  In most cases, the brickwork has not given rise to much in the way of structural issues; the issues are more cosmetic.  I would have thought by now that any structural issues would have emerged.  TV inspection surveys were done in 1970 and that showed the lines were generally in good condition.  Any that were not in good order were progressively relayed with concrete pipe or lined with plastic liners.  The pipes are hugely oversized so there is no issue relating to capacity.  A further inspection in the 1990’s showed little if any degradation in most lines.  The exception was the line down St Andrew Street and with it being quite shallow and the level of heavy traffic, significant cracking and structural deformation had taken place.  It has since been replaced. There will also be gas pipes in George Street but I doubt if they were still in service.  Those not in service were sold to Telecom so I suspect they are now part of the Chorus asset.

There are extensive ducts for phone and electricity cables.  In the case of phone ducts, they are massive – probably 6 pipes high by 6 pipes wide so they do take up a lot of space.  I recall they were laid near the western kerb.

So now to comments block by block.

Octagon to Moray Place.

  • Water.

There are 3 water mains in this block

  • 300 mm dia cast Iron main dating from 1860’s on eastern side of carriageway – no known faults or repairs.
  • 50 mm dia rider main in western footpath – no repairs recorded. As this main is so small, replacement is recommended if it is not in polyethylene pipe.
  • 100 mm main in eastern footpath (cast iron) constructed 1939 in eastern footpath – 2 repairs recorded, I at Bath Street and the other at the Octagon.
  • 900 x 600 mm brick egg shaped stormwater sewer laid in 1874 – thought to be in reasonable condition and no knowledge of faults. The backup fibre optic cable from the Civic Centre computer system to the Civil Defence basement is attached inside this pipe from opposite the Civic Centre George Street entrance and heads south.
  • 150 dia stormwater lines laid as part of the George Street upgrades of 30 years ago. These are shallow and will be in good condition.
  • Wastewater
  • The only waste water service in this block is a short 150 dia concrete line serving the Civic Centre and runs from Moray Place to the Civic Centre northern boundary. It was laid in 1982 and will be in good condition.

Moray Place to St Andrew Street

  • Water

Again 3 mains in this block.

  • 300 mm dia cast Iron main dating from 1860’s on eastern side of carriageway – 1 repair in the St Andrew Street intersection recorded. I am also aware of anecdotal evidence of a repair outside the Westpac Bank.
  • 100 /150 mm main in western footpath. The cast iron section running north from Moray Place dates from 1938 and there are no repairs recorded.  The 150 mm section near St Andrew Street is in asbestos cement pipe (laid 1966) again has no repairs recorded but should be replaced as asbestos cement pipe is now recognizes as having a much shorter life than other materials.
  • 100 mm main in the eastern footpath is in cast iron pipe, dates from 1938 and repairs are recorded near Blacket Lane and 2 repairs near Moray Place.
  • Stormwater
  • 900 x 600 mm brick egg shaped stormwater sewer laid in 1874 – thought to be in reasonable condition and no knowledge of faults.
  • 150 dia stormwater lines laid as part of the George Street upgrades of 30 years ago. These are shallow and will be in good condition.
  • There is a 150 mm concrete wastewater sewer for most of the block and joining the St Andrew Street system. The sewer dates from 1989 and is most likely to be in excellent condition.

St Andrew Street to Hanover Street.

  • 300 mm dia cast Iron main dating from 1867 on eastern side of carriageway. No repairs recorded
  • 150 mm asbestos cement / 100 mm cast iron in western footpath. The asbestos cement main was laid in 1966 and should be replaced.  The 100 mm cast iron section was laid in 1939 and there are 2 repairs recorded.
  • 100 mm cast iron main in eastern footpath (1938) and 2 repairs are recorded at the St Andrew Street intersection.
  • 900 x 600 mm brick egg shaped stormwater sewer laid in 1874 – thought to be in reasonable condition and no knowledge of faults.
  • Numerous short sections of 150 mm PVC pipe laid in 1990 as part of the George Street Upgrade. They are shallow and should be in excellent condition.
  • 150 mm PVC wastewater sewer in the carriageway laid in 1988. Should be in excellent condition.

Hanover Street to Frederick Street.

  • 100 mm cast iron (1939) in western footpath. 3 repairs recorded.
  • 300 mm dia cast Iron main dating from 1867 on eastern side of carriageway. No repairs recorded.
  • 100 mm cast iron main in eastern footpath. Laid 1939 and 7 repairs are recorded.
  • 900 x 600 mm brick egg shaped stormwater sewer laid in 1874 – thought to be in reasonable condition and no knowledge of faults.
  • 750 mm concrete pressure stormwater sewer in carriageway laid 1928. No knowledge of any issues with this sewer.
  • 150 mm PVC stormwater sewers on both sides of road laid in 1990. These are shallow and should be in excellent condition.
  • 150 and 225 mm pipes, mainly ceramic, laid in 1988 and should be in excellent condition.
  • Also there is an old (1915) 100 mm wastewater sewer crossing part of the carriageway near London Street. Given its age and being only 100 mm, it should be renewed in 150 dia pipe.  Not a big job.

Frederick Street to Albany Street.

  • Water
  • 300 mm dia cast Iron main dating from 1867 on eastern side of carriageway. No repairs recorded.
  • 100 mm cast iron main in eastern footpath. Laid 1939 and 1 repair recorded.
  • Stormwater
  • 900 x 600 mm brick egg shaped stormwater sewer laid in 1874 – thought to be in reasonable condition and no knowledge of faults.
  • 150 mm pipes from 3 lanes on east side. All are 1990’s and thus should be in excellent condition.
  • 225 mm concrete pipes laid 1996. Should be in excellent condition.
  • 150 mm pipes from 3 lanes on east side. All are 1990’s and thus should be in excellent condition.

I hope this information is of use to you.  After you have had a read, perhaps you could give me a call with any questions.

Best wishes

Darrel.

 

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Massive testing required to end lock-downs safely…

How to build and deploy testing systems at unprecedented scale – from today’s Economist magazine.

Countries will have to do it to end their lockdowns safely


SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, is an unobtrusive piece of biological machinery. It spreads parasitically through the respiratory tracts of human beings, often without provoking symptoms in those who carry it. Yet for some, particularly the old, it is deadly. This combination of properties make the pandemic both dangerous and difficult to stop. As of April 22nd it had killed 182,000 people.

So far, every country that has reduced covid-19 infection to low levels has relied to some degree on “social distancing”—that is, either encouraging or forcing people to stay at home, and to keep well apart if they find that they have to go out—to prevent the virus from spreading. On top of this many are in any case fearful to go out, lest they catch the illness. Without a vaccine or therapeutic drugs, neither of which is guaranteed, countries therefore face a future of bouncing in and out of lockdown every few months, with infection rates ebbing and flowing in response. The result will be mounting death tolls, depressed economies and confidence-sapping uncertainty. This can, however, be partly ameliorated by extensive testing for the virus. Testing enables the government to keep tabs on the disease, reveals which social-distancing measures work, and, if those testing positive remain at home, instills confidence in the public that it is safe to go out…

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