However, our zero-Covid strategy wasn’t without its critics, with Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya writing that it had “cost New Zealand dearly”.
“I think that the fact that most of your grandparents are still alive means that zero Covid did not cost you dearly,” Howard said in response.
“I don’t discount that, there were real costs of the lockdowns, I don’t know anyone who argues otherwise and I want to be very clear that I was protected from those costs, meaning I am very fortunate to be employed, I worked throughout the pandemic, I was never lonely, I don’t have my own business.”
But Howard said he didn’t think that the alternative – letting the virus spread freely – would have yielded a better outcome.
He said that when forklifts were needed to move bodies into giant refrigerated trucks in New York, it was fantasy to imagine the city could have operated as normal during the pandemic.
“You talk about deferred healthcare – every single healthcare worker was working with Covid patients, our hospitals were overflowing,” he said.
“So when I hear people lament they missed cancer screenings, who would have done those screenings? Would elderly patients have left their house to go to crowded waiting rooms to get a mammogram for example? I don’t think so.
“I think that the fantasy is that things could have just been normal if only if it hadn’t been for overly cautious politicians.”
By comparison, New Zealand did well, Howard said.
“I look at the numbers, I look at your death rate with great jealousy.” he said.
“And I think for long periods of time your economy was more open than ours was because we had to keep locking down, just because there were overwhelming outbreaks of the virus.”
Howard said the fact many older New Zealanders were still alive compared with the US statistics, showed the success of this country’s Covid strategy.