Adrian Orr: Some policy lessons from a year of Covid-19

Speech by Mr Adrian Orr, Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, to the 2021 New Zealand Economics Forum, University of Waikato, 4 March 2021.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
04 March 2021


Tēnā koutou katoa, welcome everybody. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on an important and live topic 'The policy lessons from a year of living with COVID-19'.

In the beginning-

From late-2019 citizens of the world have watched the COVID-19 virus evolve into a global pandemic. We observed global decision makers face what seemed an incalculable dilemma: whether to implement measures to contain the spread of the virus – potentially sacrificing lifestyles and livelihoods – or to endure the health consequences of allowing the virus to spread. This policy dilemma was quickly, and unfortunately, resolved by compounding hospitalisations, threatening the sustainability of health care systems. Policy inaction was not an option and social mobility has been dramatically curtailed as a result.

In Aotearoa, New Zealand, we have now been living in this constrained world for a year. The level of social restrictions has fluctuated with our COVID Alert Levels – as we have seen in the events of this week – between the extremes of being one of the most mobility-constrained societies on the planet to one of the most free (Figures 1 and 2). As citizens, our economic fortune has been closely linked to these actions.