20 October 2005

Bird Flu

Like seemingly everyone else in Europe - or at least everyone who writes for a news publication of some sort - I am warily eyeing the Asian bird flu virus, H5N1, as it continues its seemingly inexorable march northwestward from the Far East, through Central Asia, and now into Russia and Eastern Europe. I have an uncomfortable feeling that this is going to be the big one, the influenza pandemic that is now almost twenty years overdue. And I also have the uncomfortable feeling that what European governments think are comprehensive plans and arrangements, are going to turn out to be woefully inadequate.

Imagine my pleasant sense of surprise, then, to receive an email from the New Zealand Embassy in Berlin yesterday about exactly this topic. It contained information about the virus and possible treatments, as well as an indication of what preparations and policies the New Zealand government has up its sleeve.

Granted, the news wasn't that good. Basically, it boiled down to 1) Tamiflu might help, but it might not; 2) If you're a New Zealander living overseas, we're afraid you're on your own. Good luck with that though; 3) If it gets really bad, we may close New Zealand's borders completely, in which case you'll be stuck overseas and you'll still be on your own. Good luck with that.

But hey, at least now I know! And I wouldn't have expected the New Zealand government to even attempt to make arrangements for those of us living overseas in any case. That would be way above and beyond the call of duty. But I do appreciate that they are well enough organised to have actually given it some thought and formulated a clear policy. And I appreciate even more that they went out of their way to make sure that I, as a New Zealander living abroad, was informed of the situation. Good on them.

And to other New Zealanders living abroad, I have a tip: send an email to your local embassy or consulate, letting them know you exist and where you are. Having done just that, I now receive frequent updates from the Embassy about anything New Zealand-related going on in Germany, and, well, now also this. It's excellent.

Point is: yay New Zealand Embassy. That is all.