COVID-19: Australian journalist Adam Creighton blasts NZ's 'mass psychogenic illness' after third lockdown

"Lockdown lunacy is frying our minds": This is the claim made by Australian journalist Adam Creighton in an article targeting New Zealand and Australia's new anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

Auckland has plunged back into its third lockdown, for three days, while the Australian state of Victoria endures a five-day lockdown - also its third.

Now Creighton, economics editor at the conservative newspaper The Australian, has written a column on Tuesday blasting both countries for their approaches.

"The west, and Australia and New Zealand in particular, are suffering mass psychogenic illness, where only sociology, psychology and the perverse incentives of large welfare states, can explain the ongoing obsession with COVID-19 and our medieval responses to it after almost a year of improved treatments and new information," Creighton writes.

"Australia and New Zealand have incurred costs equivalent to a world war - and more than any other nation has - fighting a pandemic that has killed not even 1000 people, with a median age in the mid-80s, between them. And this is widely seen as brilliant."

Creighton argues the lockdowns have imposed an "extraordinary economic, psychological and social cost" on both countries - and have come at the expense of civil liberties.

"Our leaders should level with voters that we can't remain an open liberal society without incurring further deaths and cases from COVID-19. Let vulnerable groups be vaccinated, and let everyone else get on with their life," he adds.

"Unfortunately that's not an option in Australia or New Zealand, where the freedom's taken for granted before 2020 - to come and go, see whomever, and privacy - have been sacrificed to the god of 'public health'."

However Creighton's anti-lockdown arguments are disputed by other experts. Writing for The Conversation, Professors Shaun Hendy, Michael Plank and Siouxsie Wiles argue moving Auckland back to alert level 3 was "the right thing to do".

"Given the highly infectious nature of the B.1.1.7 variant, and the chance these infections may have come from a source other than the family member's workplace, there may be another cluster of cases out there that we don't know about yet," they write in their joint article.

"If we find significant community transmission, we need to be prepared for alert level 3 restrictions to last several weeks. Because we are dealing with a more transmissible variant, it is even possible we might need to move to alert level 4 to contain and eliminate the outbreak."

Economist Cameron Bagrie warns each day at alert levels 3 and 2 will cost the economy $85 million ($255 million over three days).

"For Auckland, I put the impact on GDP [at] around $45 million per day at alert level 3...$40 million per day for the rest of NZ at alert level 2," he says. "The hit to business turnover is more than double that."