Dr Belinda Loring, Dr Ruth Cunningham, Dr Polly Atatoa Carr*
Public health activities have collectively made an incredible contribution to minimising the impact of COVID-19 in Aotearoa. But the work for public health is not over. As the situation in Auckland heralds a transition point in our approach to the pandemic, the challenge now is to be bold and clear about how we prioritise our public health resources and effort going forwards to the activities that will make the greatest impact on protecting and improving population health.
Dr Rachel Webb, Dr Jin Russell, Dr Pip Anderson, Dr Emma Best, Dr Alison Leversha and Dr Subha Rajanaidu*
In this blog we describe the range of urgent measures that are needed to facilitate a safe return to schools in Auckland and other regions of the country where there is ongoing community transmission of COVID-19. These include very high vaccination coverage of staff and eligible students, improved ventilation in schools, mask guidance and physical distancing. A premature return to on-site learning in schools, particularly in areas of Auckland with low vaccination uptake, and current community cases, may contribute to further transmission of COVID-19, with devastating health and wellbeing outcomes for children, young people and their families.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker*
The NZ Government appears to have drifted into an unclear strategic approach to Covid-19 control. In this blog we outline one potential way forward: a regional strategic approach that considers “regional suppression” and “regional elimination”. To maximise the success of this strategy, NZ would need to ensure tighter internal borders. Fortunately, there are examples from five Australian states and territories that show that successful internal border control of Covid-19 is possible.
Dr Jennifer Summers, Assoc Prof James Ussher, Assoc Prof Nikki Moreland, Dr Leah Grout, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker*
Most COVID-19 testing aims to identify infected people. To date, Aotearoa NZ has relied almost exclusively on Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) for this purpose. However, Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) have a complementary role, particularly if COVID-19 infection becomes widespread. In this blog we briefly describe RATs, their performance, and how they could be used to further improve Aotearoa NZ’s COVID-19 response.
Prof Michael Baker, Prof Sue Crengle, Assoc Prof Collin Tukuitonga, Sarah Helm, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Nick Wilson*
Regardless of whether Auckland returns to Covid-19 elimination or transitions to a suppression approach, there are critical actions that can be taken to strengthen pandemic control measures, including: (1) Enhancing Covid-19 control in groups who experience deprivation and marginalisation; this is key and requires a dedicated strategy, leadership by trusted members of those communities, an expanded role for Māori and Pacific providers, and models of care that are equity focussed and culturally safe across all providers; (2) Enhancing surveillance and screening to detect infectious people and areas; (3) Expanding vaccine access and mandates to protect key groups and slow transmission; (4) Upgrading the Alert Level system to provide more nuanced options for controlling Covid-19; (5) Strengthening regional boundaries to limit national spread of Covid-19.