Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker
Aotearoa/NZ has responded very successfully to the COVID-19 pandemic by achieving elimination and the lowest death rate in the OECD. But there are ongoing risks – which may even be increasing with larger numbers of infected returnees in border facilities. In this final blog of the year we detail the critical actions needed to lower the risk further, with these measures being largely the responsibility of the NZ Government. We also highlight the importance of ensuring the huge investment in the COVID-19 response generates lasting benefits for NZ.
Prof Jennie Connor,* Prof Sally Casswell
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just released the report on its review of their Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol. The ASA is an industry body which develops the voluntary codes that set the standard for advertising of alcohol, and also adjudicates on complaints made by the public when advertisers breach the code. The ASA exemplifies both an ineffective approach to protection of the population from harm, and an explicit commercial conflict of interest. In this blog, the case for regulation of alcohol marketing and the need for urgency is made, and ways forward are described.
Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek, Nick Wilson, Andrew Waa [Department of Public Heath, University of Otago, Wellington]
The latest NZ Health Survey data continues to show encouraging reductions in smoking prevalence. However, progress remains inadequate to achieve the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal with persisting disparities in smoking, particularly for Māori and Pacific peoples. The Government urgently needs to introduce a comprehensive action plan, including measures to reduce the continued marked disparities in smoking. E-cigarette use and vaping has increased over the last three to four years, though its contribution to reducing smoking prevalence is not yet clear. There is no evidence that increased e-cigarette use among 15-17 year olds is slowing the decline in smoking among young adults.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Leah Grout, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Prof Michael Baker (author details*)
Aotearoa/NZ has achieved the lowest death rate in the OECD from the COVID-19 pandemic, equivalent to around 2000 lives saved compared to the OECD average. With regard to economic harm, NZ appears to be close to the OECD average, with the IMF predictions for GDP in 2020 overall being -6.1% for NZ and -6.3% for the OECD. Nevertheless, a fuller accounting of health, economic and equity impacts probably needs to wait until vaccination is sufficiently available and border restrictions are lifted. Despite NZ’s health success there is still a need to improve border controls (eg, with a “traffic light” system), until the population is protected by vaccination.
Dr Ben Gray*
To date New Zealand has come through the pandemic well. The role of political leadership and scientific input has been well covered. Part of this success was built upon having a clear ethical framework for managing a pandemic that had been developed in advance following the SARS outbreak. This blog considers the interaction between the science the ethics and the decision makers.