Dr Matt Boyd, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Nick Wilson
In this blog we compare recent Google mobility data for New Zealand and a range of other countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The data show the massive behavioural changes that have occurred in New Zealand (73% overall mobility reduction and 90% reduction in one category), which give support to the feasibility of the elimination goal being achievable in this country. The data for other jurisdictions reveals problematic stories for Italy and Sweden, but more favourable ones for Switzerland, Taiwan and South Korea. The latter two settings demonstrate how rapid and early use of various disease control measures may even allow for avoidance of lock-down measures. Continue reading
Dr Paula King,1 Dr Donna Cormack,2,1 Dr Melissa McLeod,3 Associate Professor Ricci Harris,1 Dr Jason Gurney,3 (1Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare, University of Otago; 2Te Kupenga Hauora Māori, The University of Auckland; 3Department of Public Health, University of Otago).
As Māori academics, researchers and health professionals, we are extremely concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our whānau and communities. We are also worried by the inadequate focus on Māori health equity in pandemic planning within the health and disability system, and in the whole-of-government ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. And we are troubled by the local proliferation of commentaries on COVID-19 within multiple fora that either intentionally ignore the existence of health inequities within our society, frame equity as an add-on to a substantial list of other ‘equally’ important principles, or demonstrate “nonperformativity”1 in reference to equity. Saying, ‘equity is important’ is different from actually making equity important via intentional actions to achieve it.
Nick Wilson,1 Ayesha Verrall,1,2 Len Cook,3 Alistair Gray,3 Amanda Kvalsvig,1 Michael Baker,1 (1epidemiologists, 2infectious disease physician, 3statisticians)
In this blog we raise ideas for how New Zealand might optimise testing to both identify cases in the community as part of the COVID-19 elimination strategy, and to confirm when the virus has been completely eliminated from the country. These are urgent issues to clarify in order to minimise time spent under lockdown conditions and allow the economy and health system to return to more normal functioning. The priority is to continue testing symptomatic people, with the sensitivity of case detection expanded by steadily broadening the case definition and ensuring wide geographic and demographic coverage. After that, testing to assess the elimination goal could involve testing of higher-risk exposed groups, potentially using pooled specimens and serology, along with sewage testing.
Prof Tony Blakely* (reproduced with permission from the Sydney Morning Herald)
Australia owes a debt of gratitude to its pandemic modellers, public health officials and politicians – we have avoided the explosive beginning of a COVID-19 epidemic that most other countries are now cursed with.
Brian Williamson1, Prof Nick Wilson2 (1Economic consultant, UK; 2University of Otago Wellington)
In this blog, we outline how a win-win social contract could be forged to address the major dimensions of response to the COVID-19 pandemic when using a mitigation strategy: the particular need to protect older people from high death rates and the desirability of maximising freedom from lock-downs and economic wellbeing for nearly everyone else. The social contract could take a range of forms, but one approach could be for a government to offer a period of extra payments to older age-groups to commit to home quarantine, with the option of opt out either with no payment or an insurance surcharge reflecting risk until either a vaccine arrived or until protective immunity arose in the population.