Louise Delany (public health lawyer)
Health and emergency laws have played a critical role in this country’s successful elimination of community transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog details key aspects of the legislation and comments on issues around testing, payments by incoming travellers for quarantine costs, and mask use. Continue reading
A bit like a letter home. I have now been full-time at the University of Melbourne since 2019. Before that, I was 20 years at the University of Otago, Wellington. Indeed, I set up this very Public Health Expert Blog with Nick Wilson ten years ago. Now I am your Australian correspondent.
Prof John Potter*
Elimination has been an effective strategy for New Zealand in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic virus (SARS-CoV-2). Most other countries have not pursued this goal and are ignoring the opportunity even now. SARS-CoV-2 is not manageable by the influenza playbook; its longer incubation period makes tracing and isolation more practicable and puts elimination within reach. There is one additional argument in favour of elimination: the longer the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus circulates in the human population, the greater is the likelihood that it will find a host among other animal species and that these will become a reservoir capable of transmission back to humans.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker
Compared with other OECD countries NZ is a stand-out success story by ending community transmission of COVID-19. While there have been some well-publicised recent deficiencies (eg, quarantine organisation), there has still been no evidence of community transmission for many weeks. Nevertheless, further improvements in NZ’s response are possible and in this blog we detail how pandemic terminology could be upgraded. Consistent, accurate terminology could assist effective communication between political leaders, officials, scientists, international collaborators and the NZ public on key COVID-19 risk management issues.
Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Martin Eichner (*author details)
In this new study, we estimated the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks associated with air travel from Australia (with a low prevalence of COVID-19 infection) to NZ. We found that the combined use of exit and entry screening, two PCR tests (on days 3 and 12 in NZ), mask use and contact tracing, reduced the risk from one outbreak every 1.7 years (no interventions) to every 29.8 years (95% uncertainty interval: 0.8 to 110). This risk is similar to that achieved by the current system of 14 days quarantine, at one outbreak every 34.1 years (0.86 to 126). In conclusion, multi-layered interventions can markedly reduce the risk of importing the pandemic virus into a COVID-19-free nation like NZ. Whatever approach is chosen, careful management and evaluation will be needed.