Prof Rod Jackson (Epidemiologist, Auckland University)
There are really only three ways that a population can beat Covid-19: (i) eliminate the virus and keep infected people out (the approach NZ is taking); (ii) allow a sufficient proportion of the population to get infected and become immune to re-infection so there are no longer enough non-immune people to allow the virus to spread (this is called herd immunity and is estimated to be at least half of any population for Covid-19); or (iii) develop an effective vaccine, which is the ideal way of achieving herd immunity. Given a vaccine might still be a long way off, NZ’s elimination strategy (if successful) is likely to avoid high numbers of deaths and the need for long periods of restrictions to suppress or mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Prof John D Potter (Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University)
There are a number of characteristics of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 pandemic that make deciding when and how to change the rules regarding lock-down and physical distancing less than straightforward. In this very brief commentary, these considerations do not include the pressures from those who are more concerned with the economy than with human individual, whanau, and population health.
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
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.
Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker
In this blog we briefly summarise our assessment of the highly uncertain new coronavirus threat. Given its potential to become a severe and prolonged global pandemic, a precautionary response now means activating all components of our pandemic plan, with a particular focus on ‘keep it out’. NZ has many natural and institutional advantages in managing this major health and economic threat. Now is the time for maximum proactivity.