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 Nick Wilson, Dr Leah Grout, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker
There have been eight distinct border control failures in Aotearoa/NZ relating to the pandemic virus that causes COVID-19, since early August 2020, equivalent to one every two weeks. In this blog we briefly detail these failures and argue the case for an urgent review and upgrading of the country’s defences against this highly infectious pandemic virus, including: shifting to a risk-based approach to border management (a traffic light system), fine-tuning the Alert Level system to incorporate mask use, and enhancing contact tracing.
Prof John D. Potter*
This blog briefly surveys the emerging scientific evidence on the longer-term burden of symptoms and disease in survivors of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these symptoms point to damage in the brain and heart. These long-term harms add to the wide range of other reasons for Aotearoa/New Zealand to persist with its successful COVID-19 elimination strategy.
George Thomson*, Nick Wilson, Janet Hoek, Andrew Waa, Richard Edwards
In this time of Covid-19, helping people who smoke to quit their addiction has an even greater importance. Smokers are more vulnerable to many harmful health effects, including severe effects from the virus. Policies that support people who smoke to be smokefree would also increase the discretionary income of many of those most affected by the Covid-driven recession. We looked at the policies of seven New Zealand political parties and found that they are largely ignoring the strategies that would help smokers to become free of their nicotine addiction.
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.