Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Tim Chambers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Dr Anja Mizdrak, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker
NZ has now achieved the lowest death rate from the COVID-19 pandemic out of 37 OECD countries and appears to be the only one to succeed with elimination at a national level. But despite the success of the “team of 5 million” – there are still a number of gaps in our defences. In particular, there is a need to upgrade: (i) border controls; (ii) the Alert Level system; (iii) the use of digital technologies to support contact tracing; (iv) testing & surveillance for early outbreak detection; (v) the kinds of policies, institutions and laws needed to sustain our world-class response.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Anja Mizdrak, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker
The pandemic-related lockdown is possibly the most dramatic public health intervention in NZ history. It helped achieve the elimination of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus in NZ. But it was also associated with 548 fewer total deaths than for the same period in 2019. Death rates (per 100,000 population) were also lower in 2020 than the three preceding years. There are a range of plausible reasons for this reduction (eg, fewer road crashes, fewer circulating respiratory infections) but we still need precise cause of death data (available in the future) to make more informed assessments.
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, Dr Jennifer Summers, A/Prof George Thomson, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Dr Matt Boyd, Prof Michael Baker
Here we present five key reasons for why the NZ Government should establish an official inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic response. Such an inquiry could identify lessons for the near future (eg, for pandemic control if border control failures occur) but also identify lessons for the organisation and resourcing of public health more broadly. Fortunately, NZ has a fairly solid track record of official inquiries that have resulted in improved systems that advance public safety and public health.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Matthew Parry, Dr Ayesha Verrall, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Martin Eichner (author details*)
This blog details a recent modelling study we conducted. In it we estimated that it would take between 27 and 33 days of no new detected cases of COVID-19 for there to be a 95% probability of epidemic extinction in NZ (at around current testing levels). For a 99% probability of epidemic extinction, the equivalent time-period was 37 to 44 days. So now the country urgently needs the Ministry of Health to provide an official definition of elimination and to upgrade the data on its website so that the public, the media and researchers can monitor progress towards achieving the goal.