Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Julie Bennett, Dr Leah Grout, Dr Jin Russell, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker
Despite some good progress, the persisting Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland still poses risks to health, social wellbeing and the economy. There is a need for accelerated efforts to ensure more rapid elimination of community transmission. In this blog we look at five critical measures to implement immediately, along with a range of other Covid-19 control measures that will help Auckland and the whole country sustain elimination in the medium term.
Dr Leah Grout, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker*
Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ’s) Covid-19 Alert Level system worked well in early 2020, but the Covid-19 landscape has changed, and the system must be updated to address the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant and future variants. The country is using lockdowns (Auckland currently at Alert Level 4, with the rest of the country at Alert Level 3) to eliminate community transmission. As NZ plans moves down the Alert Levels in coming weeks, now is the time to upgrade Alert Level 2 to ensure it is fit for purpose. Key improvements are mask use in all indoor environments, and creating a Level 2+ that keeps the highest risk indoor environments closed while the risk of virus circulation is elevated.
Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Leah Grout, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker *
The first Delta-variant outbreak in the community brings a new challenge to Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. A Delta outbreak was in some respects a likely scenario given the high infectiousness of this variant and the emerging evidence that vaccines may be less effective at preventing Delta transmission compared with the original strain of the pandemic virus. In this blog we discuss public health responses employed in other jurisdictions in response to the Delta variant that may be beneficial in controlling the current Delta outbreak in NZ and strengthening NZ’s COVID-19 response in future.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Matthew Parry, Dr Leah Grout, Prof Michael Baker
This blog briefly considers the issue of wastewater testing as part of Covid-19 control in Aotearoa NZ. Our analysis suggests that wastewater testing is much more effective in determining if a population is very likely to be Covid-19 free, when compared to typical levels of community testing. It also achieves these better results at perhaps only 1% of the cost of community testing. Even though there are large benefits in maximising the use of wastewater testing, community testing does still have a critical role to play, especially if cases are actually present.
Jennifer Summers, Leah Grout, Michael Baker, Amanda Kvalsvig, Nick Wilson* (author details*)
We previously published an assessment of Taiwan’s extremely effective response to COVID-19 during 2020. However, a recent surge of community cases in northern Taiwan from April 2021 onwards has resulted in an increasing mortality rate, with large scale restrictions imposed to bring the outbreak under control. This COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan serves as a reminder to other jurisdictions, including NZ, of the threat posed by COVID-19 and its more infectious variants. We therefore recommend a range of short-term and long-term upgrades to NZ’s pandemic defences that we believe the Government needs to consider.