Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Leah Grout, Prof Michael Baker*
Successful control of the current Covid-19 outbreak in NZ is looking feasible but many challenges remain. Therefore to maximise the chances of returning to elimination status and improve our resilience to future outbreaks, we propose the following potential enhancements: (i) develop a robust system to allow for region-specific Alert Levels; (ii) mandate QR code scanning; (iii) expand mask use requirements to all essential workers; (iv) greatly prioritise vaccination of essential workers; and (v) consider the suspension or minimisation of all incoming international passenger flights during the outbreak.
Dr Leah Grout, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Nick Wilson*
Australia has generally succeeded in eliminating community transmission of the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2, but the Greater Sydney region is currently facing a large COVID-19 outbreak, driven by the Delta variant. The New South Wales Government is struggling to control the outbreak and the grim situation holds a number of lessons for NZ.
Dr Matt Boyd, Syndicated from Adapt Research
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, everybody now knows that:
- Warnings about pandemic disease had been touted for decades
- Myriad organisations had called for increased health security funding
- The world ignored all these warnings
- SARS-CoV-2 emerged in 2019 with dire consequences
The fact that all these warnings were known, yet action was scant, remains difficult to comprehend. Although somewhat perversely, we even knew we would ignore the warnings. Psychological research has shown that these kinds of rare but devastating events are exactly the ones humans tend to overlook. As if to drive this point home, I noted in the news today that a resident of Westport (a New Zealand town flooded by a ‘1 in 100 year event’) even stated that he knew the area had flooded, but thought “the last one was it”.
Amanda Kvalsvig, Nick Wilson, Cheryl Davies, Carmen Timu-Parata, Virginia Signal, Michael G. Baker
Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ’s) Alert Level system worked well in 2020, but the Covid-19 landscape is changing and the system needs to change with it to keep NZ ahead of the pandemic. In this blog we summarise our just-published recommendations for strengthening the Alert Level system and describe the benefits of an upgraded system: to better protect us from outbreaks, avoid lockdowns, help us transition to a post-vaccination future, support prevention of other respiratory disease epidemics, and uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Janet Hoek, Philip Gendall, Nick Wilson (author details*)
A feature of Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy is the rapid identification and then management of any COVID-19 cases arising from border system failures. Within the community, high QR code scanning rates enable rapid identification of contacts while wearing masks in indoor public settings, such as on public transport, reduces the risk of virus transmission. Yet scanning and mask wearing rates are variable, rising in response to immediate threats and falling off when those threats appear to diminish. While probably desirable to mandate these behaviours in high risk settings at raised Alert Levels, this blog considers the supplementary role for social marketing and environmental strategies that could “nudge” people towards these protective behaviours.