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.
Prof Nick Wilson*, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker
With the 2020 election over and with a newly elected government, it is an excellent time for a systematic review by NZ health authorities to identify optimal methods for reducing the risk of future COVID-19 outbreaks in Aotearoa/NZ. The persisting occurrence of cross-border incursions of the pandemic virus (five since 1 August, including a large outbreak in Auckland) highlights the need for such a review. In this blog we provide a framework for this systematic assessment and specific ideas for further risk reduction.
Dr Ling Chan, Dr Sophie Febery, Prof Michael Baker, Dr Amanda Klasvig, Prof Nick Wilson
Whilst the New Zealand Government has recently recommended using face coverings or fabric masks as a strategy to contain COVID-19 pandemic virus transmission, the uptake of mask use in the public has been suboptimal. In this blog, we explore using “Mask Day” at school to promote positive public messages on masks, which may lead to increased public engagement of mask use within the wider community.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Sophie Febery, Dr Ling Chan, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker
The concepts of an Alert Level system, household “bubbles”, and social event size limits are all valuable pandemic control measures. Nevertheless, better “source control” of COVID-19 at various Alert Levels by requiring masks in public indoor spaces could reduce the risk of outbreaks (should there be border control failures) and reduce the likelihood that we would need to move back to tighter restrictions and lockdowns with the associated adverse economic, social and mental health effects.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Sophie Febery, Dr Ling Chan, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker
In this blog we identify six likely benefits from requiring fabric mask use in public transportation and border control settings in the “peri-elimination” context that New Zealand is currently in. Given these likely benefits and the relatively low costs (especially if the Government provides free masks as per Hong Kong), such a policy should be given very serious consideration by health authorities in the transition to level 2.