Dr Leah Grout, Ameera Katar, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Nick Wilson (*Author details)
Aotearoa NZ and Australian states have successfully eliminated community transmission of COVID-19, albeit with occasional outbreaks from imported cases. Both countries have primarily used hotel-based quarantine for returning travellers, but still do not have optimal border control. In this blog we consider potential lessons from Australia’s 17 quarantine systems failures for NZ.
A bit like a letter home. I have now been full-time at the University of Melbourne since 2019. Before that, I was 20 years at the University of Otago, Wellington. Indeed, I set up this very Public Health Expert Blog with Nick Wilson ten years ago. Now I am your Australian correspondent.
Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Martin Eichner (*author details)
In this new study, we estimated the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks associated with air travel from Australia (with a low prevalence of COVID-19 infection) to NZ. We found that the combined use of exit and entry screening, two PCR tests (on days 3 and 12 in NZ), mask use and contact tracing, reduced the risk from one outbreak every 1.7 years (no interventions) to every 29.8 years (95% uncertainty interval: 0.8 to 110). This risk is similar to that achieved by the current system of 14 days quarantine, at one outbreak every 34.1 years (0.86 to 126). In conclusion, multi-layered interventions can markedly reduce the risk of importing the pandemic virus into a COVID-19-free nation like NZ. Whatever approach is chosen, careful management and evaluation will be needed.