Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker
In this blog we comment on the current COVID-19 situation globally and in NZ. We focus on potential revisions to NZ’s Alert Level system that involve improved use of mass masking, targeted internal travel restrictions, and gathering/event limits. These interventions could all help accelerate rapid progress back to elimination status for NZ while minimising disruption of economic activity and education.
Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amanda D’Souza, Prof Michael Baker
In this blog we consider the ‘Auckland August cluster’ in the light of the changing landscape of international evidence about COVID-19 risk for children and young people. The high proportion of Pasifika children and young people in the Auckland outbreak may be a preview of what an uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic would look like in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is an urgent need to improve coordination of child-centred policy in the COVID-19 response with better Māori and Pasifika representation in decision-making at all levels. Immediate actions include mandating mask use for secondary-age children at Alert Levels 2 and 3 and encouraging primary-age children to make and use masks.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Andy Anglemyer, Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Michael Baker
Media discourse in NZ has involved comparing NZ’s COVID-19 response with a range of other jurisdictions, especially: Australia, Taiwan and the US. In this blog we update the data comparisons for these selected places. We find that Taiwan is the top performer with a cumulative death rate that is around 1800 times lower than the US’s (for NZ the difference with the US is 136 times lower). Taiwan’s high quality performance still holds a number of lessons for NZ with its ongoing response.
Prof John Potter*
Elimination has been an effective strategy for New Zealand in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic virus (SARS-CoV-2). Most other countries have not pursued this goal and are ignoring the opportunity even now. SARS-CoV-2 is not manageable by the influenza playbook; its longer incubation period makes tracing and isolation more practicable and puts elimination within reach. There is one additional argument in favour of elimination: the longer the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus circulates in the human population, the greater is the likelihood that it will find a host among other animal species and that these will become a reservoir capable of transmission back to humans.
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.