TTwo weeks ago marked the two-year anniversary of New Zealand’s adoption elimination strategy and a lock that is successful stopped the first wave of Covid-19. Coincidentally, it was also the week when the government announced Fr. a significant weakening of Covid-19 control measures in response to the wave of the Omicron variant that swept the country.
By most measures, New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 – the initial elimination strategy who has now moved to Fr. mitigation strategy – was one of the most successful in the world. He held the country through the first 18 months of the pandemic until vaccines became widely available, which gave it a very low mortality from Covid-19. Life expectancy has actually increased during this period. Public health also contributed to the protection of the economy, which led to a relative good economic growth and low unemployment.
The transition to mitigation was reinforced by the lower severity of Omicron and the relatively high coverage of vaccination. However, the high level of infection with the current wave of Omicron has pushed the number in hospitals with Covid-19 to more than 1,000 at the peak, and the total number of deaths is approaching 400. Many thousands of future cases of long-term Covid look plausible in adults and perhaps children. New Zealand will come in handy maintain and even strengthen some controls in the coming months. So why can he learn in the last two years?
First, the important principles. During the pandemic, the New Zealand government stressed that the response was primarily aimed at protecting the health of the population. This starting point amplifies the series key principles, in particular: leadership that listens to science; an emphasis on justice and partnership with the Maori; use of the precautionary principle in the face of uncertainty; and the need to create hereditary benefits for our health care and public health systems.
Framing and effective communication are important. By their nature, pandemics are a common threat.
The behavior of some people affects others. This was the strength of the liquidation strategy in that it could rightly note the benefits of working together (the “team of 5 million”). Is an alternative framelearn to live with it”Partly understandable given the nature of Omicron. But this design is problematic because it places too much responsibility on individuals and vulnerable groups to manage the risks they face. Instead, we must continue to emphasize the value of overall health security, the benefits of collective action and the role of government.
Transparency and political consensus matter. Efforts were made during the initial response phase to reach a multilateral response agreement. Unfortunately, now such an agreement has been broken, and the reaction is increasingly politicized. A probable sign of this politicization was the premature abolition of some guarantees two weeks ago. Politicians need to reconsider mechanisms that seek transparency and political consensus. This is important for Covid-19, but very important for even worse pandemicsfor example, from designed bioweapons.
Infrastructure matters. The pandemic is just the latest in a series of public health challenges that New Zealand is struggling with, including catastrophically polluted flash of drinking water in Havelock North and a national measles epidemic. These problems can be attributed in part to the fragmentation and erosion of public health infrastructure. Fortunately, these shortcomings can be eliminated with the help health sector reformincluding the establishment of the Health Agency and the Maori Health Office.
This is an important opportunity to build on the infrastructure gathered during the pandemic.
Effective pandemic control tools are important. The response to the pandemic has required New Zealand to quickly develop a new set of tools to manage this threat. These include border and quarantine management systems, the national immunization registry and vaccine mandates / positions, the national case and contact management system, and framework for physical distance control and use a mask.
The successful deployment of vaccination has highlighted critical importance financing Maori and Pacific service providers. The response was supported by improved information tools, including better observation, disease simulation, genomic sequencing, wastewater testing, evidence-based policy development and evaluation. Constant investment is needed in all these areas.
A safe indoor environment is important. One of the greatest legacies of the pandemic is that it has shown the importance of indoor air for the transmission of respiratory infections. This awareness emphasized the value use of masks and improved room ventilation to prevent Covid-19. But much remains to be done to ensure that quality ventilation works all year round and is cost-effective to provide thermal comfort.
There are many other things that are also important, such as affordable and effective health services, and we hope they will be seen as part of future official request in response to the pandemic and what we can learn from this experience.
Responding to Covid-19 has taught us a lot, but this pandemic is different future pandemic threats will remain challenging. New Zealand needs to focus on basic principles, communicate effectively, reach consensus and continually upgrade its healthcare systems and tools.