We must follow the New Zealand Coronavirus elimination strategy | John Murphy

New Zealand changed it’s course on Coronavirus only on March 23rd.

The New Zealand government realised that with so many known unknowns about the disease; a potentially very high death rate and a vaccine being so long away an elimination strategy was the least risky option.

The strategy is simple. The country is currently locked down to decrease transmission of cases that are already in the country. That, at least, is similar to most of Europe and the US. The difference is that New Zealand is quarantining everybody coming into the country as well. They are also planning to continue the lockdown until they have eliminated the disease. At that point life can revert entirely to normal. This could be in as little as a month.

Life returning to normal is something that seems a long way away in the US and Europe. The experts tell us a vaccine is another year away. Treatment option date still in their infancy. The current plan seems to be to loosen the lockdowns and then tighten them again once deaths increase too much. This is almost the equivalent of having no plan. All it aims to do is to decrease the stress on our health services so that most Covid patients can get treatment. But it doesn’t protect anyone from dying of it who would still die with treatment.

That’s a high price to pay. Hundreds of people are dying in the UK every day currently and that’s with the lock-down measures in place. If we loosen them those numbers will increase.

Loosening the tightening the lock-down over and over again will leave our lives and economy in disarray. Vulnerable and at risk people will not be able to return to the economy. Nor will we be able to see them. It’s likely that pubs and entertainment venues will not open as the government won’t see them as ‘essential’ to our lives. People will live in daily fear of having a conversation with a check out lady or bumping into an at risk elderly person out for their daily walk and accidentally committing manslaughter.

The Elimination strategy gives us a way out and it is almost perfectly suited to our geographical situation as an island nation. Unlike France or Germany we do not have hundreds of thousands of people crossing our borders every day for work. Most products arrive in humongous container shops with tiny crews.

Yes, there will be issues. Lorry drivers crossing at Dover will obviously be a difficult logistical problem. They will have to be, restricted confined and tested frequently. There will still be localised outbreaks that we will have to control with vigorous contact tracing, testing and small shutdowns.

However, the benefits of the Elimination strategy far outweigh the costs. For 99% of people and businesses life will revert entirely to normal. We’ll be able to hug our loved ones, drink with our friends and go back to work.


Photo by NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on Flickr.

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