If Australia holds a marathon on how to deal with the Coronavirus, New Zealand has chosen something closer to the race.
Last month, New Zealand scrapped plans to limit or curb the spread of COVID-19, and instead committed to eradicating the spread of the disease within its borders.
After three weeks of tight closure, the “go hard, go early” approach seems to work: COVID-19 cases continue to decline despite increased testing, and the country may begin to restore its restrictions in early April.
While Australia has also seen a steady drop in the number of new cases, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said: “This is not a race. This is a marathon.”
Dr. Kelly said yesterday that Australia “was in a much better place than Australia [he] I think we’ll be at that point, “but he warns that social steps that alienate the prospect will continue in Australia until September, at least in some way.
“There may be some opportunities to remove some restrictions, but for the time being, we must stay on track and six months is an indicative period that will take us during the winter, during the common cold season, and then perhaps it is time to reassess.”
New Zealand is now “the envy of the world,” according to the Gratin Institute, which said the country has “realistic opportunities” to remove COVID-19 in the next few months.
But in Australia, which has a population five times the size, is goal elimination viable? And if so, what are the social and economic costs?
A big sacrifice in advance
Until mid-March, Michael Baker, a professor of public health at the University of Otago, said New Zealand had taken a similar approach to Australia in an attempt to smooth the curve.
This includes increasing border restrictions, isolating COVID-19 cases, and tracking contact and quarantine.
“Like most countries, we follow a standard pandemic model … written for influenza,” Professor Baker, who works on the National Technical Committee to advise the New Zealand government on the COVID-19 response, to the health report.
After reading the report on the WHO mission to China, Professor Baker said it has become clear that the new coronavirus looks more like SARS than influenza, and that eliminating the virus – even after a community transmission has formed – is possible.
While New Zealand has little additional “breathing space” – the first case did not arrive until late February – health officials knew that the country did not have the infrastructure to deal with the epidemic.
He said: “We don’t have a lot of employees to track communications, our borders are still easy to penetrate, and we rely on some form of self-isolation that’s very soft – isolating the house.”
Professor Baker and his colleagues encouraged the government to radically increase social distance and travel restrictions.
“A lot of things have to happen very quickly, and it becomes quite clear that we need a quick and fast shutdown in that country, just to give us time to run this system, and also to take out some of the virus transmission chain.”
Stay home for a month
On March 23, New Zealand adhered to the Judicial Strategy – the only western country to do so – and on March 26, it entered into the limitations of the fourth stage: a full national closure.
New Zealanders are required to stay at home for a month, except for outdoor sports (in this case they are required to stay around), and only interact with people in their homes.
All non-essential schools and companies are closed, and only important flights are allowed.
Unlike mitigation or repression – as the response increases during the epidemic – disease eradication uses intensive initial interventions to stop the spread of the disease.
“Once you get proof of the local transmission, you throw it all out … and that’s what New Zealand is really doing,” said Professor Baker.
“There is one model that has been done … and it is said that four weeks after we lock, we may be there [zero community transmission]. “
While New Zealand is on the right track to achieving its goals in the judiciary, Professor Baker said that the wide locks brought significant social and economic costs.
He said there was still “significant public support”, but the next challenge was determining when and how to start lifting restrictions.
He said: “We have to be very confident in the border quarantine, the ability to quickly identify and eliminate cases, and also think about a backward monitoring system that should work – lots of tests.”
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Australia is heading in the right direction
When asked if Australia, like New Zealand, should turn its attention to efforts to eliminate COVID-19, chief physician Brendan Murphy said it is one of “potential strategic options to consider”.
RN Breakfast said: “The challenge in the judiciary is that no one knows if this is possible.”
“You should keep the most aggressive border measures in place for a very long time, and possibly until you get the vaccine.”
Although no national closure, Australians have been asked to stay home and practice social distance since mid-March.
It would take weeks before it would take doctors Murphy to assess how Australia was slowing the spread of the virus, but we were heading in the right direction – and there was some evidence that we needed to take more difficult steps in the meantime, Dr Murphy said.
“Our record in the past few weeks looks very good.”
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At a press conference with New Zealand politicians on Tuesday, Professor Murphy said that the goals of the New Zealand Elimination Strategy were not much different from the Australian approach to repression and control.
“Our goal is very similar. To reduce disease transmission to the lowest possible level.”
“If we get rid of it, it will be fine.”
Professor Murphy said Australia would be “happy” to eliminate the virus entirely, but its equation for “serenity” cannot necessarily be achieved.
But he said Australia and New Zealand were in a strong position because they were “tough and swift” in responding to the virus.
A way out of the pandemic
Jodi Macphiernon, who leads the modeling that the federal government uses to determine Australia’s response to COVID-19, also said that removal is not entirely a realistic goal.
“I think the steps to get rid of it locally will be very intense and difficult to achieve, given the prevalence of this pathogen,” said Professor Macphiernon of the Doherty Institute for Health Report.
“We know this virus is present all over the world, we have seen how quickly it is imported.
“It will be endemic, it will not be eradicated globally, and we must face it again.”
Professor MacFernon said he will take a vaccine “to completely eliminate the risk of infection”, and even if we reduce infection rates to very low levels in the coming months, we cannot assume that Australia will remain protected from re-emergence. The virus.
“Here are the long-term challenges come – about how we deal with this in a sustainable way,” he said.
Infectious disease experts are expected to work with the Australian government in the coming weeks to find a way out of the coronavirus crisis because modeling focuses on transmission rates in society to become more visible.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the additional data “will help us plan the exit.”
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But Kamalini Locoge, of the Australian National University School of Public Health, said that Australia had to look beyond the model and our close neighbors to prepare an exit plan.
“We need to see how we can get rid of this disease from Australia, then how can we survive after we start taking the steps we have taken,” Dr. Locoge for the Health Report.
“We have experience in the real world, very closely related … that shows us that we can move towards removal and we can get there quickly.
“The way we do this is to broaden our ability to test and conduct communication tracking that is more effective and more … and to ensure that our public health system is ready and ready to control every initial transmission of COVID-19 in society.”
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It is not clear when the restrictions will ease
Although the COVID-19 curve is average, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australians must be patient and “we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”
He said to Channel Seven on Tuesday, citing the examples of Sweden and Singapore: “If you keep your eyes away from this, it will stay away from you.”
“We hope that at some point we will move from our current stage to a new one, but I want to warn the Australians that we are not at that stage yet.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia should pass three tests before the cap expires: the persistent drop in cases, the ability to respond quickly (if individual cases break due to local rises), and clear exit plans to gradually reopen the business.
Professor MacFernon said that the risk of lifting restrictions very quickly is that even a small number of patients can lead to a rapid and potentially catastrophic increase in cases.
He said, “It seems that the differentiated measures that are currently in place are doing a very effective job of reducing growth rates – but that is because they are in the right place.”
“If we reduce the virus, it will remain so … a highly contagious virus.”
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