Sunday, November 28

Michael Baker: Covid-19 strategy will allow New Zealand to ‘choose our future’

New Zealand’s Covid-19 strategy puts the country in a good position amid the uncertainty of how the virus will evolve, says epidemiologist Michael Baker.

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University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Baker said Morning report He was optimistic that New Zealand will overcome this outbreak and there will be proof of this this week.

“If we look to the next year, maybe, I’m not sure what the optimal strategy would be.

“Elimination has definitely been the optimal strategy so far by all the indicators that we can use.

Baker said that Remarks by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that “Covid-zero” is highly unlikely and that the case numbers “are not the whole story” were directed at national political opponents.

“Scott Morrison’s audience in many cases is some of the other states and territories in Australia where they are absolutely committed to keeping this virus out at the moment.

“It is largely a political statement, and the removal is a political option. It is technically possible, it is being achieved across the region, I am sure it will be achieved again in New Zealand.”

“His predominant audience is actually a national audience in Australia of people who disagree with him.”

New Zealand should stay on course for elimination in the medium term, until there is high vaccine coverage, he said.

“So I think we will be in a good position to choose our future.

‘Grim Scenarios’ About Viral Evolution

“We don’t know where the pandemic will go in the next three months. There are some grim scenarios based on continued viral evolution.

“I think New Zealand is in a very good position if we keep our options open in terms of this combination of vaccination and public health measures to give us the best possible outcome for New Zealanders.”

Baker said that until more exposed people are tested before the lockdown, the extent and peak of the outbreak will not be known.

“What we really should be looking for now is evidence of increased transmission.

“We will see infected people in the homes, domestic contacts of these cases, but what you really have to look at are the infected people in the community, if that is still happening.”

Although we have a good closure, there are “weak points” such as essential workers, he said.

The fully vaccinated Middlemore healthcare worker who tested positive was doing all the right things, wearing PPE and getting tested regularly, he said, and they are not considered a source of infection for the environment they are in in this moment.

Health workers are well aware that they are a more exposed group.

The group to focus on is people who break the rules, he said.

Even if the cases increase in the coming days, transmission within homes is not as worrisome in terms of the extent of the outbreak, he said.

“Obviously, there will be some vulnerable people there, so we should be concerned about their health, but in terms of the effectiveness of the response, we really should be focusing on those outliers right now.”

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