Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

Senior Research Fellow, Department of Public Health, University of Otago

Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

Michael Baker receives funding from the New Zealand Health Research Council to research COVID-19 and other infectious disease and public health issues

Amanda Kvalsvig receives funding from the New Zealand Health Research Council to study COVID-19 and other infectious disease and public health issues

Nick Wilson ne ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne Possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d’une organization qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n’a déclaré also autre affiliation que son organisme de recherche

Exactly one year ago, tomorrow (26 February), the first confirmed case of COVID-19 occurred in Aotearoa, New Zealand The case has only been identified as “a person in their sixties who recently returned from Iran” and marks the beginning of an extraordinary period in the country’s life / p>

What did we learn about this pandemic a year later? And what does it mean to improve our response in the future?

One of the main reasons for asking these questions lies in the ancient value of any improvements we make, that is, the potential to use this crisis as a catalyst for much-needed improvement in the country’s public health infrastructure to bring about health, justice, prosperity and to improve sustainability in the long term

New Zealand’s greatest lesson is arguably that an elimination strategy is the optimal response to a moderate to severe pandemic like COVID-19. The strategy provides a vivid example of how protecting public health versus strategies of containment or suppression does, too Economy protects

This successful approach has required determined, science-backed government action and excellent communication to create the social license necessary for an effective response

Prevention remains a fundamental strategy On a technical level, we have learned that the transmission of COVID-19 occurs mainly via indoor air diffusion, often from pre-symptomatic individuals, which underscores the value of mask use and good ventilation

The risk from contaminated surfaces has been overemphasized The virus shows great “transmission heterogeneity” (only about 20% of infected cases are responsible for most of the transmission), which further underlines the importance of preventing super-spreading events

Another important lesson was how quickly the world developed highly effective and safe vaccines. The new messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are doing particularly well

The COVID-19 endgame, however, remains uncertain Plausible global scenarios range from endemic infections (like seasonal influenza) to eradication (like SARS, smallpox, rinderpest and two of the three poliovirus serotypes)

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Emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants increase the risk of transmission and will likely decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine over time, requiring vaccine reformulation

A coordinated international effort to ensure fair distribution of vaccines not only protects the most vulnerable, but also offers the best hope of containing the pandemic

Aotearoa faces five key challenges over the next year to weather the pandemic and create a valuable and lasting public health legacy

Preventing the reintroduction of COVID-19 into the country remains the main short to medium term challenge for sustainable eradication of the virus

An extremely systematic approach to this process has obvious advantages when the entire journey of travelers is taken into account: from the week before departure, the flight to New Zealand (during which they can become infected) and the two-week stay at MIQ facilities (where they can be re-infected) and in the time after leaving the MIQ when they are exposed to an increased risk of infection

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The goal of preventing infected people from entering the country should become increasingly realistic.This should allow for the careful introduction of quarantine-free travel to other parts of the world that have also been eliminated

For the foreseeable future, New Zealand will need to maintain and improve its systems for the rapid detection and control of COVID-19 outbreaks as a precaution against borderline failure

Promising improvements include the use of daily saliva tests on frontier workers and sewage tests to detect transmission in the community earlier, as well as continuous improvements in contact tracing

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New Zealand has a relatively high level of voluntary adoption of its COVID Tracer app, but routine use is poor.An obvious improvement would be to use the app when entering high risk venues (nightclubs, indoor bars and restaurants, gyms, churches, Entertainment venues) as well as by MIQ employees and recently returned travelers

The alert level system needs to be revised to reflect new knowledge about transmission There needs to be more focus on limiting crowding in high risk indoor spaces, encouraging the use of masks (which is effective in reducing transmission), and geographically to use more targeted and less disruptive “circuit breaker interlocks”

Vaccination strategies must prioritize effective border control, protect the most vulnerable, and promote health equality. High coverage will depend on community engagement, community networks, and high quality, comprehensive information systems such as the updated national vaccination registry

The pandemic vividly demonstrates the importance of investing in effective public health infrastructure. A dedicated national agency is required to create the critical mass of policy and implementation expertise that will begin with the pandemic was missing in New Zealand

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Such agencies are increasingly common in high-income countries It has been a key feature of the highly effective COVID response in Taiwan This agency could provide the critical mass needed to make disease prevention and preparation the focus of government activity to ask

The effective response to the New Zealand pandemic benefited from a government that heeded scientific advice and cared for welfare, however, in some areas the government has been slow to innovate

One of the greatest legacies of this pandemic could be to institutionalize a number of improved emergency decision-making processes that do more to promote learning, innovation, continuous quality improvement and transparency. Important changes would be:

political processes that enable informed debate and control while aiming at cross-party support for key response strategies (e.g. B. a running committee on epidemic reactions from parliamentarians)

Advisory processes that ensure a high-level, multidisciplinary scientific contribution to the nationwide response (eG the formation of a COVID-19 Science Council / rōpu)

a well-equipped research and development strategy to ensure a high level of scientific knowledge to design and evaluate the response

Commitment and timeline for an official investigation to assess the pandemic response and encourage wider system improvements

In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic provides a major opportunity to reassess the health, social and economic workings of Aotearoa, New Zealand.It has demonstrated the importance of proactive government decisions in addressing threats to public health

The COVID-19 response provides a model for responding to a variety of difficult societal challenges, including climate change and growing social inequalities

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World News – AU – One year after COVID-19 arrived in New Zealand: 5 lessons for 2021 and beyond