New Zealand coronavirus strategy: THIS is what the UK must do to eradicate coronavirus

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Earlier this week New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, declared there were no active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. The country’s tactics to control the spread of COVID-19 have centred on a strategy of elimination, and New Zealand implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in response to the pandemic. Express.co.uk spoke to experts in public health about New Zealand’s public health strategy.

Like the UK, New Zealand introduced a form of alert system, similar to the UK COVID Alert System, but New Zealand has also followed a slightly different coronavirus strategy to the UK.

Arindam Basu, Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury School of Health Sciences in Christchurch, outlined a number of factors which contributed to New Zealand’s success in controlling the virus.

He said: “New Zealand has provided yet another evidence that a strong public health-based approach is perhaps the best response for a society/country for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mr Basu outlined how New Zealand’s Ministry of Health decided “from the beginning to stage a planned response grounded in public health response to respiratory viral infections outbreak in general”, with regards to testing, public education on handwashing and involving the general public and experts in the discussion.

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New Zealand also closed its borders around the time of the first confirmed case, and the Government listened to a wide range of opinions when building its coronavirus strategy.

Mr Basu added: “The government listened to the diversity of opinions, this was quite an interesting aspect of New Zealand, that the country across political division lines seem to be ‘united’ in the ‘fight against COVID-19’.”

In New Zealand there was also a “very rapid increase in contact tracing and testing capacity”.

Mr Basu said: “The government commissioned an independent expert inquiry into the process of contact tracing and implemented the findings and suggestions from the expert analyses rapidly to further increase the capacity and reach of contact tracing and plugged the gaps.

“This helped to understand the nature of the clusters and manage them.”

The ball is starting to roll with the UK’s contact tracing initiative, but the Government has faced criticism for the speed in which the initiative has been implemented.

The UK Government has also faced consistent pressure over the last few months to dramatically increase coronavirus testing capacity, with many arguing the Government took too long to make everybody eligible for testing.

Another factor unique to New Zealand’s strategy which cannot be ignored is the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

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Ms Ardern has been praised for her handling of the crisis on both a national and international scale.

Professor Nick Wilson, of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said: “Perhaps a relatively special feature is New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who is a very skilled communicator and demonstrates compassion.

“She also displayed her skills after the mass shooting last year in Christchurch.

“Her skills and having many skilled scientists/health experts commenting in the media – all helped build trust in the elimination strategy.”

Ms Ardern has been keen to stress that coronavirus is likely to return to New Zealand in the future.

However as one of the first nations to declare itself COVID-19 free, how does New Zealand start to move on from this crisis?

Mr Wilson said of New Zealand’s future coronavirus strategy: “Now that there are zero restrictions within the country, the focus will largely be on keeping a strong border control process in place.

“If other countries join in a “travel bubble” (eg, Australia and Taiwan if they achieve elimination) there will be border control adjustments to allow that.

“There is ongoing work to improve digital technologies to help with contact tracing if there is a border control failure and an outbreak occurs at some point in the future.

“The New Zealand Government is now focused on strengthening the economy – and trying to minimise the unemployment fallout (which according to some forecasts is not looking as bad as first forecasted).”

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