Analysis

NZ A Case Study On How We Can Continue To Prevent New Community Transmitted Cases

While we continue to have no new cases of community transmission New Zealand’s latest experience offers a relevant and valuable case study on what could go wrong.
20 Aug 2020 09:42
NZ A Case Study On How We Can Continue To Prevent New Community Transmitted Cases
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The war against COVID-19 is not over yet.

While we continue to have no new cases of community transmission New Zealand’s latest experience offers a relevant and valuable case study on what could go wrong.

It also shows how we can better handle the situation and remedy any potential lapse in the system.

Community transmission

Community transmission cases continue to rise as New Zealand scrambles to contain the spread and at the same time find the origin of the infection in the community after 102 days of no community transmission. Fiji has well surpassed that figure and leads the rest of the world with our record.

Therefore, it is technically not correct the statement by New Zealand Prime Minister that her country went longer than any other country to eliminate the virus, but that every other country that has done so at some point too saw a resurgence.

It is probably correct if she is referring to developed countries. It is a member of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) that has 37 members including many of the European countries.

But if she is including the whole world, then it is not correct because Fiji has a better record.

She is also on record saying that setting up a hermetically sealed border is a very difficult thing to do – it is a virus, and so that is probably one of the reasons why New Zealand to date is the only country, that made it to 102 days.

But investigations by Newshub showed that some border workers had not been tested despite a Government directive that all staff be tested.

She, however, acknowledged that there were gaps and that there was reluctance from some staff to be tested. Again this has been disputed and it exploded into a political row with the Opposition National leader Judith Collins accusing the Government of “massive failure” for the lack of testing.

The other issue is about an Auckland maintenance worker, who tested positive for COVID-19 two days after he had a cough, but still went to work in a managed isolation facility.

This is in addition to the first cases of four in a family. A member who worked for a cold storage facility had tested positive before infecting the others.

Contact tracing

Contact tracing is in full swing together with testing. The lockdown in Auckland is causing traffic jams, frustrations and outrage from businesses adversely affected by it.

We look to New Zealand for lessons to learn because there are similarities in terms of how we have contained the virus here.

While New Zealand went on a national lockdown we had partial lockdown and introduced curfews. Both countries closed their borders and accepted returning citizens only. We have managed to reach more than 120 days of no community transmission while New Zealand only managed 102 days and is now grappling with the second wave of community transmissions.

Lesson one: Border staff must be tested periodically to ensure they do not have the virus.

If they have it and not tested they could infect their families and others they come into contact with. The testing regime should also cover staff at the quarantine facilities and isolation units.

Lesson two: Security at quarantine and isolation units should be tightened to prevent any breaches. All protocols must be followed. In New Zealand there have been alleged breaches by some new border arrivals.

So far so good. We appear to be doing things right. But there is no room for complacency if we want to maintain our remarkable achievement.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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