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Cross-country review highlights NZ’s COVID-19 strategy – Expert Reaction

A just-published policy review in The Lancet says more countries should consider taking a ‘zero-COVID’ approach to tackling the pandemic.

An international team of experts, including Helen Clark, have compared nine countries and regions’ strategies for easing COVID-19 lockdowns, including New Zealand’s. The authors say New Zealand’s pioneering concept of social bubbles was a good example of sustainable restrictions, and that there is a “strong argument” for adopting an elimination strategy.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the research.

Associate Professor Patricia Priest, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, comments:

“The paper provides a useful framework for comparing countries’ responses and an instructive summary of what different high income countries have done in response to the pandemic. In New Zealand we are likely to continue to need to respond to occasional new outbreaks of COVID-19, and we need to ensure that we maintain the capacity to do so and minimise the risk of needing to go back to Level 4 restrictions. While it is not possible to identify the specific impact of each component of different countries’ responses, this is a good time to consider what we can learn from elsewhere for our response from now on.

“Although the authors recognise the way that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated health and other inequities, in this fairly high-level analysis they have unfortunately not examined how countries’ responses have affected inequities and how this should be considered in making decisions about easing lockdowns. We need to continually monitor the impact of the pandemic on health and social inequities, ensure that our response does not exacerbate them, and work to address their structural causes, which pre-date the pandemic.”

Conflict of interest statement: Associate Professor Priest is a member of the Ministry of Health Technical Advisory Group these comments are from her in an individual capacity.