Opinion: New Zealand’s ‘COVID Zero’ approach succeeds in its so-called failure

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New Zealand is not a pandemic failure. far from it.

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The small island country has been deeply saddened in recent days for abandoning its much-hyped “COVID zero” strategy – but it hasn’t exactly thrown in the towel.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has acknowledged that, given the contagiousness of the Delta variant and random cases popping up out of nowhere, having zero cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand is no longer a realistic possibility.

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But when there are cases – and 35 of them were “alarming” on Monday – the country will continue its ruthless contact tracing to ensure that the outbreak is small, contained and brief.

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Essentially, philosophy has evolved (or evolved) from abolition to repression.

While that change is subtle—almost meaningful—it has generated a lot of concern.

New Zealanders, unlike citizens of many other countries, have generally been highly supportive of lockdowns and other severe pandemic restrictions. Again, these discomforts are rare as there have been very few cases.

The recent seven-week lockdown in the country’s largest city, Auckland, however, was a bit different. This failed to stem the increase in cases, and sparked a rare protest.

“Bounce,” of course, is a relative term: in New Zealand, it means two dozen cases a day, which is a hiccup by the standards of most Western countries.

The Pacific country, which has a total population of five million, has recorded fewer than 4,500 cases and 27 deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020. By comparison, Canada currently holds roughly the same number of counts. Everyday. BC, with almost the same population as New Zealand, is a success story by Canadian standards; It has recorded over 191,000 COVID-19 cases, and less than 2,000 deaths so far. Despite the small population, the number in neighboring Alberta is 50 percent worse.

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At the start of the pandemic, there was some debate in Canada about the prudentity of adopting a COVID Zero strategy, but it was never considered a serious option. There was a combination of a sense of inevitability of the spread of the coronavirus and a naive belief that it would pass quickly.

Meanwhile, most provinces (that is, those west of New Brunswick) have insisted on doing as little as possible for as long as possible, with predictable consequences: The novel coronavirus not only gained a foothold, but again followed the wave. Back in the wave. .

New Zealand have dribbled for their part. Of course, it has a geographical advantage, consisting of a collection of islands. But the country strictly controlled its borders from the get-go, and built almost hermetically sealed quarantine centres.

Equally important, when cases inevitably leaked, they were systematically hunted down. Canada never took contact tracing seriously and has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned it long ago.

The quest for COVID Zero was always ambitious, and as the pandemic progressed and grew.

The only country is still following a COVID Zero policy, and who knows if the data they publish is a true reflection of what is actually happening.

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But before the I-you-go chorus about the “failure” of New Zealand’s COVID Zero approach gets too self-righteous, they should be reminded that even if the country hasn’t been a complete success, it should His bold goals made a lot of profit.

Unlike most countries in the world, the country has had almost 19 months of normal life. The lockdowns that took place were short and sharp. Hospitals were not crowded. The economy was hit hard.

The challenge facing New Zealand now is that it is lagging behind in vaccination. Only 47 percent of the eligible population has received two doses. But 77 percent have received at least one dose, a better rate than in the COVID-ravaged United States.

If New Zealand adopts vaccination in the same way it suppressed COVID-19, it should be fine. There will no doubt be a slight increase in cases, and some deaths likely, but the country as a whole will still be well ahead of the pack globally.

With apologies to John Donne, the New Zealand experiment taught us that in the event of a global pandemic, no island is an island. But it also taught us an important lesson about pandemic suppression: It’s better not to try and “fail” than to try.

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