Public Health Expert

NZ’s COVID-19 response compared to selected other jurisdictions: Australia, Taiwan and the United States - Public Health Expert

Aug 26, 2020

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Andy Anglemyer, Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Michael Baker Media discourse in NZ has involved comparing NZ’s COVID-19 response with a range of other jurisdictions, especially: Australia, Taiwan and the US. In this blog we update the data comparisons for these selected places. We find that Taiwan is the top performer with a cumulative death rate that is around 1800 times lower than the US’s (for NZ the difference with the US is 136 times lower). Taiwan’s high quality performance still holds a number of lessons for NZ with its ongoing response. Previously we have reported on OECD country data with NZ having the lowest mortality rate from COVID-19 in this grouping [1]. But over the last six months we have observed that media discourse in NZ has particularly involved comparing NZ’s COVID-19 … Read More

Using a fun “Mask Day” at school to promote pandemic protection in the NZ community - Public Health Expert

Aug 25, 2020

Dr Ling Chan, Dr Sophie Febery, Prof Michael Baker, Dr Amanda Klasvig, Prof Nick Wilson Whilst the New Zealand Government has recently recommended using face coverings or fabric masks as a strategy to contain COVID-19 pandemic virus transmission, the uptake of mask use in the public has been suboptimal. In this blog, we explore using “Mask Day” at school to promote positive public messages on masks, which may lead to increased public engagement of mask use within the wider community. Aotearoa New Zealand is currently experiencing a second outbreak of COVID-19, necessitating Alert Level 3 restrictions in Auckland and Alert Level 2 within the rest of the country. Despite the welcome change in the Government’s recent promotion for mass masking [1], mask wearing in public is still not mandatory at this stage (though will become so on public transport, planes … Read More

Using the CovidCard to enhance protection from COVID-19 at the NZ border - Public Health Expert

Aug 24, 2020

Dr Tim Chambers, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker Border controls are critical in preventing future COVID-19 outbreaks in NZ. In this blog we consider the recent announcements and cross-party support for the CovidCard’s use by border control workers and guests in quarantine and isolation facilities. We discuss how this is a promising move that should facilitate further improvements in border control protocols and efficient digital contact tracing. The border is NZ’s greatest vulnerability in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. Recent reporting of low levels of COVID-19 testing of border facing staff in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities have highlighted a systems failure. Likewise, a number of high profile break-outs and reports of guest interactions at different stages of their isolation cycles (eg, a person on day 3 interacting and potentially infecting a person on day … Read More

Reducing the health burden from contaminated drinking water in NZ: Opportunities arising from the new Water Services Bill - Public Health Expert

Aug 10, 2020

Dr Tim Chambers, Prof Nick Wilson, Jayne Richards, A/Prof Simon Hales, Dr Mike Joy, Prof Michael Baker (author affiliations*) Increasing water-related health threats, notably the waterborne campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North, have highlighted failings in NZ’s regulatory system for drinking water. In this blog we consider how the new Water Services Bill might provide a framework to enable the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, to oversee, administer and enforce new drinking water regulations. We also detail how addressing the upstream determinants of water-related disease burden is a far better approach than treating water that has already become contaminated. The COVID-19 experience also raises the benefits of consolidating NZ’s public health organisations into a single highly competent national public health agency, which may have implications for reform of drinking water safety.   Introduction Havelock North’s water-related disease outbreak brought to light … Read More

E-bikes are the new cars- why don’t transport policy makers treat them seriously? - Public Health Expert

Aug 04, 2020

Caroline Shaw, Anja Mizdrak E-bikes are everywhere. Sales are booming and predicted to overtake sales of new cars in a few years. There were three times as many e-bikes and e-scooters imported into NZ in 2019 alone as there are e-cars in the entire country. You can’t go out in the city these days without seeing people having fun zipping past on their e-bikes. E-bikes have the potential to transform our cities into more enjoyable and liveable places. Unfortunately, we are not seeing an effort from policy makers to encourage this low carbon, healthy form of transport. Research on of e-bikes has been growing as rapidly as their sales, so in this blog we outline what we know about the carbon and health impacts of e-bikes. Then we look at policy in this area, what could be achieved, … Read More

NZ’s “Team of 5 million” has achieved the lowest COVID-19 death rate in the OECD – but there are still gaps in our pandemic response - Public Health Expert

Jul 22, 2020

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Tim Chambers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Dr Anja Mizdrak, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker NZ has now achieved the lowest death rate from the COVID-19 pandemic out of 37 OECD countries and appears to be the only one to succeed with elimination at a national level. But despite the success of the “team of 5 million” – there are still a number of gaps in our defences. In particular, there is a need to upgrade: (i) border controls; (ii) the Alert Level system; (iii) the use of digital technologies to support contact tracing; (iv) testing & surveillance for early outbreak detection; (v) the kinds of policies, institutions and laws needed to sustain our world-class response.   The OECD comprises a grouping of 37 relatively wealthy countries and so is frequently the basis for … Read More

Weekly deaths declined in NZ’s lockdown – but we still don’t know exactly why - Public Health Expert

Jul 10, 2020

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Anja Mizdrak, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker The pandemic-related lockdown is possibly the most dramatic public health intervention in NZ history. It helped achieve the elimination of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus in NZ. But it was also associated with 548 fewer total deaths than for the same period in 2019. Death rates (per 100,000 population) were also lower in 2020 than the three preceding years. There are a range of plausible reasons for this reduction (eg, fewer road crashes, fewer circulating respiratory infections) but we still need precise cause of death data (available in the future) to make more informed assessments. We examined weekly death data for NZ up to 8 June 2020 (the first 23 weeks into the year) and made comparisons with the three previous years. Preliminary data on weekly … Read More

COVID-19 and the law in Aotearoa NZ - Public Health Expert

Jul 06, 2020

Louise Delany (public health lawyer) Health and emergency laws have played a critical role in this country’s successful elimination of community transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog details key aspects of the legislation and comments on issues around testing, payments by incoming travellers for quarantine costs, and mask use. The implementation of law relating to COVID-19 has meant that public health law has become real in daily life in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ). But not all of us are quite sure what the law allows, and what it doesn’t. NZ’s legal framework for infectious disease management and public health emergencies has existed for over 150 years, with various modifications over this time. The Health Act passed in 1956 did not radically change this framework but largely continued previous health law provisions, including amendments made in response to the … Read More

Kiwi public health doc reporting back from Victoria (Australia): “Do quarantine well!” - Public Health Expert

Jul 03, 2020

A bit like a letter home. I have now been full-time at the University of Melbourne since 2019. Before that, I was 20 years at the University of Otago, Wellington. Indeed, I set up this very Public Health Expert Blog with Nick Wilson ten years ago. Now I am your Australian correspondent.   Life as an epidemiologist and public health medicine specialist in Victoria, as a person who is new to the State, and not part of the formal apparatus, has been an interesting outside-in experience. But it has resulted in me becoming a ‘go to’ commentator for the media, given I have an outside perspective. So what follows is my perspective – without privilege to the inner workings on COVID-19 management. Australia now has a conundrum. By pretty good design (we did not lockdown as hard as in NZ) … Read More

Eliminate the pandemic virus causing COVID-19 or risk an animal reservoir - Public Health Expert

Jul 01, 2020

Prof John Potter* Elimination has been an effective strategy for New Zealand in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic virus (SARS-CoV-2). Most other countries have not pursued this goal and are ignoring the opportunity even now. SARS-CoV-2 is not manageable by the influenza playbook; its longer incubation period makes tracing and isolation more practicable and puts elimination within reach. There is one additional argument in favour of elimination: the longer the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus circulates in the human population, the greater is the likelihood that it will find a host among other animal species and that these will become a reservoir capable of transmission back to humans.   Elimination has been an effective strategy in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic virus (SARS-CoV-2) in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The COVID-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China late in 2019. The first case … Read More