A police officer wearing a protective mask talks to a driver at a checkpoint in the Bombay district of Auckland, New Zealand, on Wednesday, August 12, 2020.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LONDON – New Zealand has become the latest country to abandon its zero covid strategy. The virus is more difficult to contain because it is dominated by highly infectious delta mutants.
New Zealand announced on Monday that it no longer follows an approach that seeks to eliminate all COVID cases after adopting one of the world’s toughest approaches to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
This zero-Covid strategy has also been adopted in countries such as China and Taiwan, with strict lockdowns (even after one or a few cases are detected), widespread testing, tightly controlled or closed borders, and strong contact tracing systems and quarantine obligations. Huh. .
The move comes as a blockade in Auckland City fails to contain the virus in the face of the more virulent Delta mutants. It is estimated to be 60% more infectious than the alpha version, which was first discovered in late 2020, and destroys the previous less infectious version of the virus itself.
New Zealand is notorious for its strict commitment to COVID. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern severely locked down the entire country in August after Auckland had a single suspected Covid case due to a delta mutation (the country’s first case of coronavirus in six months at the time). Down.
But on Monday, Ardan said the city’s blockade was gradually being eased and the country’s strategy to deal with Covid was changing.
“It is clear that strict long-term restrictions will not reduce the number of cases to zero,” Ardan said at a news conference. “But that’s okay. I didn’t have a vaccine, so eradication was important. Now that I have a vaccine, we can start to change the way we work.”
Ardan said it is important for the country to maintain strict controls, but “we need to move from places that use only strict restrictions, while trying to contain and contain the virus as much as possible. There is.” Vaccines in Daily Public Health Measures. “
why doesn’t it work
It is the first time New Zealand has publicly announced the transition from a zero-Covid strategy, and neighboring Australia has also said it abandoned its zero-tolerance, or “Covid-zero” approach in early September. and has shifted to a “learning”. “Post. Live with the virus.”
Like New Zealand, Australia decided to abandon its strategy following a strict lockdown in Melbourne to contain the outbreak.
At the time, Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said, “I threw everything with it, but it is now clear that I am going to increase these numbers rather than reduce them.”
Victoria Police Patrol at St Kilda Beach on October 3, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. As Victoria entered the second phase of its roadmap for government reopening, coronavirus restrictions were eased across Melbourne from Monday 28 September.
Darien Trainer | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Experts are not surprised by the changing strategy and note that the proliferation of delta variants ruins such an approach.
“It is no surprise that New Zealand has abandoned its “zero-Covid” strategy. The highly infectious Delta variant has changed the game, meaning eradication strategies are no longer possible,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick told CNBC on Monday.
“This does not mean that New Zealand and Australia’s strong approach to managing a pandemic—strict border restrictions, quarantine measures, strong contact tracing—was not effective, but that the ongoing strict restrictions are for individuals. harming the society,” he said.
He said the policy of zero tolerance will become more difficult as the rest of the world opens up, but stressed that this does not mean that people should be cautious. “We need to stop the spread and mutation of the virus by doing everything we can to support the global rollout of the vaccine.”
Efforts to completely control the spread of COVID-19 are often questioned by experts, but in countries where vaccinations are slow, the blockade has helped eradicate the spread of the virus, if not the spread. has helped. ..
Arden defended Auckland’s blockade on Monday, with vaccination rates remaining low, with only 25% of Auckland citizens fully vaccinated at the time, but following a zero-Covid strategy is “right” for Auckland. It was an option and the only option. “
Now, seven weeks later, she said 52% of Auckland citizens had been fully vaccinated and 84% had been vaccinated once. Clinical data suggests that complete vaccination against COVID-19 is very effective in protecting people from severe COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
zero covid supporter
A zero-covid strategy is being implemented in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but so far none have shown signs of abandoning it. Other Asian economies that have taken a similar approach include Macau, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
Statistics show that this strategy helped keep cases and deaths in the region much lower than in Europe and the United States. The latter has killed more than 703,000 people, the highest number in the world.
On Monday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center said there were no new local cases of Covid-19, five imported, and no local infection for four consecutive days.
On the same day, Hong Kong also reported four new cases (all imported and a trend seen in recent weeks), and China reported 26 new cases on Monday, all of them confirmed. Although cited as an imported case, the accuracy of China’s data during the pandemic has been questioned.
Experts in the field say there is still a good reason not to abandon the zero-covid strategy, especially when vaccination rates fluctuate.
Professor David Hui of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who heads an expert committee to advise the government, told CNBC that Hong Kong is not rethinking its zero-tolerance COVID-19 strategy as its “living with the virus” Will do The vaccination rate is high.
“Unlike Singapore [the] In the UK and other Western countries with the virus, Hong Kong has a very low overall vaccination rate (67% for one vaccination, 62.9% of the population fully vaccinated for two vaccinations). I can’t live. The vaccination rate for people under the age of 70 is about 30%. “
“While we live with the virus, many unvaccinated older people develop serious diseases and disrupt our health care system.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a July report that it expects the Asian zerocovid market to maintain strict border controls through 2021 and loosen by early 2022, when high-dose vaccination was achieved.
“Asia’s “zero-Covid” country has far fewer deaths than its peers in the world, its economic impact is less severe, and the 2020 recession in Asia is much shallower than in other regions,” he said. .. ZeroCovid may prove to be a sustainable strategy, as much of the world has taken a similar approach. But now, as the global economy resumes, economic activity risks becoming an undercut strategy instead of supporting it. “
Nevertheless, the EIU stated that the policies ultimately adopted by zerocovid countries are more conservative than those implemented in North America and Europe. “This approach is likely to target ‘less COVID’, and the approach currently adopted by Japan and South Korea serves as a potential model,” he said.
The EUI believed that China and Taiwan were in the strongest position to maintain a zero-Covid strategy because of their low reliance on cross-border flows of capital and human resources.