New Zealand has dismissed suggestions it should follow in Britain’s footsteps to “live with” Covid-19, saying the level of death proposed by Boris Johnson would be “unacceptable”.
If cases in Britain explode as a result of the lifted regulations, New Zealand may also consider putting the country on a no-fly list.
On Monday, Johnson announced plans to scrap regulations including on face masks and social distancing by 19 July, saying that Britain must “learn to live with” the virus. He said Covid cases would likely reach 50,000 a day within a fortnight, and “we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid”.
“That’s not something that we have been willing to accept in New Zealand,” the country’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said at a press conference alongside the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Tuesday.
“One of the things the UK government have been very clear about [is] that there will be a spike in cases, potentially thousands of cases a day. There will be more people dying,” he said.
“We are likely to see more incremental change than dramatic change where we wake up one morning and say: ‘We just go back to the way things were before Covid-19.’”
Ardern, asked whether the country would accept deaths from Covid, said: “Different countries are taking different choices.
“The priority for me is how do we continue to preserve what New Zealand has managed to gain and give ourselves options, because this virus is not done with the world yet.”
Director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said on Wednesday that New Zealand would be “watching closely” and could place the UK on a no-fly list if cases grew out of control.
“If they do get an increase in cases, we will be keeping a close eye on what that means for the risk of people traveling from the UK and that will inform our decisions here,” he said.
Asked if that could result in suspending flights, as New Zealand did with India in April, he said: “We actually review the risk status of all countries each week, so clearly if there is an increase in the number of cases that’s one of the things we’ll be watching very closely.”
Epidemiologist and public health professor Michael Baker said New Zealand’s future roadmap could be built on a mixture of high vaccination and other measures such as mask mandates, or limited lockdowns to contain outbreaks. He said the country was in a “privileged position” where it could make an informed choice about whether to continue with an elimination approach or change tack.
“By every metric [New Zealand’s elimination approach] is outperforming the alternatives – from a public health point of view, an equity point of view, a freedoms point of view … an economic point of view.”
Australia’s Covid current response is still very closely aligned with New Zealand’s in practice, but prime minister Scott Morrison’s rhetoric has recently shifted somewhat toward Johnson’s. Last week Morrison outlined a four-phase Australian reopening roadmap, saying that by phase three Covid would be treated like the flu or “any other infectious disease”.
Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
“We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
“We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”
This content was originally published here.