Elimination of Covid-19 possible if NZ remains in Level 4 lockdown for two more weeks, Government adviser says

Source: 1News

Elimination of Covid-19 coronavirus is possible in New Zealand within two weeks if we extend the lockdown, according to a modeller advising the Government.

Shaun Hendy, director of the University of Auckland’s Centre of Research Excellence in Complex Systems and Data Analytics, told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning the country would be able to contain the virus under alert Level 3, but not eliminate it.

He said his modelling shows it was “not quite yet” time to move to Level 3.

“There’s still a bit of uncertainty around what [Level] 3 will look like. We know now that [Level] 4 is actually really effective,” Professor Hendy said.

"I'd want to see those case numbers come down to close to zero... before we relax Level 4, or... we have a very strong Level 3 and we just be very clear with Kiwis that we need to keep up that physical distancing."

He said he would err on the side of caution and remain at Level 4 if he was making the decision.

"So if we keep this reproductive number at about 0.5 then in a couple of weeks we think it’s actually more likely than not we would have eliminated (it)," he said.

"You've got to be clear that that's the model and there's a lot of expertise, there's a lot of public health expertise, people who have worked at the frontlines who have a gut feeling, they've worked with Ebola, they've worked with the measles and they're also thinking if we stay at Level 4 long enough then we've got a chance at elimination and that would make us the first country in the world to do that."

Professor Hendy's latest modelling from Friday, which the Government had been considering over the weekend, showed the reproductive number of the virus had dropped to around 0.5. That means for every person that gets sick with Covid-19, they would go on to infect less than one person.

He said getting the reproductive number below one would reduce fatalities and be better for the economy, and that maintaining this number, which had been possible under alert Level 4, would allow the country to eliminate the virus.

“You’ve got to keep it down low for long enough for the disease to really disappear,” he said.

“The opportunity that we’ve got is we’ve brought our numbers down low enough that our contact tracing, our testing can actually keep a lid on that.”

However, he said modelling was never a perfect representation of reality.

Professor Hendy is leading the team that are modelling the Covid-19 coronavirus spread, he talks to Q+A on March 29, 2020.

The Government will announce whether the country will move alert levels today at 4pm.