Today marks two years since NZ's first Covid-19 case

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

On 28 February 2020, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in New Zealand - a person in their sixties who had recently returned from Iran.

People wearing face masks walk on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd.

Two years on, Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the country has had the lowest number of deaths caused by the virus in the OECD by far.

“In fact, life expectancy in New Zealand has actually risen by eight months during the course of the pandemic, the highest improvement in the world, and the reason is we’re so good now at preventing transmission of these respiratory viruses.”

Baker said the two year anniversary is a time for Kiwis to reflect “on how far we’ve come and how successful New Zealand’s been at managing this pandemic.”

He said while at times it’s been “really tough-going,” people should also reflect on the positive aspects of New Zealand’s response.

While the number of cases is going to continue rising, because the population has a high vaccination rate and is reaching a high booster rate, the case numbers won’t translate into such a large increase in hospitalisations, Professor Baker said.

“This Omicron virus is not much less dangerous than the original strain we saw in the first year, if we didn’t have high vaccine coverage, we would be seeing many thousands of deaths in New Zealand over the next few months from this variant.”

Baker also said if everyone wore a high-quality mask for a fortnight, the outbreak would be over.

“It’s as simple as that because the virus would have nowhere to go.

“Unfortunately, we’re not able to all do that all the time, I mean it would actually be really hard work particularly round the house, it’s just one of those theoretical things – masks are extremely effective and the problem is we just don’t all use them in all of these social environments we’re in,” he said.