New Zealand has rejected suggestions that it should follow in Britain’s footsteps to ‘live with’ Covid-19, saying the level of death proposed by Boris Johnson would be ‘unacceptable’.
Johnson on Monday announced plans to remove regulations, including on face masks and social distancing by July 19, saying Britain must “learn to live with” the virus. He said Covid cases would likely hit 50,000 a day within a fortnight, and “we have to come to terms, unfortunately, with more deaths from Covid.”
“This is not something that we have been prepared to accept in New Zealand,” the country’s Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday at a press conference alongside the Prime Minister. , Jacinda Ardern.
“One of the things the UK government has been very clear on is [is] that there will be a spike in cases, potentially thousands of cases per day. There will be more people who die, ”he said.
“We’re likely to see more gradual changes than dramatic changes where we wake up one morning and say, ‘We’re just going back to how things were before Covid-19. “”
Ardern, who asked if the country would accept Covid deaths, said: “Different countries are making different choices.
“The priority for me is how to continue to preserve what New Zealand has managed to gain and to give itself options, because this virus is not done with the world yet. “
Epidemiologist and public health professor Michael Baker said New Zealand’s future roadmap could be built on a mix of high vaccination and other measures such as mask warrants or limited blockages to contain the epidemics. He said the country was in a “privileged position” where it could make an informed choice about whether to pursue an elimination approach or change course.
“By each metric [New Zealand’s elimination approach] surpasses alternatives -om a public health point of view, from a point of view of equity, from a point of view of freedoms… from an economic point of view.
Australia’s current response to Covid is still very closely aligned with New Zealand’s in practice, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s rhetoric has recently shifted somewhat to Johnson’s. Last week, Morrison presented an Australian roadmap for the four-phase reopening, saying that in phase three, Covid would be treated like the flu or “any other infectious disease”.
Baker said public health professionals were ‘bothered’ by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase ‘living with’ was a ‘meaningless slogan’ that failed not communicating the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for dealing with the virus.
“We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really handled the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and his colleagues in saying, ‘Oh, we have to learn to live with the virus.
“We always have to be a little skeptical about learning from countries that have failed very badly. “