28 July 2020
Several World Health Organisation officials have this week crystallised New Zealand’s border dilemma – saying that keeping national borders closed because of COVID-19 is now unfeasible.
Head of WHO’s emergencies program lead Mike Ryan said “it is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future…. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.”
Simon Thornley, of the Covid Plan B Group, says this highlights a core problem the group had with lockdown; there was no exit strategy.
“New Zealand came out of lockdown well, but the suppression strategy has left us in an international and economic dead end.
“Other nations, although worse hit by cases and deaths, are now opening up borders and activity. New Zealand is in a bind; locked behind its border, fearful of even a single infection let alone a death.
“Yet the most recent infection fatality studies show Covid-19 is 0.65% – at most only a quarter of the deaths we expected, and probably far fewer.
“We need to open our borders to restore economic and social connections with the rest of the world.”
Thornley said New Zealand’s dilemma would be tackled by an international symposium at Parliament on 17 August, featuring several internationally respected experts. They will analyse the latest information on COVID-19 to offer possible pathways for New Zealand’s recovery.
“The main danger of the virus is that hospitals become overwhelmed and the virus spreads to frail patients. Most countries are now well beyond this, but New Zealand might not be. We need to cautiously open our borders and continue to monitor our health system’s capacity.”
The international speakers will present live by video link, followed by questions from the public. They include vaccine specialist Byram Bridle, Epidemiology Professor Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University, and Preventative Medicine specialist David Katz at Yale.