In a speech to her Party Conference today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has effectively ended the nation’s elimination strategy.
Early into the pandemic the Government shifted from policies that might ‘flatten the curve’ of the virus impact, to ones such as “lockdown” which might eliminate the virus in New Zealand. Jacinda Ardern said the strategy was to eliminate the virus. Media named the architect of the strategy as Michael Baker of Otago University. His plan was supported by other academics such as Rod Jackson and Siouxsie Wiles.
Covid Plan B said elimination of the virus from the country was not possible in the long term, and the cost of attempting it – on health, society and economy – was too high. In any case, elimination was not warranted because population health impacts of the virus were comparatively small.
Ardern’s words today acknowledge that Sars-CoV-2 will not be eliminated. Her description of the new goal is similar to those of us who have advocated learning to ‘live with the virus’. The Government’s answer now is a seasonal vaccination programme.
Ardern said that 2021 would be “the year of the vaccine… for the world”. “Our goal has to be though, to get the management of covid-19 to a similar place as we do seasonally with the flu. It won’t be a disease that we will see simply disappear after one round of vaccine across our population. Our goal has to be to put it in a place where as we do every year with a flu vaccination programme that we roll out a vaccine programme and maintain a level of normality in between time.”