Coronavirus: Infectious disease expert describes worst-case scenario for New Zealand

An infectious disease expert has warned that in an absolute worst-case scenario, at least 40,000 people could die from the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Zealand.

Dr Sanjaya Senanayake's estimates were based on the country's pandemic plan, where in eight weeks it's believed 40 percent of the population could be infected, and the approximate two percent death rate for the disease. Using this, he estimated about 2 million people could be infected if appropriate health measures weren't put in place and 40,000 could die.

"If you are vigilant and are looking for cases, there's a good chance you'll be able to contain this outbreak," he told The Project.

If a worst-case scenario were to happen, he says a large number of people could be hospitalised.

"The question is can your health infrastructure, and all your other social infrastructure, deal with the fallout from that. And that's the worrying thing."

But he has suggestions to help slow the infection rate of the virus.

"As someone who has an interest in public health and infectious diseases, I love quarantine. Quarantines work in either stopping an infection or slowing it down. The problem is it comes with political, economic, psychological and social consequences and you have to balance that."

He says we should think carefully about attending large gatherings, and perhaps consider whether something could be done over Skype or phone.

Watch the full interview above.