COVID-19: Report encourages other countries to follow New Zealand's zero-COVID strategy

Experts say New Zealand's zero-COVID strategy has been extremely effective.
Experts say New Zealand's zero-COVID strategy has been extremely effective. Photo credit: Getty

Experts say other countries should follow New Zealand's ambition to achieve a 'zero-COVID-19 strategy'.

In a report published by The Lancet on Friday, experts weighed in on strategies from nine different countries in their effort to ease COVID-19 in the community.

Authors are urging governments to consider five key factors in lockdown exit strategies.

  • A clear plan with transparent decision-making process, ideally stating the levels or phases of easing restrictions.

  • Governments should have robust systems in place to closely monitor the infection situation before easing measures.

  • For communities to reopen safely, control measures to reduce transmission will be needed for some time, including face masks and social distancing.

  • Each country must have an effective find, test, trace, isolate, and support system in place before easing lockdown restrictions.

  • Finally, there is a strong argument for adopting a so-called 'zero-COVID strategy', like New Zealand.

Experts say New Zealand's zero-COVID strategy has been extremely effective.

It "aims to eliminate domestic transmission, particularly considering emerging evidence on the effects of long COVID", the report said.

"COVID-19 is a serious disease that will be with us for a long time," said lead author, Dr Helena Legido-Quigley.

"There is increasing realisation that easing of lockdown is not about returning to a pre-pandemic normal, and governments have to find strategies that will prevent rapid growth of infection in ways that are sustainable and acceptable to the public over many months."

Co-author of the paper Professor Martin McKee says the aim of eliminating COVID-19 completely is important, especially "as some countries around the world begin to see a resurgence in cases".

The report also stresses the importance for governments to educate and engage with the public, as well as selecting appropriate measures the public are willing to comply with.

"New Zealand's social bubbles provide a successful example of sustainable measures, as they allow for social interaction while reducing transmission."

'Social bubbles' allowed the ability for Kiwis to keep contact with households, whether it be shopping or going for a walk.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said repeatedly during the first lockdown, "stay within your bubble, the bubble of people that you'll be with for the next four weeks."

As lockdown restrictions eased, social bubbles were allowed to expand as long as they remained "small, local and exclusive".