Coronavirus: Jami-Lee Ross lashes out at the Government for locking down the country

Jami-Lee Ross.
Jami-Lee Ross. Photo credit: Getty

Advance New Zealand leader Jami-Lee Ross says our COVID-19 strategy has been "simply unsustainable" for New Zealanders, criticising the Government's decision to lockdown after cases reemerged in the community.

Ross, a former National Party MP, says New Zealanders should "learn to live with the virus" as he suggests new information shows the case fatality rate of COVID-19 is similar to the seasonal flu.

"The plan around COVID-19 that the Government's pursuing is based on old information back in February and March," he told Magic Talk's Road to the Election.

"The new information that's coming out - and look at some New Zealand epidemiologists who are talking about this - suggests that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 is not too dissimilar to seasonal flu. Would we lock down an entire country for seasonal flu? No we wouldn't.

"The case fatality rate for COVID-19 is 0.2 to 0.8 [percent], the case fatality rate for flu is 0.1 to 0.5. It's in the same ballpark, it's roughly similar."

He says it's "unsustainable" for the Government to use the strategy of locking down the country "at any cost" when the virus is in the community.

"Eventually, when the Government turns off their tap at the wage subsidy; businesses will fall over, people will lose their jobs, they will lose their homes, they won't be able to feed their children."

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in March the mortality rate for COVID-19 appears higher than for influenza.

"While the true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand, the data we have so far indicate that the crude mortality ratio (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) is between 3-4 percent. For seasonal influenza, mortality is usually well below 0.1 percent," its website says. 

But new data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in the US shows countries have different COVID-19 case mortality rates and these rates are dependent on a number of factors.

Differences in case fatality rates can be caused by higher or lower rates of testing, for example, with more testing, more people with milder cases are identified which lowers the case-fatality ratio. It can also be caused by demographics - such as if a country has a higher number of elderly residents - and healthcare systems that may be under-resourced.

JHU's data shows of the 20 countries currently most-affected by COVID-19, there is a range of reported mortality rates.

It says Mexico has a mortality rate of 10.7 percent, the US has 3 percent and India has 1.7 percent, meaning the numbers are not the same across the board.

Ross says if people are already dying in New Zealand with the flu every single year, it's "something we have to learn to live with".

"It's the cold hard reality of learning to live life with infections that can be managed."

The Government on Friday extended New Zealand's COVID-19 restrictions for a further 12 days.

"A cautious approach is the best long-term strategy," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters.