For many of us, Lockdown 2.0 and the return of COVID-19 has been difficult. While us at Craccum feel gutted to be off campus and back to Zoom University, researchers have determined the best strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19, and get us back the freedom of Level One as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, some have turned to conspiracy theories, undermining the health response and even protesting the lockdown restrictions. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around, and in times like these, it’s best to turn to the experts.
The University’s Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater told Newshub that the findings of a report published by the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment on New Zealand’s COVID-19 response shows the importance of university research.
“The Government cannot address the challenges of COVID-19 alone and research and innovation will be critical to addressing the challenges we face as a nation.”
So what are Auckland’s experts saying about the Government’s response to the pandemic?
Dr Siouxsie Wiles: Associate Professor and Head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland.
In regards to COVID-19’s return to the community, Wiles says an alternative approach to the lockdown and border restrictions would be a bad idea.
In her recent Spinoff article, the microbiologist responds to those who have criticised the government’s response to place Auckland under Level Three restrictions.
Referring to them as a vocal minority of supporters of ‘learning to live with the virus’, she points out this approach would be harmful to many, especially high risk individuals.
“I think it’s more accurate to describe it as learning to die with the virus”.
Wiles says we can have confidence in the Government’s elimination strategy, as it is based on the advice of experts, and prioritizes keeping people safe.
“Research shows that COVID-19 has the potential to be deadly, but it may also cause serious long-term health issues even for young, healthy people.”
Experts including Wiles also argue this approach fails to take into account the impact on our health system from dealing with COVID-19.
Wiles says we can look at Melbourne to see what happens to see what happens if you don’t act fast enough.
The Australian Government only placed lockdown restrictions on Victoria after five weeks, whereas Auckland went into lockdown 24 hours after the first cases of community transmission.
Wiles says The COVID-19 Government Response Stringency Index shows that we are living with fewer restrictions than many countries, including Sweden, which is considered the gold standard of how to ‘live with the virus’.
Wiles assures that the speed in which the current restrictions and increased testing, tracing, and isolation capabilities have been implemented means we will have a quicker return to the freedom we were enjoying at Alert Level One.
“We don’t know yet how the virus sneaked back in, but while those investigations are underway, we’ve snapped back into action to once again to stop the spread of the virus within our community.”
You can read Siouxsie Wiles full response article at The Spinoff.
Shaun Hendy: Professor of Physics at the University of Auckland.
Did you ever wonder who was behind the data determining the impact of COVID-19 on New Zealanders if we did not go into lockdown back in March?
Hendy’s revolutionary data-modelling played a significant role in forming New Zealand’s COVID-19 response and the Prime Minister’s daily media conferences.
Hendy told UniNews that he and his team provided modelling updates to the National Crisis Management Centre before 9am every day.
“There was a team of around 20 people working on it at Te Pūnaha Matatini, including students who’d finished their degrees but couldn’t start new roles because of the lockdown.”
COVID-19 was a unique challenge, unlike anything that New Zealand and the world had faced before.
“New Zealand didn’t have pandemic models ready that were appropriate for the circumstances here. So that’s what we set out to develop.”
Hendy praised the government for listening to the opinion of scientists to inform their COVID-19 strategy.
“Politicians don’t need to be experts. They do have to be able to weigh evidence, and they do have to have access to expertise they trust. There was an extremely high level of trust between the Prime Minister and her science advisers.”
Read the full profile on Shaun Hendy by Denise Montgomery on UniNews.