COVID-19 decision-makers are flying blind from insufficient testing data

There is a need for COVID-19 serology testing to complement the current PCR testing with swabs. The current deficiency threatens good decision-making around the lockdown.

The fundamental problem facing COVID decision-makers is that they are flying blind owing to lack of testing data. This will become even more crucial as we head towards the end of the four-week lockdown and have to decide when and how restrictions can be gently lifted.

The first necessity is to work out exactly where we are. We won’t get to that knowledge-point without some improvements to the monitoring equipment. The best but currently unused weapons are newly-designed quick-fire serology tests. Continue reading

Posted in COVID-19 | 10 Comments

Can we stamp out COVID-19?

The key issue with eliminating COVID-19 from New Zealand is whether or not the transmission rate, alternatively worded as the reproduction rate, R., can be reduced to well below ‘1’ and kept there.   This value of R=1 is where each infected person on average infects one other person.

If this rate can be held below ‘1’ then the disease will eventually die out by itself from within the community. The further the R value is below ‘1’, then the faster the disease will fade away.

The current expectation is that daily rates of new cases will increase through to about 6 April. No-one knows what that peak rate will be. The fact that it has declined a little from 83 on 28 March to 63 on 29 March is certainly good news but it may also mean absolutely nothing. Continue reading

Posted in COVID-19 | 7 Comments

COVID-19 and New Zealand’s agriculltural trade

Despite any attempts to diversify away from China, exports to China will be increasingly important in coming months as much of the world descends into increasing turmoil

With COVID-19 now dominating all of our lives, it was easy to decide that COVID-19 would determine the focus of my rural-focused article this week. However, in choosing COVID-19 and agricultural trade, I want to focus primarily on the world beyond the current lockdown and explore where we might be heading in the months thereafter.

The starting point is that in times like these, export markets choose New Zealand, rather than New Zealand choosing its export markets. In this environment, all we can do is hang out our shingle, and help potential buyers to manage the logistics. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, China, COVID-19, Dairy, Fonterra, Meat Industry | 4 Comments

NZ Government takes the big step forward with COVID-19

Today’s announcement about moving to Level 4 changes the COVID-19 landscape. We are now back on track.

Today’s decision by the NZ Government to move immediately to Level 3, and then to Level 4 in 48 hours, is the big step that was desperately needed. Now we have a chance to get on top of this disease. We are back on track after a week of delays.

The next 48 hours will be crucial in communicating to the public what is essential and what is not. It will need to be emphasised that tradesmen still need to go about repair work, but taking social distancing into account. Cows must still be milked and livestock still need to be slaughtered. Continue reading

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NZ’s current COVID-19 strategy aligns with discredited herd immunity

NZ’s COVID-19 policy has got into a tangle with the crisis deepening by the hour. We must move away from discredited herd immunity and move to full Level 4 now

The way that our Prime Minister and the Director General of Heath described the use of the four alert levels, and moving up and down over time with the waves, is classic herd immunity strategy. It stands in stark contrast to stamping the disease out.

No-one has specifically said that the policy is to rely on development of immunity through manipulation of infection rates. This reflects that it is the operative rules rather than stated or unstated objectives that count. Continue reading

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Government drives forward with a COVID-19 rear-vision mirror

The notion that New Zealand is running ahead of the curve no longer stands up to scrutiny. We have to run faster. The policy is essentially reactive rather than proactive

Saturday 21 March is the day when community transmission of COVID-19 first became evident. It is apparent that there is now at least one COVID-19 case from unknown community transmission, with this being in the Wairarapa. There also appears to be a case in Auckland involving a two-step infection back to a traveller.

Assuming the Wairarapa infection occurred three to seven days ago, then the likelihood is that there are now multiple more cases ‘out there’ waiting to be found.

Until now, the cases predominantly link to air arrivals up to about 15 March and most are from several days prior to that. But in this last week, the risk profile of new returnees has increased considerably. Continue reading

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The day New Zealand lost the plot

History may well record that today, 19 March, is the day that New Zealand lost the plot in stamping down on COVID-19.

Not only have confirmed cases risen again, this time from 20 to 28, up from six less than a week ago. More importantly, in the 24 hours from midday today there are 22 wide-body jets arriving into New Zealand from Asia and the Americas, and 47 Airbus 320 and similar flights coming in from Australia. I know this from checking the airport arrivals boards.

A rough total of today’s arrivals, based on a load factor of 75 percent, is 12,000 people. Even at 50 percent load factor, that would be 8000 people. Although these people go into self-isolation, the households they belong to do not have to do so.

So far this week there have probably been well over 30,000 people coming into New Zealand. Almost certainly, there will be multiple cases of COVID brewing in some of their households. Every day, the new arrivals pose greater risk than the previous day’s arrivals. Yet all other members of those households can continue going about their daily lives. This is crazy. Continue reading

Posted in COVID-19 | 7 Comments