How To Stop NZ Covid -19 Pandemic
This is Part 1 of a two-part article to help New Zealand put in place preventative procedures to halt the spread of Covid-19.
The current government containment plan is failing because it does not identify and contain all the people spreading the virus.
Sir Ray Avery is a Pharmaceutical scientist and an expert in the design and commissioning of class 10,000 and class 1,000 biologically controlled cleanroom and hospital facilities .
Over the past 300 years, we humans have learnt a lot about stopping the spread of infectious diseases.
The proven fail-safe methodology is to identify people who are infected and isolate them and only release them back in the community when they are no longer infectious.
For instance, if there were an outbreak of syphilis in Huntly, one would identify the primary host, then track and trace everyone the primary host had infected and most importantly everyone these people have subsequently infected. One would then isolate these people to stop the infection spreading.
Another approach would be to quarantine all people in Huntly and restrict anyone from visiting or leaving Huntly. The latter approach will not contain the infection because some of the infected people don’t know they are infected and have already travelled outside the quarantine area silently spreading the infection.
We will see Covid-19 infection rates increase daily throughout New Zealand over the next few months because we are not tracking and tracing and quarantining infected people and all the people they have been in contact with and isolating them from the general population.
We know that population density is a key driver in the spread of any pandemic.
The more people you have in a room, hospital, aeroplane or country then, the more likely you are to contract the Covid-19.
This has been the governments strategy to date ,self-isolation and people keeping their distance.
Anyone in a supermarket que will know this is not working.
However thankfully so far New Zealand is blessed because we have no connected land borders and have one of the lowest population densities in the world at around 18 people per square kilometre so we have an innate natural social isolation.
In contrast, Singapore has a population density of 8,072 people per square kilometre. One would expect the chances of acquiring Covid -19 in Singapore, which still has an open border with hundreds of planes landing daily ,would be much higher than New Zealand. However, people are less likely to get Coronavirus or die from the infection in Singapore because the Government has put in a plan of preventative action to mitigate the key drivers which spread any pandemic.
The country started a text, and mobile web-based software solution on February, 10th through which people placed under home quarantine were required to report their location to the Government and this served as the first level of verification of quarantine compliance for close to 12,000 foreigners.
The New Zealand Government’s approach is a free text service so people can “dob in” someone breaching quarantine.
The Singaporean Government has used a more comprehensive technically practical and succinct approach. In Singapore, every person who has the virus and everyone who has been in contact with them is identified, quarantined and their quarantine compliance is tracked 24/7 by hospital staff and the Singaporean army.
Singapore is not in physical or economic shutdown. Instead, the Singaporean Government is focusing on finding people infected and all those in line of contact and placing them in quarantine, and it’s working.
Similarly, South Korea has been effective in controlling the nation’s mortality rate, not through travel bans but widespread rigorous quarantine measures and testing. People under quarantine are in designated quarantine facilities and monitored 24/7.
In contrast, New Zealand doesn’t have a national covid- 19 testing plan in place nor mechanisms in place for tracking infected people and identifying all the people they may have been in contact with.
The Government has closed it’s borders, but it needs to tackle the epidemiology and the infection routes of the disease.
Just like tracking STD infections, the best way to tackle this viral infection is to follow person to person infection trails and isolate infected people, not the whole country.
One of the Governments microbiological advisors has claimed that by closing our borders we can “watch the rest of the world burn. ”Sadly, we can’t keep our borders closed indefinitely , and the virus is already in our communities, and like the flu, it will come in repeated cycles. Our best defence is to use the WHO and Singapore model and track, isolate and treat infected patients promptly.
We have the tools to do this. New Zealand Tech Company Jupl has an off the shelf mobile phone personal tracking application which is much more comprehensive than the one deployed in Singapore which prevented mass infections.
“With the Jupl cloud-based monitoring system, for the first time in history, we now have the technology to track person to person infection trails at the click of a button and help reduce the impact of infectious diseases.
The epidemiology of Covid-19 is that a large number of people will have no symptoms, but could infect others.
We know, for example, that back end testing in the most infected Wuhan province in China showed that 90 % of the children in the region were infected with the virus but were asymptomatic and were capable of infecting others in the first seven days of their infection.
So, the best way to tackle Covid -19 is as the WHO states is ; test, test and then track, trace and quarantine the infected person until the person is non-infective.
Locking down a whole country and limiting gatherings to less than 100 people is a very naïve way to try to prevent a pandemic.
The person on the bus with you today may have Covid-19 and be asymptomatic but still able to infect you. No one will know until you are infected, and in turn you infect your grandad with fatal consequences.
Here in New Zealand, we have the technology to track, trace people infected by the virus and their line of contacts, quarantine and monitor their movements 24/7. Just like they did in Singapore.
This is how you stop a pandemic.
Sir Ray Avery