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Modelling The Outbreak Till Christmas – Expert Reaction

New modelling sheds light on how the Covid-19 outbreak might spread into early next year, taking into account that more Kiwis will be fully vaccinated.

The Te Pūnaha Matatini report says vaccination could lower virus spread by 67 per cent by early January 2022. However, if there’s high spread of the virus, vaccination and current lockdown restrictions won’t bring down the R number enough to protect NZ’s healthcare system. In this case, the authors say an Alert Level 4 ‘circuit breaker’ in early November could make a major difference. The report is not formally peer reviewed.

The SMC asked experts about the report.

Dr Samik Datta, Population Modeller, NIWA, comments:

“By modelling a variety of factors, researchers have been able to simulate how the COVID-19 outbreak could spread and what its impact on society may be in the near future. This is really useful because it helps us to plan for a range of scenarios. What’s apparent is just how difficult gaining control of the Delta variant really is, but it’s encouraging to see that if we have measures in place, such as a temporary ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown and increased vaccination rates, then hospital burdens would be reduced even if virus transmission rates became high.

“The tool is also beneficial because it factors in age and considers how different groups of people interact with each other – school children mix with each other more than the elderly, for example. This gives a more detailed look at how different sections of society are impacted by the virus’s spread. However, it has a big gap in that ethnicity has not been considered; given the relatively high number of cases in Māori and Pasifika, this will need to be input into future models to ensure we can effectively predict and plan for the months to come.”

Conflict of interest statement: “Samik Datta is part of a review panel (chaired by Dr. Matt Parry) who provide feedback on a range of COVID-19 modelling outputs, and read an earlier version of this report.”

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