Why NZ is more vulnerable to a new COVID-19 outbreak than ever before

A culture of complacency, new variants and vulnerability at the border – we are more vulnerable to a Covid-19 outbreak than ever before. Less than an hour after Wellington’s precautionary move to alert level 2, University of Canterbury academics Matthew Hobbs, Malcolm Campbell and University of Otago’s Lesley Gray published an article on The Conversation explaining why.

  • Covid-19

Health authorities have raised the COVID-19 alert to level 2 for Wellington, from 6pm today until midnight on Sunday, after an Australian traveller who visited the New Zealand capital at the weekend tested positive on their return home.

The news comes only hours after New Zealand paused quarantine-free travel to New South Wales, following ten new community cases in Sydney linked to the Bondi cluster.

Genome sequencing will determine if the Australian visitor carries the more infectious delta variant of COVID-19, but the developments highlight how quickly things can change.

The emergence of more transmittable variants and the complacency of New Zealanders after a 100-day period without community transmission now provide ideal circumstances for a large outbreak.

New Zealand’s pandemic response and elimination strategy have drawn worldwide attention. At this point, the country remains one of few places in the world without community transmission since the end of February 2021.

Countries like Taiwan and Fiji, once also success stories, have seen significant and rapid surges in cases and hospitalisations. What is happening in Taiwan, Fiji and other countries such as Vietnam should be a wake-up call for New Zealand.

Culture of complacency

Overseas news should serve as a constant reminder of New Zealand’s privileged position.

Calls on the government to make the NZ COVID Tracer app mandatory, at the very least in higher-risk places where large numbers of people meet indoors, will likely grow stronger now.

Low and decreasing usage rates of the NZ COVID Tracer app

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