Covid 19 coronavirus: New Zealand tops international research on virus response

As health experts race to track the movements of the latest Covid community cases in the Auckland region, new international research states New Zealand has provided the most effective response to the killer virus.

On Wednesday night, Ministry of Health officials confirmed two new community cases, an adult and a child who have the same South African strain of the virus as the Northland woman infected at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel.

Genome testing overnight had shown the pair were linked to the first infection at the Pullman Hotel, which was the highly infectious South African strain.

That meant they had potentially come into contact with the returnee with the South African strain while staying at the Pullman, Covid Response Minister Hipkins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning.

The news has led to the creation of new pop-up testing centres on the North Shore and at Orewa.

While results are pending, New Zealand has topped the list of how countries handled the virus in research conducted by Australia’s Lowy Institute.

The study compared 100 countries’ responses and took into account aspects such as case numbers, confirmed deaths and testing rates.

The other countries in the top four were all in Asia: Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand. New Zealand’s Transtasman neighbours were placed in the eighth spot. China does not feature in the 100 countries studied, with researchers saying there was a lack of available data.

“Countries with populations fewer than 10 million people proved more agile, on average, than the majority of their larger counterparts in handling the health emergency,” the Lowy Institute’s Herve Lemahieu told the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

The researcher said wealthier countries had initially managed the outbreak of Covid more effectively than many poorer nations.

But that had changed later in 2020, with the main factor being the big outbreaks in North America and Europe.

“One of the remarkable findings of this study is that there has been more or less a level playing field between developing and rich countries, because measures needed to stem the virus have been quite low tech,” he said.

He added that might flip again as poorer nations struggled to get access to vaccines.

“The developing world will fall further behind.”

New Zealand wasn’t the only small nation to make the top 10, with list also including Cyprus, Rwanda, Iceland and Latvia.

Lemahieu said another thing that stuck out about the research was how it disproved claims authoritarian regimes had handled Covid better than democratic nations.

“Authoritarian regimes, on average, started off better — they were able to mobilise resources faster, and lockdowns came faster,” Lemahieu said.

“But to sustain that over time was more difficult for them.”

Earlier: Two new cases revealed last night

Two more Covid-19 cases have been detected in the community in Auckland and health officials are urging people who visited places of interest to isolate and get a test.

The two people who completed their managed isolation at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel at the same time as the positive Northland community case were confirmed last night as having been infected.

They left MIQ on January 15 and the Ministry of Health has released a list of 12 locations of interest they visited on the North Shore, including supermarkets, restaurants and service stations.

“While we still can’t categorically rule these out as historical infections, test results so far indicate the two people may have contracted Covid-19 towards the end of their stay in managed isolation, after returning two negative tests each during their stay,” director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said late last night.

“It’s important the right people isolate and get tested, so we don’t overwhelm testing centres.

“We understand that many will be anxious, but it’s important to remember we are carrying out these measures as a precaution. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission — but we need the right people to isolate and get tested.”

The infected pair were initially classified as “under investigation” after returning positive tests, pending further investigation to determine if the infections were recent or historical.

“They returned a second positive test with a higher CT value which led to them being treated as confirmed cases,” Bloomfield said.

“A third person in the family’s bubble has tested negative. The two family members who tested positive are in the process of being moved to Auckland’s quarantine facility.”

The two positive cases had completed quarantine on January 15.

The list of locations of interest covers a period from January 17, two days after the cases completed quarantine, to January 26.

Bloomfield asked anyone who has visited the below locations during the time period, or was in Auckland with symptoms, to isolate and call Healthline to arrange a test and remain isolated until they receive their result.

Genome sequencing results expected today, and serology results expected tomorrow, would help establish a clearer picture.

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