Does the Zero Covid strategy work?

Does the Zero Covid strategy work?

Australia and New Zealand wanted to eradicate the virus. Then came the delta variable

Besides China and New Zealand, Australia was until recently one of the countries representing the “zero-Covid” strategy, which includes the complete elimination of the SARS-Covid 2 virus from its territory. In a letter published last Sunday on News.com.au, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a radical change in strategy: “When we knew nothing about this virus, it was important to focus on the number of cases because our hospital system would not. able to do so,” Morrison wrote. “A lot has changed since then. In addition to the number of new cases, we need to think about how we can restore our lives in a world with Covid. The number of new cases is important, but it is only part of the story.” Since the end of June, Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, has experienced a second strict lockdown.

Merdula Amin and Tim Swanston write in a long report for ABC that the shutdown is “dividing the city,” increasing the gap between those who can afford an armored city and those who can’t, “in the same pattern that Melbourne has already seen.” In Sydney, to check compliance with lockdown rules, even the army arrived, in a kind of “Wuhan model” that has been harshly criticized by the opposition and citizens. On Saturday, street protests erupted in several Australian cities and hundreds of protesters were arrested by police. The two most populous cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are also hardest hit by the infection, and 894 new infections were recorded across the country over the weekend. But while Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the protests in Melbourne were “shameful” and that “compliance with current rules is what has led to lower numbers in the past which will bring the numbers down in the future”, the premier said from New South Wales, the state where Its capital is Sydney, he said in an interview with the “7.30” program that the goal of “Covid Zero” “is completely unrealistic. I don’t know any country on this planet that respects these rules. It is simply not possible, we cannot pretend that we are special. We must do our best.” To reduce the number of people who end up in the hospital, and to accept that transition.”

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At the end of 2020, Australia and New Zealand were among the very rare cases successful in containing the epidemic. Border closures, aided by low population density (almost everywhere, except in urban areas), precautionary measures and effective communication have helped reduce Covid-19 cases to nearly zero for a long time. Their central government, Scott Morrison in Australia and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, were among the few to gain public prominence in an unprecedented global crisis. Then came the delta variable.

Yesterday, the Wellington government decided that Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, would remain closed until at least the end of August. For the rest of New Zealand, the lockdown will be extended until next Friday. Commander Jacinda Ardern announced at a press conference that Parliament was also suspended for a week, and that the arrival of a delta variant in the Territory (35 new cases only yesterday: a record; few compared to those we are used to), but important given the transmissibility of delta in a country of less than five Millions) was probably due to the “travel bubble”, the authorized “travel bubble” with Sydney. But despite it all, “total eradication of the virus remains our strategy,” Ardern told the direct question. After consulting with the panel of experts, the Prime Minister confirmed that everyone agreed on the goal of “Zero Covid”, at least “until circumstances change”, that is, when the population is fully vaccinated. Yesterday, the prime minister was responsible for demonstrating consistency in government decisions, but for a few days the minister for pandemic response, Chris Hepkins, opened up the possibility of changing the containment strategy: “The delta variable has changed things,” he said on a TV show a few days ago, “it’s as if That all of our current protections against the virus are starting to look less adequate. We need to be more open in the future.”

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China, the authoritarian country where it all began and which for months has been enhancing an unprecedented ability to completely eradicate the virus from its territory, yesterday and for the first time since June, that is, since the beginning of the spread of the delta variable, did not record any local infection. New cases of Covid have imposed new control measures including mass testing, travel restrictions and border closures that have slowly begun to reopen – including, a few days ago, the closing of the port of Ningbo, one of Ningbo’s largest. the world, for the covid case among port employees. But the former head of the Beijing Communicable Disease Control Center, Zeng Guang, told China’s NetEase Technology newspaper that this strategy seemed impossible to sustain in the long term: “China cannot isolate itself from the world while it is about to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.”

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