Official inquiry into Government’s handling of Covid-19

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The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals, says it would be valuable to conduct an official inquiry into New Zealand’s response to the covid pandemic.

An inquiry would help shape the necessary changes to its laws, public health infrastructure and institutions, the latest Lancet says.

The journal compared New Zealand’s covid response to Taiwan. Despite Taiwan’s closeness to China they had a more successful covid mitigation response, without the need for repetitive lockdowns and had fewer deaths than New Zealand.

“Health minister Chris Hipkins has advised it is not the time to conduct an inquiry and that New Zealand should focus on the current elimination strategy,” New Zealand epidemiologist Sir Ray Avery says.

“Taiwan’s more successful covid response is primarily based on establishment of a dedicated national public health agency to manage prevention and control of pandemics and other public health threats.

sir ray avery
Sir Ray Avery.

“Before covid, Taiwan had a multifaceted Centre for Disease Control organisation in place and populated by experts in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

“New Zealand has no validated long term covid prevention strategies in place, and no overarching agency to manage immediate and ongoing pandemic risks. We should have an urgent inquiry.”

Sir Avery says the government’s current strategy is reactive rather than proactive and often driven by advice from expert epidemiologists rather than international infectious disease experts. 

“There has been no covid prevention strategy put forward by the Ministry of Health (MoH),” he says. “Information obtained under and Official Information Act request showed none of the DHBs are providing N95 respirator fit testing to the majority of their frontline medical staff as required by Worksafe NZ to prevent them from contracting covid.

“The Waikato DHB has advised the MoH they do not conduct fit testing for nurses for N95 or standard surgical masks. The MoH says mandatory testing is the responsibility of the individual DHBs not the ministry which reinforces the need for an overarching NZ centre for disease control.”

Sir Avery says that on a good day, our hospitals have the second highest rates of hospital acquired infections rates in the developed world and are woefully unprepared for an influx of covid patients.

“This is an opportunity to learn from other countries which have performed better and adopted proven covid mitigation strategies and technologies to protect our team of five million,” he says.

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