Adopting a “zero-COVID” strategy like New Zealand’s should be considered by governments around the world as the most effective method of fighting corona virus, say scientists.
In a review published in the journal Lancet, an international team of experts outlined the main lessons learned from the experiences of other countries in dealing with the disease.
The authors write: “The argument is strong for countries adopting the so-called zero-COVID strategy, which aims to eliminate domestic transmission.
“The New Zealand experience shows that this strategy is challenging but is an important aspiration, not least because the growing burden of the old so-called COVID becomes apparent in people who survive COVID-19 but continue to have symptoms for longer than expected.”
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However, other experts argue that the jury is still not using the New Zealand approach and much of its success will depend on the rapid development and deployment of an effective vaccine.
“If a working vaccine becomes available sooner rather than later, and New Zealanders can be immunized quickly and massively, it will look like good policy,” he said. Dr. Simon Clarke, professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, who was not involved in the review.
“However, if a vaccine is not available soon enough, New Zealand will be increasingly vulnerable to infection from abroad, and will have to maintain costly global isolation to protect its public.”
In Lancet paper, the scientists also outline four key factors they think should be considered in any lockout exit strategy:
- Effective testing, tracing, isolation and support systems;
- Clear plans with transparent decision-making processes from the government;
- Strong system to monitor infection situation before loosening restrictions;
- Prolonged control measures to reduce transmission of the coronavirus – including face masks and social distancing.
The researchers also pointed out that the methods and successes of contact tracing and isolation varied significantly across countries, with many Asian countries rapidly mass testing, tracing and isolating all cases from the start of the outbreak, while this process was severely delayed in the UK. and in most of Europe.
“As several countries around the world are starting to see a resurgence of cases and tightening restrictions again, countries should learn the lessons we have provided for the future,” said the co-authors. Prof. Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Can I catch the corona virus twice?
There is some news in the media about people apparently being reinfected by corona virus SARS-CoV-2. These people were reportedly infected and hospitalized, and then discharged after they tested negative for the virus. Then, days or weeks later, they test positive again.
But this does not mean that they have contracted the coronavirus twice.
First, during recovery from infection, a person may have a very small amount of the virus in their body – low enough that our tests were unable to detect it accurately. In this case, the person can be sent home assuming they are virus free. However, their bodies may still be fighting the virus, and the virus (and symptoms) can reappear, yielding a positive test. In this case, it will only be one prolonged infection, not a re-infection.
Second, we know that in most people, SARS-CoV-2 produces a strong response from the immune system. With the related SARS-CoV coronavirus, this response creates a viral immune memory that prevents reinfection for one to two years, and this is likely the case with new viruses as well. SARS-CoV-2 also has a fairly low mutation rate, which means (hopefully) it won’t change enough so that our immune systems no longer remember it (this is what the flu virus does and why we need new injections every year.).
If all of this turns out to be true, then it will indicate that reinfection is unlikely and that the case in the news reflects the sensitivity of the test. However, SARS-CoV-2 is so new that we won’t know for sure until we know how protective our immune response is to the virus, and how long it lasts.
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