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Epidemiologist notes end of covid restrictions

The government lifted its last covid-19 restrictions from midnight yesterday, including mandatory self-isolation and the requirement to wear masks in hospitals.

But Wairarapa epidemiologist Roger Morris said it is doubtful whether these final restrictions had been making a substantial difference in any case.

“In my observation, most people have dropped measures such as mask-wearing already, even in medical facilities, over the past three months, and pressure to keep it up had largely disappeared,” Morris said,

“That is because the fear has declined for most people.”

Morris said viruses like covid-19 typically increase in transmissibility and reduce in severity over the long term, although there can be exceptions along the way.

“At some point, it is necessary to accept that a pandemic virus is permanent,” he said.

Morris said the main factor controlling the disease now is the vaccine.

“We were very lucky to get an excellent vaccine very early in the course of the pandemic, which greatly reduces the risk of severe disease and reduces transmission, although not to the same extent as it reduces the risk of severe disease.”

Morris said there are a lot of scientific papers now being published evaluating the pandemic response of different countries, and that New Zealand has faired relatively well in global terms.

“Officially, six to seven million people died globally, but using the far more accurate excess mortality calculation, the true figure was around 22 million.

“Countries such as New Zealand, which followed the strict approach, achieved far better results in health and economic terms than countries such as the United States of America, which adopted far less effective methods,” Morris said.

“In contrast, China had an extremely severe transmission control strategy but a weak vaccination policy.

“When they suddenly eased controls, there was a large surge of cases, which were not admitted.”

“China still claims fewer than 100,000 cases, but it is clear that this is a significant under-estimate.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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