Coronavirus latest news: Vast majority of people still ‘susceptible’ to Covid-19, Chief Scientific Adviser warns

Michael Baker, New Zealand government adviser and professor of public health at the University of Otago, Wellington, said:

“I think the key is good science and good leadership and acting decisively, that made all the difference in New Zealand.

“There’s three things – managing the borders, track and trace and an intense lockdown to extinguish all transmission. I’m shocked at the failure of the western world to assess the risk properly and act accordingly. 

“We were taking our lead from the UK and the US and the World Health Organisation – the advice was wrong, basically.

“In the nick of time we looked at the Asian models and we changed our approach to treat it more like SARs virus and going for elimination and less like influenza, which can’t be contained, and that was the difference. 

“We had the influenza plan which was to contain, but we turned that on its head.  Instead of gradually turning the controls as the pandemic gets worse, you throw everything at the pandemic at the beginning and you extinguish it.

“That’s what they did in mainland China and that’s what we’ve done in New Zealand – and it works. 

“I’m actually really surprised that the UK aren’t doing the same thing. You have all the elements in place with controlling borders and track and trace – you could eliminate this virus quite rapidly.

“A key measure would be a very intense lockdown for four to six weeks, maybe longer, and as you come out of that lockdown you basically identify your cases, test them, trace them and manage your borders. 

“[The quarantine only makes sense] if you’re pursuing elimination. Many of the people are coming to the UK now from countries with a lower rate.  It seems quite odd to do that now without the elimination goal.”