There is a view in Scotland that Nicola’s handling of COVID has been very good. In UK terms that may be true although even on that measure Scotland is no longer measuring up as well as before. The real problem however justifying any five star rating comes when any comparison with other nations of similar population situated across the globe. There the evidence is Scotland is either at the bottom of the table with THREE TIMES the number of deaths or second bottom of the table when it comes to the number of infections.
Have a look for yourselves. This information comes from Worldometers on the 11th June 2021.
Now we know about the New Zealand performance. They probably did everything right, if not it was only a small matter they could have overlooked. They moved early, they closed their borders. Here is what New Zealand did. It worked, it was effectively over in 100 days.
How Did New Zealand Control COVID-19?
August 9, 2020Kevin Kunzmann
The island country of 5 million declared the pandemic over in approximately 100 days. A team of clinicians explain the decision-making and rationale which drove their successes.
New Zealand, a modern small island nation, has become an emblematic champion of proper prevention and response to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Leading into this weekend, the country of approximately 5 million has just 2 dozen active COVID-19 cases—a full month after having reported absolutely none, on the backbone of strict initial travel policies, science-based government action, and strategies responsive to testing limitations.
What else went into New Zealand’s pandemic response—and what could serve as guidance for other countries?
A new correspondence published in The New England Journal of Medicine from a team of New Zealand-based investigators at the University of Otago highlighted the public health successes of the country—measures which have brought New Zealand to the post-elimination phase of response approximately 100 days after its first case.
The trio of authors—Michael G. Baker, MB, ChB; Nick Wilson, MB, ChB, MPH; Andrew Anglemyer, PhD, MPH—wrote SARS-CoV-2 introduction to New Zealand was known to be imminent early on, due to a great rate of visiting tourists and students from Europe and China annually.
In fact, their disease models showed estimated wide pandemic spread, with capability to “overwhelm” the healthcare system and disproportionately affect Maori and Pacific persons.
“New Zealand began implementing its pandemic influenza plan in earnest in February, which included preparing hospitals for an influx of patients,” they wrote. “We also began instituting border-control policies to delay the pandemic’s arrival.”
The first New Zealand COVID-19 case was diagnosed February 26, around the same time that global agencies began reporting the SARS-CoV-2 infection was behaving more like a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) than an influenza—giving investigators hope for containment.
Because of lacking testing and contact-tracing capability in mid-March, the country’s leaders made a dramatic and critical switch in strategy: from mitigating the disease, to eliminating it.
A countrywide lockdown—Alert Level 4—was implemented on March 26.
“After 5 weeks, and with the number of new cases declining rapidly, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 3 for an additional 2 weeks, resulting in a total of 7 weeks of what was essentially a national stay-at-home order,” authors wrote.
It was in early May that the last identified COVID-19 case was observed in the community; with the patient placed in isolation the country had ended its community spread. On June 8, the New Zealand moved to Alert Level 1—in 103 days, they had declared the pandemic over in the country.
At the time of the paper’s publishing, New Zealand had just 1569 cases, 22 deaths, and a coronavirus-related mortality of 4 per 1 million—the lowest reported rate among 37 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Many parts of the domestic economy are now operating at pre-COVID levels,” authors wrote. “Planning is under way for cautious relaxing of some border-control policies that may permit quarantine-free travel from jurisdictions that have eliminated COVID-19 or that never had cases.”
However, the post-elimination stage of the pandemic is not certain for safety. The authors noted the only cases identified in the country are via international travelers kept in government-managed quarantine or isolation for 2 weeks post-arrival. Failures of border control or continued quarantine/isolation policies could result in new spread.
“New Zealand needs to plan to respond to resurgences with a range of control measures, including mass masking, which hasn’t been part of our response to date,” authors wrote.
But there are takeaways from the early and immediate successes of the New Zealand response. The authors credited the combination of immediate risk assessment driven by science, with the decisive actions of the government.
Additionally, the country’s border-control strategies, as well as both community-based and individual case-based control measures, were overall effective in eliminating the virus’ presence when mitigation was no longer feasible.
Lastly, the authors praised their leader’s message.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern provided empathic leadership and effectively communicated key messages to the public—framing combating the pandemic as the work of a unified “team of 5 million”—which resulted in high public confidence and adherence to a suite of relatively burdensome pandemic-control measures,” they wrote.
Take a look at the date of that article August 2020. Take a look at the reason they give for their outstanding success, strict border controls and restrictions on International travel alongside a policy based on elimination, not control, extensive testing and track and trace and above all an early lockdown.
In the UK we did everything wrong, the Cheltenham Festival was given the green light, lockdown came late, international and domestic travel from heavily infected England into Scotland was allowed to continue for months after many nations across the World had closed borders and restricted travel. It still is allowed.
Let me make it simple. The much vaunted “four nations” approach was and continues to be a disaster area. Throughout the crisis it delayed or stopped Scotland taking the measures that could have saved many thousands of lives.
Take a look at the table at the top of this article. Note that Scotland has THREE TIMES the number of deaths to even the second worst example. That is a HUGE STATISTICAL DIFFERENCE. Unless there is as yet undisclosed genetic explanation why Scots are more likely to die from COVID then the “four nations” strategy is responsible. Thousands of Scots lives lost for the lack of political courage.
Now I sure Nicola’s supporters will reject all this. Nicola can do no wrong for the cult. I can hear it now “she didn’t have the powers to close the border” she couldn’t act on her own she had to work with Westminster. I would argue she could have done much more to follow a more independent, effective strategy. It might have caused division and argument with Westminster. What’s wrong with that? If it saves Scottish lives it would have been worth it, particularly if it resulted in much better control measures in Scotland.
Oh and before it starts, this is not wisdom after the event. This blog called for border closure and restrictions on international travel. It also highlighted the folly in England of privatising track and trace and the scandals of the PPE purchasing fiasco. We did so from the beginning of the crisis.
Those that argue Nicola is a good operator of other people’s strategy, with good communication skills, have undoubtably a point, those who hope for an innovative strategy and determination to develop the best tactics for Scotland, and take the political risks to implement them, will be disappointed once again.
The need for a full investigation into Scotland’s handling of the COVID pandemic must also examine how our lack of important powers, and the unwillingness on the Scottish Government’s part to reveal these facts and demand those powers, is going to count against any positive marks for the SNP Government from many Independence supporters.
We could have done better and thousands are dead because we didn’t. If not, explain to me why Scotland’s statistical performance is such a disaster when compared to the other countries of similar populations?
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland.
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