If our New Zealand policy really is to stamp out COVID-19 and not just to suppress it, then the Achilles heel of the Level 3 [easing the lockdown restrictions] policy will be any failure to hunt down every single case of community transmission. This community transmission was the key reason we had to go to Level 4 lockdown in the first place.
The statistic that stares us in the face right now is the that we currently have two percent of cases of confirmed community transmission (approximately 26 people) combined with the 11 percent of current cases (>140 cases) whose origin is unknown. Many if not most of these cases of ‘unknown’ origin are likely to be community transmission.
The fact this ‘unknown’ number is so high tells us very clearly that the current contact-tracing program is overwhelmed. It also means that the process of working through the contact-tracing for each unknown case is taking many days, and that is not good enough for Level 3.
The article goes on to discuss the implications of New Zealand’s “eliminate” strategy and what that will require from the contact tracing infrastructure, and whether technology such as Singapore’s contact tracing smartphone app will be able to assist or not.
Very few countries are in a position to fully eliminate the virus, and so New Zealand is soon going to be entering uncharted waters. Can they really keep COVID-19 out of the country until a vaccine or other treatment is available? What kind of restrictions on daily life will be required in order to accomplish this goal? And for a country that’s quite reliant on international travel can they really keep the border closed indefinitely?