15 Mar 2020

Pandemic will take months to contain - diseases expert

2:04 pm on 15 March 2020

An infectious disease expert believes it will be months yet before the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.

Patient samples at a safety workbench for coronavirus testing.

Photo: AFP

Dr Siouxsie Wiles, from Auckland University, is applauding the government's strict new border controls, saying they are exactly what's needed to limit the spread of the virus in New Zealand and the Pacific.

Wiles said the whole world is taking a hit economically but this is the right decision because if the country doesn't act now, the outbreak will hit the economy even harder.

She said people should prepare for these measures being in place for some time.

"I cannot see countries like the US and UK getting Covid-19 under control in 16 days - it's just not going to happen.

"So we are in this for the long-haul."

Dr Siouxsie Wiles

Dr Siouxsie Wiles. Photo: supplied

Dr Wiles said some other countries are just not doing enough, fast enough, to contain the virus.

Professor Michael Baker, a professor of public health at Otago University, said the increase in measures to reduce the risk of Covid-19 entering New Zealand signals a real commitment to putting public health at the top of the government's priorities.

Professor Michael Baker, he University of Otago, Wellington.

Professor Michael Baker. Photo: Supplied

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He said the border restrictions announced yesterday greatly strengthen the 'keep it out' component of the country's pandemic plan.

Baker said now what is needed is strengthening of the 'stamp it out' part of the plan, which includes ramping up services to test and diagnose cases so they can be isolated.

A New Zealand virologist said he would like to see immediate testing of a pancreatic drug to treat Covid-19 patients.

Dr Gary McLean is a researcher with Imperial College London and a professor in molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University.

A German in-vitro study has found that the drug camostat mesilate, used in Japan to treat pancreatic inflammation, could also block Covid-19 from entering lung cells.

Dr McLean said the pancreatic drug has been in people, so it's proven to be safe, and he would like to see further clinical trials undertaken as quickly as possible.

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