16 Jul 2020

Economist warns risk of another Covid-19 outbreak rising

11:38 am on 16 July 2020

An economist modelling Covid-19 cases says people should enjoy the freedoms of alert level 1 because they may not last.

A health worker puts a swab into a tube after collecting a sample for Covid-19 coronavirus testing in Gombak on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on April 22, 2020.

A health worker puts a swab into a tube after collecting a sample for Covid-19. Photo: Mohd Rasfan / AFP

Wigram Capital Advisors economist Rodney Jones has been monitoring the pandemic since January and advised the government to go into lockdown.

"Our model was saying the US would get to 50,000 to 60,000 [cases per day], today we're at 65,000 to 70,000 and we'll carry on that path unless there is some decisive public health intervention and there's no sign of that happening."

He said the public had to accept the disease could spread again.

While the disease raged in India, Latin America and US, he said Europe had contained it but risks of relapse remained.

New Zealand had been doing well because the government was looking forward and ensured the 14-day quarantine period, he said.

The country has 27 active cases all in managed isolation. Jones said that as long as we have active cases, we are at risk.

"We have to accept that we can have a new outbreak. We can hope that it doesn't happen."

The prime minister yesterday committed to doing everything possible to avoid putting the entire country back into lockdown, describing that as a "last resort".

She said, if community cases emerged, the government would impose restrictions locally or regionally in the first instance, rather than nationwide.

"Our priority will be to control any cases with the least intrusive measures, and over the smallest area we can," she said.

"We only need to look to Victoria, New South Wales, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea to see examples of other places that like us had the virus under control at a point in time only to see it emerge again."

Jones said Victoria and Hong Kong were too slow in responding to the second wave of outbreaks.

"With this virus, we have to live with uncertainty and risks that we're not accustomed to. This is new for all of us."

Jones said that without active efforts to contain the virus, it won't stop spreading.

Ardern yesterday warned against complacency and the government is pushing for Kiwis to continue using the official tracing app.

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