We congratulate the New Zealand government for the unprecedented steps taken to protect our population from the potentially catastrophic threat to public health posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed the capacity of government to enact sweeping changes which alter the day-to-day lives, economic fortunes and civic freedoms of all New Zealanders. As citizens, most of us have followed the new rules, buying into the premise that by doing so, we’re saving lives.

The medical community has been unanimous in supporting the need for action against the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Modelling provided to the Government by Prof Wilson from The University of Otago suggests that, without intervention, up to 3 million New Zealanders could be infected with Covid-19, 146,000 requiring hospital admission, 36,600 requiring ICU-level care, and 27,600 potential deaths.For context, in 2017 there were 33,599 deaths from all causes in New Zealand.

We should not simply aim to survive the pandemic, but to filter our perception of what is possible through this lens. We need to reflect carefully on the fact that in 2020 our political leaders united in bipartisan agreement to make dramatic changes to our way of life in the interests of public health. How should we ensure that this impetus for change is captured to improve the future health of the same citizens who withstood fear, uncertainty, job losses, restriction on their freedom of movement and separation from their loved ones for the greater good?

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Source: NZMJ - Beyond COVID-19: five actions which would improve the health of all New Zealanders