Otago academic fears ‘massive’ impact

A failure to prevent coronavirus establishing itself in New Zealand would be a "major failing of our public health services and infection control", a public health medicine specialist says.

Associate Prof Brian Cox, of the University of Otago, said New Zealand was an "island nation with advanced warning of the coronavirus epidemic".

In a letter to the Otago Daily Times, he said the Ministry of Health’s approach appeared to be that the virus would probably eventually arrive.

"This indicates a lack of confidence in an ability to prevent it arriving," Prof Cox said.

Universities New Zealand had indicated foreign students should be treated in the same way as returning New Zealand citizens and be required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

Prof Cox said it had been shown that self-isolation or self-quarantine slowed the spread of infection.

However, its success depended "very much" on several aspects, including the social support of the person's community in which the "isolation" is practised.

He did not see "strong evidence" that the appropriate
"attitude, or support" was present within New Zealand universities, he said in his letter.

Prof Cox said in an interview he would prefer to maintain a more conservative overall approach, maintaining restrictions for students arriving from China, except if they had undergone appropriate quarantine arrangements in a third country.

If Covid-19 established itself in New Zealand, the human and economic impact, including on tourism, would be "massive".

Prof Cox said the Spanish flu of 1918 was considered to have entered the country because a ship from Australia did not undergo quarantine, as all other ships did at the time, because it was carrying the prime minister.

In only two months, about 9000 New Zealanders had died.

"Is it, here we go again?" he asked.

Otago University has said it is now prepared to take in students from China.

New Zealand’s borders are closed to all foreign travellers coming from mainland China, but universities want an exemption for students.

The university has said that many of its students from China who arrived before the travel ban was put in force had now left 14 days of self-isolation and the university was "pleased with how this has been managed".

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And how is it that the foreign travellers coming from mainland China
but who are students differ to the parent cohort of foreign travellers
coming from mainland China, in the terms of susceptibility to being carriers of this virus. The attitude of Universities and business putting pressure for short-term economic gains over the safety of the citizens of this nation in regards to health, practicable capability of hospitals, costs to the medical systems and societal, is beyond belief that such comments come from esteemed leaders of universities and business.

I fully agree with you Jorge.

Ans which third country would you recommend for the quarantine period Professor? Korea? Iran? Italy? Don't forget that this particular virus has shown itself to be capable of world wide spread while we hapless humans struggle to contain its outbreak. This situation is real, so much so that Japan is considering scrapping the upcoming Olympics in order to protect their population. When are New Zealand academics going to face reality?

I fully agree with you Nightimejohn.

'New Zealand’s borders are closed to all foreign travellers coming from mainland China, but universities want an exemption for students.'

Yes, due to the fact no student from China could possibly carry the virus. Oh for pity's sake! Are you 'academics' sane? Every day, we are informed on the continuing spread of this virus, and yet, you say, 'students are exempt'. Your reputations are at stake, and sadly, you additionally put at risk the health and safety of your community and your wee nation! Unbelievable......what a mess, what a careless, ill considered, financially self serving......MESS

In the meantime, the university continues to have attendance requirements for some courses that have an impact on a student's final grade, and has still not put in place the facilities to have all lectures recorded and made available on line. Someone is asleep at the wheel... or maybe just cares more about money than the wellbeing of the students?

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