Minister shares thoughts on health system

Former Otago student and now Cabinet minister Ayesha Verrall gave the 2021 University of Otago...
Former Otago student and now Cabinet minister Ayesha Verrall gave the 2021 University of Otago state of public health lecture yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
New Zealand needs to build and maintain a strong public health system to guard against threats such as Covid-19, Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall says.

Dr Verrall, in Dunedin yesterday to deliver the 2021 University of Otago state of public health lecture, said effective public health systems were vital as New Zealand shifted from trying to eliminate Covid-19 to minimising its effects and protecting people against the pandemic disease.

‘‘It is not mitigation or ‘learning to live with it’; it is perhaps closest to what other countries call tight suppression,’’ the Otago graduate and former student association leader said.

‘‘I’m not aware of other countries whose plans for the post-vaccine rollout make room for escalating public health restrictions, like ours does.

‘‘In fact others just call their plans ‘reopening plans’ or ‘freedom day’.

‘‘We’ve learnt from countries reopening and then being forced to re-implement restrictions, as is currently happening in Europe.

‘‘We know that might be necessary, but it would not happen as abruptly as previously.’’

The Government was still mobilising the public service, and by extension the community, around the public health goal of combating Covid-19, she said.

As well as announcing an extra $1billion funding for contact tracing this week, Dr Verrall said laboratory testing capacity was being expanded, as was the use of rapid antigen testing.

‘‘We continue to strengthen the public health response to Covid-19, and in doing so we are creating new models for future public health programmes.’’

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