NZ needs to prepare for worst - report

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand is still dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic but needs to be preparing now for the next outbreak of a global disease, a group of academics say.

Prof David Murdoch
Prof David Murdoch
"The history of pandemics reminds us that we have failed to learn from past experiences," the editorial in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal, released today, said.

"We need to reverse this trend and start preparing for the future, informed by the lessons and impacts from Covid-19 while fresh in our minds."

The authors of the editorial, who included University of Otago academics David Murdoch, Sue Crengle and Patricia Priest, said the main lesson from Covid-19 should be that New Zealand needed to act now with national preparedness planning and not wait until after Covid-19 was contained or until the next global health crisis arose.

"New Zealand has done relatively well so far in its response to Covid-19, but this does not guarantee continued success as this pandemic plays out, or similar success in future pandemics.

"We cannot be complacent and must do better in preparing for future infectious diseases risks."

The New Zealand Government regularly holds wide-ranging disaster preparedness exercises, and did hold a year-long pandemic planning exercise to coincide with the centenary of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic.

The editorial said Covid-19 had shown the necessity of closer co-operation across all sectors to manage a crisis such as a pandemic, and that New Zealand did not have a good record at developing partnerships across disciplines.

The authors also warned that the next global pandemic could be a very different type of outbreak than the coronavirus which has already killed 3.6 million people worldwide.

"Understandably, we are currently focused on the fast pandemics that are the consequence of new, easily transmitted pathogens entering a susceptible human population.

"However, the impending pandemic of antimicrobial resistance will likely be slower to gain momentum but more progressive, sustained and harder to control."

Science and research needed to be integral to the health system, be based upon the idea that scientists should work together than against each other, and be a collaborative effort from many different fields the editorial said.

"If we leave it to competitive research funding and the individual relationships of different groups and individuals, we will not have learned from this pandemic, and will not be doing the best for Aotearoa New Zealand."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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