Why NZ stands a good chance of avoiding Sydney's fate

The NSW government has extended its current Covid-19 restrictions in Sydney for another week,...
The NSW government was slow to introduce restrictions. Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand’s swift Covid-19 response means the country is unlikely to suffer the same fate as New South Wales, a Melbourne-based Otago epidemiologist believes.

Australia, and particularly New South Wales, has been held up as a worst-case scenario for New Zealand after the first community case of the Delta strain of the virus was discovered here this week.

The outbreak in New South Wales continues to run rampant. The state recorded 681 new local cases yesterday, bringing its total to 9950 cases reported since mid-June.

Prof Tony Blakely, who still holds a position at the University of Otago while working for Melbourne University, said the faster places locked down when community transmission was discovered, the better.

"The consensus over here now, unless you’re New South Wales, is that if you have any outbreak you smack it as hard as you possibly can, as quickly as you can."

He believed New Zealand would more than likely be able to contain the outbreak, thanks to its quick response.

There were essentially two possible scenarios — one good, one bad.

The good scenario was what New Zealand was experiencing so far, with a hard and early lockdown, cases being tracked down quickly and, after about a week, more of the cases being among people who had been in lockdown for the entire duration of their infection.

The bad scenario was when cases with no links to existing infections continued to pop up in the community.

"That’s a canary in the mine," he said.

The situation facing New South Wales was a case of "political ideology over public health".

To avoid getting into a similar situation, New Zealand needed to act fast to contain the spread, which it had already done, he said.

It also needed to ensure contact tracing was working well, and have a high level of public compliance with lockdown rules.