- A day after international media outlets like CNN and The Daily Mail ran with headlines saying New Zealand had “eliminated” the coronavirus, the government has had to backtrack, citing technical jargon for the confusion.
- The confusion came after New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield answered a question about whether it had been eliminated. He said: “we’ve achieved [elimination] through alert level 4.”
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added that New Zealand had “currently” eliminated the virus.
- Bloomfield told reporters on Tuesday: “I can just clarify we haven’t eliminated it and we haven’t eradicated it.” While Ardern added: “Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping Covid out until there’s a vaccine.”
- As of April 29, New Zealand had 1,472 cases with 19 deaths according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
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New Zealand has had to backtrack claims it had eliminated the coronavirus, blaming technical jargon for international confusion.
On Tuesday, New Zealand eased a month-long, nationwide lockdown. While locals lined up for takeaways or visited relatives, international media outlets like CNN and The Daily Mail ran headlines that said New Zealand had “eliminated” the coronavirus.
But the coronavirus had only been “eliminated” under the country’s most strick lockdown guidelines. The confusion came after Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield – New Zealand’s answer to Dr. Anthony Fauci – said: “we’ve achieved [elimination] through alert level 4.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added that the coronavirus was “currently” eliminated.
The following day Bloomfield told reporters who asked if he was concerned about giving the world a false impression, as well as potentially causing locals to ease up on social distancing: “I can just clarify we haven’t eliminated it and we haven’t eradicated it.”
Ardern added that it was a situation arising out of confusion over epidemiologist terminology. “Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping COVID out until there’s a vaccine,” she said, according to RNZ, a publicly-owned radio station.
Newshub, a television news outlet, reported Bloomfield then specified what “elimination” meant in this scenario as he cleared “muddy waters.”
He said it was “a small number of cases, a knowledge of where those cases are coming from and an ability to identify cases early, stamp them out, and maintain strict border restrictions so we’re not importing new cases. That’s what underpins the elimination goal.”
However, Professor Nick Wilson, from Otago University’s Department of Public Health, who previously spoke to Insider about the possibility of New Zealand’s elimination strategy failing, said no scientific definition existed for it in New Zealand, and a definition was necessary.
Wilson provided a possible interpretation as: “no active cases at all in the country for at least a period of four weeks of extensive testing and other surveillance systems in place,” but he added that it needed to be revised by a panel of experts from New Zealand and Australia.
At the end of Tuesday’s conference, Bloomfield said: “Well I hope my explanation today has helped to clarify – if there was mud yesterday, the water is clearer today – and I hope you all have a good understanding of that and New Zealanders do.”