AUCKLAND (Sachin Sharma): Having done so well to contain the COVID - 19 pandemic, it's time for New Zealand to start thinking about opening the borders as an extended delay in doing so will cause huge damage to the country's economy and social wellbeing.
This was stated by former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, former prime minister Helen Clark and ex-Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe.
The trio expressed these views while they co-author a conversation paper released today titled, 'Re-engaging New Zealand with the World', with expert input from epidemiologist Sir David Skegg and digital contact tracing expert Dr Andrew Chen. The trio said it's now time to change the goals.
The trio mentioned Sir David Skegg's advice to the government Epidemic Committee that many epidemiologists accept "very low level" transmission within the definition of elimination.
They said it is unrealistic to imagine that there'll never be cases of COVID - 19 in New Zealand. As the vaccine is still a long way away,we can't sit at this situation forever without thinking about the future.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said New Zealand's borders will not be closed indefinitely, and government is working on way to lift some restrictions and that will only happen when it is safe, she said.
The current quarantine and testing processes are "ineffective" and could "come to haunt" the country if they are not replaced, they warn. And they should be replaced with more efficient and aggressive processes, which can cope with higher volumes of people coming in.
They said that border protection measures can never be foolproof and Human failures' will happen.
But more aggressive detection and quarantine at the borders face that possibility head-on and reduce the risks, which means quarantine time could be reduced for those coming from low-risk countries.
"Countries like Taiwan, who have effectively controlled the spread of the virus are now cautiously reopening borders for some travel. We need to prepare.
"We have gained global recognition and significant international advantage through the success of our stringent lockdown and early elimination of the virus, but that is now under threat.
The trio said despite September general elections, as government's every move will be under scrutiny, it was still important for the government to transparently begin the process of exploring reopening the borders.