• Dr. Young Lee

0 new cases for 2 days in a row! Preparing for Level 2.5

Wow! We have finally achieved the nirvana of all lock downs - Sustained 0 new cases. Now remember - this means that we didn't find any new cases of coronavirus, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. However, there has been a good amount of testing and contacts of all cases have been tested as well.  Let's review what's probably going to happen over the next few weeks.

Likely to go into Level 2.5 next Wednesday

The government will deliver their decision next Monday, 11 May 2020 on whether we will ease lock down restrictions. PM Jacinda Ardern has said that businesses will be given 2 days to prepare, so the earliest that Level 2 will occur will be Wednesday, 13 May 2020.  How likely are we to go down to level 2? Very likely - given that they are now sustained days of 0 to low case numbers, the government needs to be seen to be giving the public a bone. The optics are quite important to ensure the majority of New Zealanders will continue to comply with physical distancing rules. Our brains are constantly looking for progress, and we if we don't get a sense of that we will start to rebel or despair. However - just as in Level 3, there is likely to be a very stringent Level 2 arrangement. This means that it's going to be more like a  Level 2.5, rather than the pre-lock down Level 2 that we all experienced in March. That means community gathering places are still likely to be closed - such as pools, libraries, cinemas etc. Eating places might still be required to maintain physical distancing in their stores - which could mean that some will chose to remain take out only as they can't afford the costs of only having 25-50% occupancy. There is likely to be a limit on how many people are allowing in gatherings or parties - such as 10 or 20.  But we will be getting more of our freedoms back. I have a bicycle that has lost one of it's screws to hold a pedal in place. It seriously needs to be fixed. Yay for level 2.5!

What will change in General Practice at Level 2?

We will go back to routine screening again - so routine blood tests, well checks, surgeries etc should be able to go ahead. There will still be screening questions at front desk for respiratory symptoms - to screen for possible COVID19 like symptoms.  Speaking of which - I would like to thank everyone for their understanding over the last 5-6 weeks. We realize that we are intruding on your privacy with the screening questions at the front desk, and we thank you for your patience. Unfortunately, we all lose a bit of individual privacy to protective the collective health.

Can we go back to Level 3 or 4 later?

Yes. If there is a spike in cases and they are unlinked - this becomes a nightmare situation rapidly as we will have no idea where it came from. Preserving the freedoms that we will have in the future, requires continuous vigilance for the next 2-3 years until we can get a good vaccine out. 

So  just a quick look at the graph above. Sorry - the total number one is not entirely accurate because of constant swap between probably and confirmed cases, but it does show the trends reasonably well. 

As you can see - the tail of new cases has dropped nicely. What we now need is a good surveillance program to catch any new outbreaks quickly. Korea has managed this very well. In fact - they never went into lock down. They do however publish all the whereabouts of infected people on a website so that anyone can see if they have been to those places. New Zealand is unlikely to adopt such a strategy due to privacy concerns. Incidentally - a lot of affairs were uncovered in Korea as a by product of this strategy.

So have a great week everyone - and let's look forward to the announcement next week! :)

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