Friday 8 May 2020

A rather costly failure

Lockdown wasn't a failure; it was a symptom of a failure.

From where we were at when the government shut the country down, they had to do it.

But we didn't have to be in that position at all.

The Herald's been going through the Friday afternoon document dump and caught this one.
Contact-tracing capacity has repeatedly been referred to as a weak point in New Zealand's Covid-19 response and has been ramped up in recent weeks to a point where director general of health Ashley Bloomfield now refers to it as a "gold standard" system.

But on March 17, a document proactively released by the Health Ministry put the capacity at the time as "estimated at 10 active cases".

That morning the Covid-19 case count was 11 confirmed cases and two probable cases.
The paper said that the capacity needed to be improved within a month so the contacts of 50 cases a day could be traced.
On 17 March, we had 3 new cases. On 20 March, we had 11 new cases, then 13, then 14 on the 22nd. On the 23rd we went into partial lockdown with 36 new cases; full lockdown on the 25th.

Source: Newsroom

Contact tracing for 10 active cases - there's no way it could have kept up. Even 50 cases a day wasn't going to be enough.

Had the government scaled up contact tracing capabilities from January, would we have needed lockdown? Border closures along with contact tracing and quarantine of both cases and contacts of cases could have done the job.

This wasn't the failure mode I was expecting in January or March; I just hadn't considered that the system would fail to scale up contact tracing.

Pretty pricey mistake.

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