Coronavirus Covid-19: New Zealand should focus more on health system preparedness over travel bans

20 February 2020

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc)
Media Release, 20 February 2020
For immediate release

NZIER has today released an Insight on New Zealand’s pandemic response to Covid-19. Using evidence from health and economic literature, health economists Sarah Hogan and Todd Krieble find that New Zealand should do more to prepare for pandemics and assist the Pacific Islands. New Zealand should not rely on travel bans which are likely to be ineffective.

“Coronavirus Covid-19, and other infectious diseases, don’t care what passport you use. The evidence shows that travel restrictions can, at best, achieve a delay in the virus arriving here. Travel restrictions cause unnecessary economic cost to New Zealanders, as we are likely to see in our tourism sector”.

NZIER recommends that New Zealand follow advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), which is not to impose travel bans. There needs to be a strong evidence-based case to do otherwise.

“Delaying the virus’ arrival in New Zealand now could mean that it arrives in New Zealand during our flu season. This would put extra strain on our health sector’s limited resources at the worst possible time of year” said Sarah Hogan.

New Zealand should instead focus on building a stronger pandemic response capability.

“New Zealand is not as prepared for a pandemic as we could be, and we are behind the UK, Australia and Canada on the Global Health Security Index. Covid-19 provides us with an opportunity to review and improve our pandemic response plan so that we are better prepared for future pandemics”.

Being ready extends to the New Zealand realm countries of Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau as well as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga as families move back and forth.

Read the NZIER Insight here.

For further information please contact:
Sarah Hogan, Principal Economist
sarah.hogan@nzier.org.nz, 021 145 6159

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