New Zealand
'You took the bull by the horns' - US epidemiologist wishes every country took on Covid-19 like NZ

An American epidemiologist, who in 2005 warned to be prepared for the next pandemic, says if he had a magic wand for Covid-19 there'd be a vaccine and he'd be fly fishing in New Zealand right now.

Dr Michael Osterholm says if he had a magic wand for the virus there'd be a vaccine and he'd be in New Zealand right now. Source: Breakfast

Dr Michael Osterholm, who is also the director for the centre for infections disease research at the University of Minnesota, praised New Zealand's efforts to fight off the coronavirus on TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning.

There are now more than 18.3 million Covid-19 cases worldwide, and almost 700,000 people have died of the illness, according to John Hopkins University.

"I think the really important message here is that we lacked creative imagination to imagine what a microrganism could do to us humans," Dr Osterholm said.

"We had SARS, we had influenza, we've had Ebola, we've had Zika, we've had many different diseases, but for much of the high income countries they never were a major challenge and so we just thought that they would occur somewhere else in the world and we would not be at their mercy.

"Now I think we understand just what a pandemic, a worldwide epidemic of a novel virus like this can do."

Dr Osterholm also said he'd warned in a document on January 20 that the coronavirus could cause a global pandemic, yet it took weeks before the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic or countries considered a response to it.

"Even when it was right in our backyard and it was emerging as a pandemic, we still didn't see it and I think we're still in that mode.

"I fear that here we are in August of 2020, seven months later, and we're still challenged by the fact that we don't understand that this is going to keep going until 50 to 70 per cent of the world's population is infected with this virus, and many many millions of cases and deaths, unless we basically take the efforts to try to slow down transmission and we're successful at getting a vaccine."

Dr Osterholm said he wished every country could be like New Zealand - get cases to a very low number then test and trace cases.

"When people ask me if I had a magic wand for this pandemic I say of course I want a vaccine, the second thing I want is to spend a year fly fishing in New Zealand.

"That's where I want to be right now because you all have done such a remarkable job. Being an island of course was easier, but none-the-less you took the bull by the horns.

"The rest of the world has to understand that we can do a lot about this if we were to do these lockdowns, drive the case numbers to a very very low level and then try to contain the pandemic, we could and we could do it until we can get to the vaccine.

"I would much rather have people get their immunity from a vaccine than I would from having to experience the infection and possibly dying."

Ms Osterholm also warned that Covid-19 wasn't the only threat.

"I think the most important message I can share is while we have a long way to get through this one yet, this isn't even the big one. The big one would be a flu pandemic that would take out a very large segment of our young adult population," he said.

"It should be a real warning why we need to be prepared for tomorrow as much as we be prepared for today."

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