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A Tale of Two Countries

March 15, 2021 2:37 PM

A Tale of Two Countries

New Zealand

In mid February 3 people from the same family in Auckland developed Covid, probably from transmission at the airport. A small community outbreak followed. (One hopes it remains small; there has been no recent community transmission).

Just days later the government of New Zealand set up the independent continuous review group having appreciated advice from previous groups earlier in the pandemic. The 5 person group will meet twice each month through till June 2022. The NZ Government says, "Independent reviews of our contact tracing systems and the implementation of our testing strategy provided useful advice and recommendations. Implementation of those recommendations has left us better protected and better prepared."

United Kingdom

As in New Zealand, opposition parties here called for independent reviews, but the calls have fallen on deaf ears. "Not the right time to do it" replies our Government. Why - because they might learn something useful - or critical?

All is not lost. Two Parliamentary Committees have just reported. Their conclusions are not flattering.

The Public Accounts Committee 10 March 2021 https://committees.parliament.uk/work/906/covid19-test-track-and-trace-part-1/

Headings of their conclusions and recommendations:

  1. NHST&T (NHS Track & Trace) publishes a lot of performance data but these do not demonstrate how effective test and trace is at reducing transmission of COVID-19.
  2. NHST&T still struggles to consistently match supply and demand for its test and trace services, resulting in either sub-standard performance or surplus capacity.
  3. Although it had to act quickly to scale up the service, NHST&T is still overly reliant on expensive contractors and temporary staff.
  4. The introduction of rapid-results testing was supposed to be a 'gamechanger' but confusion persists over why and how it should be used in different community settings.
  5. NHST&T claims to be a learning organisation, but since last May many important stakeholders have at times felt ignored by it.
  6. As we hope for longer-term and sustained reductions in infection levels, the Department needs to think about the future shape of national test and trace services, and how it will secure lasting benefits from its spending.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee 15 March committeehttps://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpubadm/803/80302.htm

A sample of quotes from the report:

Coronavirus forced the Government to ask the public to accept unprecedented restrictions on their freedoms. Therefore, the Government has a moral imperative to clearly justify each of their decisions. This also means making available the data that is driving the response…………

Throughout our inquiry, we have struggled to establish who the Government sees as accountable for the data underpinning decisions on covid-19…………..

Based on publicly available information, we had expected to hold the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to account (Michael Gove), but he declined to appear before the Committee on 4 February 2021 sending, instead, junior Ministers who were unable to answer our questions on many areas……

There was a reluctance from Whitehall to share granular data with local leaders. The cumulative consequence of this slow and centrally-led response was that local leaders were unable to respond quickly enough as the pandemic took hold.

* * *

But taking a lead from New Zealand would not be in line with British exceptionalism, would it?

Covid death rate per million UK 1800 New Zealand 5

Covid current active cases UK 600,000 New Zealand 93 ( mainly imported)