The Government has undertaken preparatory work to combat new and more dangerous variants of COVID-19, COVID-19 Response Minister, Ayesha Verrall announced today.
“This is about being ready to adapt our response, especially knowing that new variants will likely continue to appear,” the Minister said.
“We have undertaken a piece of work to look at possible scenarios for the evolution of the pandemic. This is to ensure there is more certainty for New Zealanders for how we would respond to future variants.”
The Ministry of Health (the Ministry) has developed Aotearoa New Zealand’s Strategic Framework for COVID-19 Variants of Concern (the Strategic Framework), which builds on the plans and enabling systems of the last two years.
It identifies the contextual factors, range of indicators, and baseline and response measures required to ensure that New Zealand is prepared to respond to the emergence of a new variant of concern.
“I want to be clear, lockdowns and other strict measures will be a last resort. Our starting position will be more target measures aimed to protect the most vulnerable while also avoiding wider societal disruption,” said Dr Verrall.
“We already have a much stronger base of protection measures in place such as access to vaccinations and anti-viral drugs, our PCR testing capacity, contact tracing system and an integrated surveillance system. These reduce our need to use more stringent measures.
“This is part of our All-of-Government response to COVID-19, with agencies assessing their preparedness to deploy measures and undertake ongoing activity to ensure they can be activated rapidly in the future.”
She said preparedness planning doesn’t commit the nation to following a set path should a different variant of COVID-19 emerge, but was about maintaining the capabilities to respond to a range of possible scenarios.
“Based on public health advice Ministers will continue to make decisions about how to respond in the event of new variants. This process is well established and has served our country well,” Dr Verrall said.
More information and the Ministry of Health variants of concern framework summary can be found here.