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  • rmacculloch

Is Professor Michael Baker at Otago University rewriting NZ History between 2020 and 2022 in the Media?

Never one to be out the news for long, Professor Michael Baker has penned an article for the (deservedly) bankrupting Newshub. Apparently we could be on the verge of yet another pandemic. Seems we must live our lives in constant fear of imminent annihilation. But don't fear. NZ could always invite Jacinda Ardern back from her foreign exile, vote back in our former never-ending-Auckland-lockdown Covid Minister, Chris Hipkins, as PM, and the two of them could then bring back the likes of Professors Baker & Hendy to start back up where they left off last time. The thought of it.

Anyhow, Baker says the following in his Newshub article, "Some commentators [at a recent World Health Assembly meeting] had advocated to incorporate the experience of countries in the Asia-Pacific region that used an elimination strategy to delay the spread of Covid, giving time to roll out vaccines & other interventions. Such measures protected both high-income islands (Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, .. ) as well as low & middle-income nations in continental Asia (Vietnam, Thailand ..)". However, having read Baker's British Medical Journal (BMJ) article, Elimination could be the optimal response strategy for covid-19 closely, as well as listened to his pronouncements, my understanding was that he never advocated elimination to "delay the spread of Covid" in order simply to buy time. His BMJ article (below) states repeatedly his aims were "Achieving & sustaining disease elimination". That is the heading of an entire section of his article, in which he argues that the "NZ & Australian experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic offer lessons for achieving & sustaining elimination". The Key Message of his paper is elimination is "achievable and sustainable".

Today in Newshub, Baker reverses himself by saying only that NZ "used an elimination strategy to delay the spread of Covid". This Blog argued at the time it was important to delay Covid's spread until scientists knew what we were dealing with (that was obvious to all of us - you didn't need a medical degree to work it out). However the pursuit of a long-term "sustainable" policy of keeping the virus out of NZ forever was never achievable. Instead the pursuit of the sustainability objective by Baker, Arden, and Hipkins, even way into 2022, imposed massive economic costs that NZ is still paying for now, in terms of high borrowing, inflation & a cost-of-living crisis. Our health system is presently starved of funds because of our stagnant economy, which was the direct cause of the aim of "sustainable" elimination.

To now try pretending the Ardern-Hipkins Covid health experts, like Baker, only ever viewed their policies as temporary attempts to buy time is, in my view, a re-writing of history.



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