COMMENT:

Not every country becomes Italy. The unfolding story of Covid-19 is like a Pick-A-Path story, where the way the virus arrives, and responses to it, set each country on a slightly different track.

Data comparing New Zealand's incidence of cases to that of other countries appear to show we are at a critical point.

In one direction are the countries whose stories we aim to have retold here. Those are the countries that have acted to suppress transmission early, breaking up the spread of the virus. These include Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

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Simply, you can't surf a tsunami. The response is aimed at controlling the floodgates into a series of manageable waves.

Even then, it won't be an easy ride. There's no absolute control we can exert on the virus. At best, we can make choices that push it in a less harmful direction.

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If we don't, the other path is those countries where the floodgates no longer work. Italy is the world's most desperate example but there are others.

The world has sought insight from research done by scientists at Imperial College London. They have modelled how specific policy strategies - decisions by government - can help us choose the best way to operate the floodgates.

Those researchers reported that "intensive and socially disruptive interventions" will be needed to suppress transmission to low levels.

Those interventions included:

Home isolation of cases – whereby those with symptoms of the disease (cough and/or fever) remain at home for seven days following the onset of symptoms;
Home quarantine – whereby all household members of those with symptoms of the disease remain at home for 14 days following the onset of symptoms;
Social distancing – a broad policy that aims to reduce overall contacts that people make outside the household, school or workplace by three-quarters;
Social distancing of those over 70 years – as for social distancing but just for those over 70 years of age who are at highest risk of severe disease.

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Doing all these things all at once could have unintended consequences. There is concern closing schools would see children go into the care of grandparents, who are more vulnerable when it comes to lethal outcomes.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

The graph shows the number of cases on the left-hand side in a way that hasn't been seen in other coronavirus graphs, because they appear to flatten at the top. That's not the case - it's a trick of the eye. The virus is increasing in its spread across the world.

We have done it this way because a logarithmic scale - which shows the higher numbers on the same scale as those lower - allows us to show New Zealand's experience alongside all the other countries, even those with thousands of cases.