For those hardy few souls still clinging to a view that the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has been overstated, yesterday's tranche of mathematical modelling may be hard to explain away.
The Ministry of Health yesterday released the series of modelling - all looking at how a range of measures could help reduce the impact of Covid-19.
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The reports were completed by Wellington researchers from the University of Otago in collaboration with university colleagues from Germany. The models were revised based on feedback from peer reviewers, the Ministry of Health's chief science advisor and public health officials.
Modelling such as this is not pie-in-the-sky. It is based on real data of human movement from sources such as mobile phones and GPS. This is then overlaid on our population statistics and what we know about the rates of transmission.
Two years ago, the BBC commissioned a documentary programme which used a public experiment to simulate the outbreak of a flu pandemic. Contagion! The BBC Four Pandemic used a smartphone app that tracked participants' movements and contact with other people throughout the day.
Mathematicians at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, used the data to build and run a model of how a pandemic would spread. They found a worst-case scenario would infect more than 40 million people, with a death toll of up to 886,000.
The latest such modelling provides a similarly daunting potential.
Earlier this week, the Herald revealed the modelling by Otago University researchers found as many as14,000 people could die if Covid-19 spreads out of control in New Zealand – and potentially as many as 27,600 in another modelled scenario. Uncontrolled spread throughout the country could infect up to 64 per cent of the population, with 32,000 people needing hospital treatment.
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This is clearly what our Government is trying to avoid. Tens of thousands needing treatment would overwhelm the health system, infect hospital staff and leave the nation at the mercy of an out-of-control contagion. This has tragically been seen in Italy, Spain and is being predicted by some experts for parts of the United States.
New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said: "The modelling shows that without the actions currently being taken, the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 would exact a high price in New Zealand in terms of its impact on our health services, including our intensive care units, and deaths."
The impact and effectiveness of the Government measures – our lockdown, closed border, internal travel restrictions, work closures, excellent hygiene practices, greater physical distancing and testing, contact tracing and isolation – all play a critical role in reducing the impact on the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
The modelling need not be a dark portend, heavily daubed in despair. It is a warning, with a sheen of hope. Factored into our Ministry of Health's modelling, and in our favour, is New Zealand's island nation status, low population density and limited mass public transport. These may all help reduce the impact here.
Do the right thing and we will get through this.