New Zealand is making some bold decisions to live with the virus.

Around ten days ago, I reported that Ireland and Norway were returning to everyday life – New Zealand has announced that they are no longer pursuing a plan for the complete eradication of COVID-19.

New Zealand has had a strict approach to combatting the spread of coronavirus with a zero-tolerance policy in their lockdowns and contact tracing.

Right Strategy? Countries have seen trends of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths drop to near zero and surprised with the rapidity and intensity of the Delta variant attacking its citizens.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand acknowledged that they are currently in the low simmer mode and that returning to normal will be difficult. The goal of zero cases is not possible. The Delta variant proved that heavy restrictions do not work.

Initially, New Zealand had no vaccines, and the government measures for control were implemented because there was no deterrent. With vaccine availability over the past months, half its citizens have been fully vaccinated, and approximately 80% have received the first dose of vaccine.

Current Statistics From the last week of April 2020 through the last week of August 2021, the number of new COVID-19 cases remained below ten/day. When the rest of the world suffered two significant surges, New Zealand controlled the spread of the virus.

The last ten days of August and the first couple of weeks of September saw the Delta variant spike the new COVID-19 cases from less than ten/day to over 60/day and then recede and stabilize at around twenty cases/day.

Twenty-seven citizens have died with or because of COVID-19 since the pandemic started. However, only two COVID-19 deaths have been reported within the past year – one with the current Delta variant surge.

Extensive searches could not find any historical data on coronavirus hospitalizations, although one article proudly claimed that the last COVID-19 patient had been released from the hospital in mid-2020. There are some recent statistics on those hospitalized with COVID-19 but no history to reveal trends.

Phases of Reopening Contact that had been severely restricted is being lifted this week. There is a limit of ten people for family gatherings – outdoors! Early childhood education is scheduled to reopen. Many retail facilities and business offices will remain shut now and will be lifted in phases.

The Singapore Model Over three months ago, Singapore defined a vision to return to normal from the pandemic restrictions. They had planned to scrap lockdowns and mass contact tracing. Large gatherings would be allowed, as would the return to quarantine-free travel. There was talk about not collecting data on new cases.

This is in opposite thought of their Asia-Pacific neighbors, especially Hong Kong, which has successfully stopped the spread of the pandemic virus. The Singapore model is similar to the zero-transmission model adopted by New Zealand.

Reality has come into focus as the realization that the pandemic is not a short-term disease with mutations and variants on the horizon. Yet, Singapore wants to get on with their lives and live as normally as possible with COVID-19 in the midst daily.

The Singapore vaccine program has produced 80% of its population with full protection (two doses) and 83% with at least one dose. Additionally, testing, especially testing associated with large social events and travel rather than contact tracing. Singapore expects that personal protection efforts and changing the way new COVID-19 cases are handled and treated.

What has happened in three months? Last week saw a continued increase in new cases – from under 30 cases/day in September 2020 and staying at or below ten cases/day for most of the year and began rising in late July 2021 to around 150 cases/day before the recent Delta surge of nearly 2,500 cases/day.

However, the daily deaths are a different story. Until late September 2021, the daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 averaged less than one a day since the pandemic’s beginning. Daily deaths so far in October climbed to five/day. The deaths fromCOVID-19 usually lag ten days to two weeks.

Eighty-two percent of the population is vaccinated. The hospitals have not been overwhelmed with new COVID-19 patients since most of them (98%) are asymptomatic or mild cases. The hospital ICUs are handling 0.2% of the infected, and half that number have died from the virus. Thirty-five percent of those hospitalized were fully vaccinated.

Neighboring countries have not been as fortunate as Singapore. For example, Malaysia has had nearly 800 COVID-19 deaths per million residents since the pandemic began compared to 16 deaths/million for Singapore.

The virus is not going away soon. Singapore has increased testing to react faster to those infected, minimize any new outbreaks, and maintain the integrity of the healthcare system. The Delta variant got a head start before the last measure could be fully incorporated throughout Singapore.

The transition to living with coronavirus must start some time – why not now? New restrictions on group sizes, social gatherings, dining, etc., are being addressed as needed.


New cases, demand on healthcare systems, and deaths will increase with the changes New Zealand has instituted. Will its citizens become alarmed as Singapore’s when this happens. The new cases of COVID-19 are rising in Singapore and will probably rise another 50-100% before it recedes. Will the government set sail in a new direction or hold steady through the current surge?

The decision to live with COVID-19 must be taken at some point. When it appeared that herd immunity might be achievable, the plan was to vaccinate 60-80% and let the virus die out on its own. However, we are seeing that vaccines are not the panacea we hope for, but are effective at reducing the demand on healthcare systems and mortality. Vaccines do not stop the spread of the virus after six to eight months according to the latest studies.

Vaccinations along with the protection measures that work must be kept with increased testing, contact tracing, and pre-emptive treatment. Cautious reopening is the key to any return to normal lives.

I commend the actions taken by several countries to recognize that a virus that is 99% survivable for most, especially when caught and treated early. I believe it is possible to live a safe and healthy life with a virus that still scares many.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


2 Responses

  1. Red – Shared your most recent posting with Mariska in New Zeeland. Glad to see the rest of the world is taking a more realistic approach.

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