Strictly cracking down on all virus outbreaks through very strict but short-term measures has been the strategy in Australia, New Zealand and several Asian countries.
As of Monday a week ago, for example, two million people in Auckland, New Zealand, have been asked to stay home because the authorities had confirmed three cases of covid-19.
In Europe, tens of thousands of covid-19 cases are confirmed every single day, but few cities are shut down completely.
Few deaths – open societies
Now experts are speaking out to follow the example of, among others, New Zealand.
– Countries that have followed the “zero-covid strategy” now have a huge advantage, says epidemiologist Antoine Flahault at the University of Geneva.
These countries have very few deaths per capita, and they have therefore also been able to reopen society: bars, restaurants, cultural life, sports, schools and universities operate normally, says Flahault.
The inhabitants must also not keep a social distance from each other, he adds.
Both Taiwan and China also had growth in gross domestic product in 2020.
Flahault believes that this approach is far preferable to the damage reduction strategy that most Western countries have advocated. In western countries, people try to live life between the waves of virus infection.
Professor Martin McKee at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine believes that “living with the virus” is not exactly a good solution.
– It is not acceptable with a situation where you try to keep the virus under control, but fail. We are constantly seeing an increase in the virus with subsequent shutdowns. No one can plan for vacations, weddings or new investments.
And perhaps the worst – when the virus is allowed to circulate, it is more likely to mutate, as it has done with the more contagious British and South African varieties.
“We do not think we should get a third, fourth, fifth, twentieth wave,” McKee said. He believes that zero vision is a better strategy.
So why has Europe not followed this strategy?
Archie Clements at Curtin University in Australia believes that there are a number of factors that make a zero-infection strategy more difficult in Europe.
Among other things, there are very many who travel to Europe and who travel between the European countries. The population density is also very high.
Australia and New Zealand also have natural benefits that cannot be copied.
– We are isolated and do not border on other countries. We are also not a big destination on an international scale. We can also maintain our economies without so many trips across the border, says Clements.
But while Australia and New Zealand have unique advantages, Flahault believes there is no reason not to try a similar approach in Europe.
Countries such as China and Taiwan both have very high population densities. They have still managed to knock down covid-19, he points out.
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