How to prepare for the next pandemic
University of Canterbury mathematical modeller Professor Michael Plank looks at what the Government’s upcoming Budget announcement may mean for future pandemic response.
While this is welcome news, it was ironic and incredibly disappointing to see the government announce a public sector pay freeze in the same week. Workers affected by this include nurses, other frontline healthcare workers, and teachers. In other words, some of the people who gave the most to get New Zealand through the worst of the crisis. And those who continue to risk their own health to keep us all safe by protecting the border.
The pandemic exposed the fact that our health system has been woefully underfunded for a long time. Barely able to cope with a bad winter flu season, it has virtually no capacity to deal with a crisis of any kind. Better pay for frontline healthcare workers is a fundamental step towards a more resilient system.
Our healthcare system has been failing Māori for a long time and these entrenched inequities are only exacerbated during a large-scale crisis such as a pandemic. As with so many other health conditions, Māori experienced worse outcomes from Covid-19 at an earlier age than Pākehā. Overhauling the health system to deliver equitable outcomes for Māori must be an urgent priority.
Although New Zealand has done well at stamping Covid-19 out so far, the response is far from over. One of the biggest challenges will be ensuring the vaccine rollout reaches as many people as possible. This sounds easy but there are some bumps in the road ahead. Effectively combating the rising tide of organised misinformation around vaccines will be crucial. So too will the more prosaic aspects of the rollout – making sure it is easy and convenient for people to get vaccinated, especially in remote areas.