Michael Baker is a public health physician and Professor of Public Health in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington. He is the Director of the Health Environment and Infection Research Unit (HEIRU) and a Co-Director of the Housing and Health Research Programme. Michael has long-standing research interests in infectious diseases, environmental health, and housing and health. He is an active media commentator and member of the Science Media Centre Advisory Board.
Michael is a member of the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group (TAG). He has taken a leading role in formulating New Zealand’s elimination strategy against this pandemic. Michael has established a programme of research on the epidemiology, prevention and control of Covid-19 in New Zealand and internationally (Co-Search) with support from the NZ Health Research Council. He has formed an international network of university researchers focused on strategies for containment and elimination of Covid-19 as a public health threat.
Tuesday, 17 November 10.25am
New Zealand implemented an elimination strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This response was a major departure from the mitigation and suppression approaches usually applied to pandemic diseases. Elimination has become a common goal of pandemic responses in the Asia-Pacific region, unlike Europe and North America. Achieving elimination of community SARS-CoV-2 transmission offers public health, social, and economic advantages compared with continuing virus circulation where societies are unable to open-up safely until some level of immunity is achieved through vaccination or natural infection. This response is particularly suited to protecting vulnerable populations, including older people, those with long-term conditions, and Maori and Pacific peoples.
NZ has achieved the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate in the OECD and control measures have also lowered total mortality by about 5%. This success is a tribute to the continuing work of the aged care sector, health workers, and the multiple Government agencies involved in delivering what has been the largest public health response in New Zealand’s history.