Covid 19 Open letter to New Zealand influencers and leaders

Health Research Saves Lives!

Ka Whakarauoratia te Hunga e te Rangahau Hauora!

 Covid 19

Open letter to New Zealand influencers and leaders

2nd April 2020

New Zealanders for Health Research has assessed that if left unchecked Covid 19 could result in thousands of deaths and four times as many hospital admissions.

The magnitude of what we could be looking at is hinted at in New Zealand’s pre-existing generic pandemic plan which envisages a worst case scenario of 38,000 deaths, and the 1918 Spanish influenza which resulted in 9000 deaths in New Zealand when the population was a quarter of what it is today.  Some experts have suggested it may be more than this, others less. New Zealand’s mortality currently stands at about 36,000 deaths per year.

Our view is that the government’s response to minimise, if not eradicate, and flatten the rate of infection through a total national lockdown is justified and supported by the best available science.

New Zealanders for Health Research has decided to be part of the solution by imploring New Zealanders to put their trust in the science. If we don’t trust the science we won’t heed the warnings. Our health systems will become overwhelmed and tens of thousands of us will die.

We are also imploring all New Zealanders to exercise personal responsibility for being positive, for being leaders in our own physical and virtual communities, and for not undermining trust in the scientists and government leaders who are doing their best to navigate us through this crisis.

We’ve noticed that a number of people have used both traditional news and social media platforms to criticise or comment on how the New Zealand government has been responding to the Covid 19 crisis here in New Zealand.

Some of the comments have, frankly, been cheap political pot-shots from people who have no expertise in managing epidemics. Others have been well intended comments from people who do actually have relevant and potentially helpful knowledge and expertise.

If you’re in the first group the polite version of our plea is that you just stop.

If you’re in the second group we ask you to pause, think and question your motives. Will going public through the news or social media serve to unnecessarily undermine the public’s confidence in the science that the government is relying on in order to make its decisions? Is it the only way to get your message across? Be mindful that there’s a risk that your public comment will be picked up and sensationalised by a controversy hunger media, and will give people the self-justification to not stay home and practice social isolation – especially when the reality of the sacrifice really starts to hit home any time from now on.

If you think you’ve got something important to stay and that you’re unlikely to be heard, or you’re not being heard, consider the option of the special select committee examining the Government’s response to COVID-19, comprising a majority of opposition MP’s and chaired by opposition leader Simon Bridges. Professor Sir David Skeggs recently used this avenue to bring about action which will result in a significant increase in the numbers of people who will be tested.

Let’s be mindful that we will eventually get through this, and that there’ll then be an opportunity for full review in the light of what has actually happened. For now we should all be doing what we can to ensure that everybody gets behind the experts who are advising the government, and that a new version of normal emerges as quickly as possible with minimal hospital admissions and loss of life.

For further context, and our open letters to the New Zealand public and the news media, take a look at our latest newsletter, Health Research Saves Lives


2nd April 2020

Chris Higgins
Chief Executive | New Zealanders for Health Research
+64 27 292 8433 mobile |