“The science behind the Coronavirus Covid-19 and what it means to you and your family”

Media release – 10 March 2020

Stay calm and play your part to contain COVID-19, NZ’s first public meeting on the virus told.

New Zealanders should try not to panic about COVID-19 and instead focus on ways they can limit its spread, Te Papa Hauora experts advised the country’s first coronavirus public meeting.

More than 150 people got the chance to ask questions of a panel of Canterbury-based experts at a Te Papa Hauora /Christchurch Health Precinct public meeting on Monday 9th March.

Te Papa Hauora brings together key Christchurch organisations involved in health research, education and innovation. The Universities of Canterbury and Otago, Ara, and the Canterbury DHB are founding partners.

International infectious disease specialist Professor David Murdoch led the Te Papa Hauora panel discussion.  He and the other experts urged people to try not to panic.

“There is no need to panic; there is reason for concern and to take it seriously, but we’ll get through it, we’ll manage it, Professor Murdoch said.

There was a genuine spirit of cooperation apparent within the global scientific community at present, and the overall outlook for New Zealand residents seems hopeful, he said.

The scientific information coming through seems to show fatality rates are expected to resolve at around 1%, and the virus did not seem to be transmitted through the air, but rather through droplets from the nose and mouth, Professor Murdoch said.

The audience at the Te Papa Hauora event wanted clear scientific information on the virus and how it might affect their families / whanau, Professor Murdoch said. People could make a difference by following simple but proven methods of limiting disease spread. These were practising good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and following instructions from the Government and health authorities if asked to do things such as self-isolating or staying away from gatherings, he said.

“The collective result of individuals each playing their part could make a big difference to the spread of COVID-19.”

Professor Murdoch said it was important the public understood institutions with expertise relevant to COVID-19 here and overseas were working together, and had been for a long time, to prepare for such a scenario.

“The level of preparedness demonstrated by New Zealand’s government including border control, as well as that of the health professions, has been robust and proactive, with planning well advanced for situations ranging from pandemic through to merely a small increase in New Zealand cases,’’ Professor Murdoch said.

“Coordination of effort is really important in ensuring that community trust in the health system remains high. If you lose that trust when you’re wanting to get a community response, you’re in a bad way. So that was a major motivation for the Te Papa Hauora evening – getting people to have a little trust that there are well-connected people around the world, all aligning their activities with the best practice.”