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'Not lockdowns' - Controversial epidemiologist calls for end to ‘irrational’ Covid-19 elimination strategy

An epidemiologist is calling for an end to what he says are fear-driven and “irrational” lockdowns in New Zealand’s bid to eliminate Covid-19.

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Dr Simon Thornley says there needs to be debate about New Zealand’s elimination strategy. Source: Q+A

Dr Simon Thornley, an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland, is part of a group called Plan B. The group argues the economic damage from more lockdowns will cause long term harm to public health, education and the economy.

He told TVNZ1’s Q+A there is a lack of public debate and diversity of opinion about New Zealand’s elimination response to Covid-19.

Dr Thornley also alleges the New Zealand Government “has been captured by scientists who have extreme views”.

“The fear and panic that has driven the response of many scientists, politicians, policy makers and the media, we [Plan B] believe is unwarranted and it’s even irrational.

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The University of Otago epidemiologist said it will be a “triumph” if New Zealand can eliminate Covid-19 again after just 3 weeks at Level 3. Source: Breakfast

Dr Thornley says the response to Covid-19 should instead be “measured”.

“Not lockdowns, we’ve sacrificed humanity, our society and our economy for the wrong virus."

Dr Thornley said the country needed to learn to live with Covid-19.

“We [Plan B] believe now that our current policy is many, many more times problematic than the actual virus itself,” he said.

He explained a measured response as good infection controls in hospitals, the elderly being protected and keeping in place social distancing.

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On TVNZ1's Breakfast the microbiologist implored New Zealanders to not lose hope. Source: Breakfast

New Zealand has ranked second in the latest Forbes report on the safest countries during the pandemic.

But Dr Thornley believes the country isn't doing that well.

“The science now shows if you compare countries that did lock down to those who didn’t, the countries that did lock down didn’t do especially better in terms of overall Covid cases and deaths."

Dr Thornley also said "there are very few countries that are chasing an elimination strategy for this virus".

But host Jack Tame challenged that idea, saying that was because many countries didn’t have a choice.