16 Feb Coping with Covid-19
For almost the past two years, our lives have been turned upside down all due to one event – the Covid-19 pandemic. The world has had to be put on a halt with countries going into lockdown in order to combat the spread of this virus. The first case of Covid was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. As of September 2021, there were 219 million confirmed cases with 4.55 million deaths worldwide. New Zealand has had a total of over 4,000 cases with 28 deaths. Needless to say, the impact of Covid on our world has been devastating.
We are insanely lucky in New Zealand to have a government that has dealt with this pandemic efficiently. Auckland has been in five separate lockdowns in the past two years, which I know has been tough on everyone. I know that it’s certainly been tough on me. However, that suffering and restriction of freedom have been worth it as we continue to combat Covid successfully. It’s better to temporarily give up our freedoms in order to save the lives of our fellow citizens, rather than continue like life is normal as new daily cases rise exponentially. I’m looking at you, Australia and America.
The current lockdown that New Zealand is in right now is due to the Delta outbreak. As the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus has mutated, several variants of the virus have emerged. The Delta variant has become the dominant variant of the virus worldwide, due to being much more contagious and dangerous. People infected with delta are more likely to develop more serious Covid symptoms. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the Delta variant is very transmissible, as every unvaccinated patient is able “to infect 5 or 6 other people”. Being vaccinated will help you be protected from all variants of Covid, including the Delta variant.
In New Zealand, the vaccine that is being used for Covid is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. This vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. mRNA is a naturally occurring molecule that has instructions for producing proteins. In Pfizer vaccines, the mRNA has instructions for the “spike protein” which is found on the surface of the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus (the virus that causes Covid-19). The spike protein in itself, without the rest of the virus, will not cause Covid and is not infectious. Once the mRNA enters your body, the ribosome in your cells will follow the mRNA’s instructions to build the spike protein. This will activate your body’s immune system, which could be difficult on your body, causing side effects like fatigue and muscle pain. This does not mean that you are sick, in fact, it means that the vaccine is doing its job. Your body will release antibodies that will fight the spike proteins. This means that if you do get infected by the real virus, the antibodies will know how to fight the virus, protecting you from getting Covid and getting very sick. If you do happen to contract Covid, the chances of you being contagious and infecting others is also very low. The Pfizer vaccine needs two doses to render full protection. At the time of writing this article, over two-thirds of Kiwis have gotten one dose of the vaccine and one-half have been fully vaccinated. Being vaccinated is essential for us to get out of this lockdown, for all restrictions to be relaxed and return to our normal lives.
Our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stated that having 90% of the eligible population fully vaccinated is “what will make life feel more normal” and has described vaccines as “the golden ticket”. She has also said that Covid vaccination certificates will be implemented. This means that in the summer, to enter certain public spaces or large scale events like music festivals, you will need to show proof that you are vaccinated and these vaccination certificates will be required. The certificates will be launched in November and will be available in digital form on phones and paper copies.
The New Zealand Government has been promoting vaccinations strongly as part of our nation’s Covid response. From the first Covid case arriving at our borders up to very recently, we’ve embarked on the elimination strategy. The elimination strategy meant that there was zero tolerance for new cases, with the country closing all borders and having strict isolation and quarantine units in an effort to stamp out the virus. This method worked, with New Zealand having long stretches of zero new daily cases which allowed life to go on as normal.
However, Jacinda Ardern has recently said that we are moving away from the elimination strategy and are easing lockdown restrictions. The government is instead planning to live with the virus and control its spread by having high vaccination rates. The main reason for this shift is due to just how transmissible the delta variant just really is. Delta moves quicker than other variants of Covid, which means that it’s really hard for contact tracers to work faster than the speed that Delta spreads from one person to another. This makes the elimination strategy difficult to implement. This new strategy that the government is implementing is more of a suppression strategy. We’re not back to normality yet, but we’re instead trying to find a way to live with the virus without deaths or cases with severe illnesses. The main way to do this is by getting vaccinated and following public health and safety measures, like social distancing and wearing masks.
If there’s only one thing you remember from this article, hopefully it’s the importance of getting vaccinated in order to resume our daily lives as we did before this catastrophic event. Covid has taken away our lives and our chance to experience the freedom of being teenagers. If each and every one of us plays our part, we can take control of our lives again.
Lin Swe Hlaing – Year 12