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Christchurch staff play key role in public meeting on COVID-19

Thursday 12 March 2020 7:42pm

The expert panel, led by Professor David Murdoch (standing) and featuring the University Dr Ben Hudson (sitting, left).

University of Otago, Christchurch staff played a key role in one of the country’s first meetings to inform the public about COVID-19 and the response to it.

The event was organised by Te Papa Hauora/Christchurch Health Precinct, which is a collection of key organisations involved in health research, education and innovation in the city. The University of Otago is a founding partner.

Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, and infectious disease specialist Professor David Murdoch led a panel of experts who discussed the emerging global threat, then answered questions from an audience of more than 150 Cantabrians. Dr Ben Hudson, head of the Christchurch campus’ Department of General Practice, was also a panellist.

Professor Murdoch said the audience wanted clear scientific information on the virus and how it might affect their families/whānau. They were told individuals 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.

"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."

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

Professor Murdoch and the other experts encouraged the audience to try not to panic about the virus.

“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.”

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.

During the event, 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.”

Take a look at the videos from the event:

Introduction and COVID-19 presentation
Panellists introductions
Questions from audience #1
Questions from the audience #2
Questions from the audience #3
Questions from the audience #4