Getting rid of the virus completely now seems an impossible project. But there are powerful arguments in its favour
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A year ago, when the World Health Organization published a report showing that China had shut down a highly contagious virus in a city of 11 million people, epidemiologist Michael Baker assumed that the international body would advise the rest of the world to follow China’s example. When to his amazement it didn’t, he decided that New Zealand (population 5 million) should go its own way, and started lobbying the government to pursue an elimination strategy.
He found some unexpected allies in New Zealand’s billionaires who, hearing what he was proposing, got on the phone to cabinet ministers too. On 23 March, New Zealand shut down and seven weeks later, its citizens emerged into a virus-free country. Baker, who estimates that the move saved about 8,000 lives, later asked the billionaires why they backed him: “They said, ‘We didn’t get filthy rich by not being good at assessing and managing risk.’ They were in it for the long haul.”