While the rest of the world is battling the novel coronavirus, New Zealand’s case count was at zero as of June 8, 2020. Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s Director-General of Health, said she was smiling as she saw the country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, dancing around her living room and celebrating this milestone.
However, the picture is very different for many other countries around the globe. The United States, Russia and Brazil are topping the list of worst-hit nations, with many others such as The United Kingdom, Italy and India doing pretty badly as well. We are still experiencing the very first wave of COVID-19, and people are predicting the second wave coming soon.
What did New Zealand do differently? How did they manage to the pandemic, which brought the world to its knees in a matter of months?
Case Study: the Land of Hobbits and Their Fearless Leader
You may like or dislike Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest country leader, but she did one thing fantastically: reacted quickly to an apparent threat. Her actions resulted in a positive outcome. Here is the list of what she did, as well as the timeline:
1. February 3, 2020: imposed restrictions on travellers from mainland China (with China imposing a quarantine on Wuhan on January 23).
2. February 28, 2020: Knew Zeeland reported their first case of coronavirus, brought by a traveller from Iran. The government restricted travel from Iran and tightened the restrictions on Chinese travellers and towards those from were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
3. March 23, 2020: raised the threat level to 3, which meant “risk of decease not being contained.” This resulted in school closure, mass gatherings cancellation and patient care moving to telemedicine.
4. March 25, 2020: raised the threat level to 4, effectively instructing all the citizens to stay home, and almost entirely banning the travel.
5. April 9, 2020: imposed a compulsory quarantine for travellers returning home (source: Business Insider).
According to the Prime Minister and the official data, New Zealanders were particularly responsible following the lockdown rules. Google’s data shows the activities levels reduced considerably, with a 57% decline in the work category, and a 90% reduction in recreation and retail.
New Zealand’s Health Ministry is reporting a large number of tests conducted early on, which may have also contributed to the nation’s success. Starting from January 22, 2020, to June 11, 2020, a total of 301,882 coronavirus tests were completed:
The website also features a breakdown of COVID-19 tests by date.
The Results are Spectacular
Jacinda Ardern won the hearts of people worldwide when she declared the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny essential workers back in April. Now, she is officially the first world leader to fight off the worst pandemic in recent history. New Zealand’s official health website indicates the COVID-19 threat as level 1. The country lifted most of its restrictions and currently considering a “travel bubble” with Australia.
It’s fair to say, we will remember New Zealand’s success. Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to learn from them.