New Zealand is a small island nation. It is hailed as a model for effective response and prevention of the novel coronavirus. Right now, New Zealand, which has a population of approximately 5 million, has a total of 1,963 active cases. Only 25 deaths have occurred with 1,857 making a recovery from the terrible virus.
Proactive Initial Wave
The response to COVID-19 by New Zealand was, in fact so overwhelming that it reached the post-elimination phase of their response strategy in almost 100 days after the detection of their first case. However, they were also very well prepared to meet the oncoming pandemic head-on. New Zealand has plenty of students from China studying there in addition to it being a popular tourist destination with the Chinese. Due to this, the introduction of the disease was imminent.
The first thing they had done was input all currently available data at the time into a disease model. The disease model showed wide pandemic spread with the potential to overrun the healthcare systems in their country. As such, they began preparing in Early February even before the first infection was detected in their country. These preparations included preparing hospitals for a sudden influx of patients and also new border control strategies to hold back the virus from arriving in New Zealand for as long as could be possible.
Despite all efforts, New Zealand detected the first case of COVID-19 on February 26. New Zealand continued to keep up the existing policies in place rather than upgrade or remove them. As mentioned before they focused these efforts mainly on mitigating the virus. However, the leaders decided to make a substantial change to their strategy. These new changes were aimed at eliminating COVID-19 from the country rather than to mitigate its effects.
Seven Week Lockdown
On March 26’th New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to go into a lockdown. The countrywide lockdown came after they raised the alert level to 4. 5 weeks into New Zealand’s lockdown the new cases per day began to fall. After the five weeks of initial lockdown, the government decided to extend the lockdown for another two weeks at alert level downgraded to level 3. On June the alert level was lowered to level 1. The COVID mortality rate in New Zealand is 4 per 1 million. This is the lowest reported rate amongst 27 nations in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and development.
Moreover, it is the lowest rate when you compare to much of the rest of the world as well. For example, the Maldives, which is an island nation with a significantly lower population then new Zealand has more than ten times the cases as new Zealand. The death toll is also higher. Similarly, just last month New Zealand fans packed wellington stadium to witness a sporting event. No masks or social distancing was required.
Another yet crucial factor for this unparalleled success in the fight against COVID is that New Zealand has a substantial and impressive post-elimination stage in their epidemic fight plan. As such, the country did not open up with all restrictions removed; however, it was a gradual process. The population was also more compliant with government recommendations such as wearing masks. Research that was conducted by Massey University who interviewed more than 1,000 people after New Zealand’s lockdown, led the researchers to the conclusion that public compliance with basic cleanliness policies and trust in the government was at almost a 100%. This is very impressive because we have seen some citizens of other countries breaching lockdown regulations and even protesting the measures imposed on them.
Currently, as the whole world is once again experiencing a surge of COVID cases, New Zealand is still performing astonishingly well. The total infections are at 1968 with 1868 recovered and 25 deaths.