New Zealand has officially hit 100 days without recording a single case of community transmission of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been heaped in praise from all around the globe, as her quick decision in putting the country under a strict lockdown in March resulted in the last case of community transmission on May 1.
This came just 63 days after New Zealand reported its first infection on February 28.
Three measures have been pointed to as the reason for Ardern’s success in curbing the number of infections: border controls, an early lockdown, and case-based controls.
The country has a population of around 5 million people, yet New Zealand only recorded 1,219 infections and 22 deaths during the pandemic. These are dramatically lower than many other countries that are still grappling with thousands of deaths.
Any international arrivals in New Zealand were forced to self-isolate from mid-March, in what has been described as the ‘toughest border restrictions of any country in the world,’ despite only having six coronavirus cases at the time.
Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago, told the The Sydney Morning Herald: ‘It was good science and great political leadership that made the difference. If you look around the globe at countries that have done well, it’s usually that combination.’
Then, on March 20, Ardern closed the country’s borders for the first time ever, and they remain shut even now, except to New Zealand natives, permanent residents and their family members. Five days later, the prime minister declared a state of national emergency and all non-essential businesses were forced to close and people were urged to stay at home for four weeks.
Speaking during the lockdown, Ardern said:
Modelling provided to my office by economist Rodney Jones on the eve of the lockdown suggested New Zealand was on a similar trajectory to potentially Italy and Spain and that our 205 cases on the 25th of March could have grown to over 10,000 by now without the actions we have taken together.
And new modelling due to be released later today by Te Punaha Matatini suggests that the current controls at Alert Level 4 have already had a significant impact on new case numbers and we are on track to meet their most optimistic scenario.
We are turning a corner, and your commitment means our plan is working.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring island Australia, 20,272 coronavirus cases were recorded as of Friday, August 7, with a death toll of 278 so far. The country is currently in the midst of a second wave of the virus after there was allegedly breaches within its hotel quarantine programme.
Ardern has described Victoria’s second wave as ‘a cautionary tale’ to learn from.
‘It appears their current outbreak is linked to a managed isolation facility similar to the ones we run here,’ she said, MailOnline reports. ‘That goes to show how quickly the virus can spread and it can move from being under control to out of control, and that even the best plans still carry risk in a pandemic.’
New Zealand has continued to report coronavirus cases in returning travellers and, as of August 7, there were 23 active cases. Returning travellers are quarantined at the New Zealand border.
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