by Senji Torrey
Through the rapid response by its government, as of Jun. 7, New Zealand has no COVID-19 cases. Though this nation is relatively small, this is no small feat.
Almost immediately after the coronavirus began to spread, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern implemented a Phase 3 level shutdown, closing the nation’s borders to all foreigners and allowing only New Zealand citizens to come and go. These travelling citizens would undergo a 14-day quarantine before returning to “normal life,” which had changed drastically in response to the pandemic. In addition, New Zealand citizens could no longer leave even their neighborhoods for anything other than necessary goods. Stores that were not essential—including restaurant services like takeout—shut down completely and people could not visit beaches under any circumstances.
Just 48 hours after the enactment of the Phase 3 level shutdown, Ardern began a Phase 4 level shutdown to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. During this time, if anyone contracted the virus, the individual, along with others who came in close contact with them, subjected themselves to strict self-isolation measures in order to prevent asymptomatic people passing on the virus unknowingly. This tactic, dubbed the “go hard, go early” strategy by CNBC, helped New Zealand control and eradicate COVID-19 cases on a national scale.
In total, out of a population of five million people, New Zealand has only had 1,154 cases of the coronavirus, and over 98 percent of the infected individuals fully recovered. Of the almost 40,000 citizens tested for COVID-19 in the span of 17 days leading up to Jun. 7, none tested positive of the virus. The last documented New Zealander with the coronavirus recovered in mid-May
Despite the attention that they have gotten, New Zealand was a bit late to the party. Eight other countries, including neighboring Fiji and Papua New Guinea, beat the virus before New Zealand; however, the majority of the countries that achieved this feat are island nations. This isolation factor made it easier to prevent outside contamination, giving them an upper hand compared to continental nations. The other territories―the Holy See, Montenegro, and Eritrea―all have very small populations, meaning fewer people who had to be accounted for, and in turn, fewer people who could get the virus.
Despite all of the measures and advantages New Zealand had going for them, Ardern admitted that after being notified that her nation was free of the coronavirus, she “did a little dance.” Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to do the same soon.
(Sources: The Guardian, TIME, CNBC)