After March 25, New Zealand went into self-isolation, the number of cases of infection with a new coronavirus infection in the country began to decline. Shortly before that, on March 19, local authorities closed their borders and stopped accepting foreign travelers from abroad.
As of April 3, 1160 cases of COVID-19 infection were confirmed in the country. Then, for two consecutive days, despite an increase in testing, the number of infected fell. On April 29, the New Zealand Ministry of Health recorded only two new cases, and on April 30 – one, which was the lowest growth rate of infected people since the start of the spread of coronavirus in the country.
A few days earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that New Zealand had a significant victory over the coronavirus, but noted that so far the country could not return to normal life, despite the relaxation of sanitary measures.
On June 8, the country lifted all restrictions because there were no active cases of Covid-19. Even though a few cases appeared afterward it did not change the general picture and the battle with the coronavirus should be regarded as successful.
How did the Kiwis manage to achieve such impressive results? In this article, we will talk about the reasons behind their success.
The fastest and toughest measures
Already in mid-March, when there were still very few patients, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern introduced tough measures: first – a two-week quarantine for all visitors, soon – a complete ban on entry, and finally, March 23 – complete self-isolation. At that time, there were 102 patients in the country. Rapid measures helped the country to hamper the spread of the virus.
At the same time businesses in the country also adopted strict quarantine measures. In other countries, people complained a lot about going outside during the lockdown and some businesses found it hard to refuse them. However, in New Zealand companies found a compromise and they moved services online. The obvious example of that is the gambling industry, which ideally found the goldilocks zone. Online casinos became extremely popular and even now, after the reopening of the country, people tend to choose these online slots and other games over going outside. They think it is better to do things from home as long as it is possible to tackle the further outbreak of the virus.
To date, over 127 thousand tests for the COVID have been produced in the country. For comparison, the United States made the most in the world: approximately 5.5 million. But this is in absolute numbers. And in relative terms, in terms of one hundred thousand people, it turns out that in New Zealand there are third more tests than in the States with their enormous resources.
If we compare the ratio “the number of tests – the number of detected infected”, then a small country is also in the lead. Those are only 1%!
Tracking social connections
The country is small, almost everyone knows each other in a literal sense. According to local authorities, they monitor each new patient and the possible ways of transmitting the infection. In almost all cases, doctors caught patients at an early stage, working out the social connections of former infected people, and so everyone fell into the sight of doctors before they managed to infect someone else.
A state of emergency was also declared in New Zealand, giving the authorities additional leverage to make tough decisions.
According to the scientific publication New Zealand Medical Journal, if it were not for the decisiveness of the government, and the speed of decision-making, the statistics of deaths in the country could be approximately 14400 cases.
The rating of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, is very high in the country. Her popularity among New Zealanders even has a name – Jacindamania.
In October 2017, at the age of 37, she became the youngest prime minister in the history of New Zealand. In 2018, she was the first prime minister to speak at a gay parade and advocate for the legalization of abortion and marijuana.
In March 2019, Ardern put on a hijab and stood side by side with the Muslim community of New Zealand, after in two Christchurch mosques during a Friday prayer, the radical killed more than 50 people and wounded 49.
She is a supporter of protectionist measures in the economy and is committed to a policy of social justice, which includes raising the minimum wage and economic support for the disadvantaged.
New Zealand has introduced a system of four levels of threat to the security and health of the nation. The first is restrictions at border crossings, tracking contacts of infected people, and the ban on mass events. The second is the tightening of border measures until the borders are completely closed and the requirement for maintaining social distance. The third is the restriction of travel around the country, the closure of some educational institutions, gathering places for people, and the cancellation of any public events.
The fourth, maximum level of threat which the country adopted means self-isolation of people at home, the closure of all educational institutions, enterprises, and organizations, except for those performing vital functions. It also had severe restrictions and travel bans. Citizens were encouraged to keep track of the people with whom they were communicating in order to quickly establish contacts in case of infection. Contact with those who are not part of the family circle was allowed only at a distance of two meters.
The columnist of The South China Morning Post, William Khan, although he acknowledges the merits of the Ardern government in combating the pandemic, nevertheless notes that the matter is not so much in Ardern as in the characteristics of the country itself.
New Zealand is literally on the edge of the Earth, a remote island state without land borders. Most residents live in private houses, which are generously remote from each other. The majority of the population uses private rather than public transport. The crowded subways of New York or Tokyo are unimaginable here.
In addition, he notes that New Zealand is a country with strong social cohesion and a high level of confidence in the government. According to him, Ardern is a wonderful person for her community, which gives rise to such leaders.
Of course, the complete victory of the Kiwis over the coronavirus is still far away, because considering the nature of Covid-19 it could spark a second wave and New Zealand could be forced to announce additional measures, but considering the previous experience, they will be ready to once again fight the virus.