New Zealand has become one of the first countries which successfully eliminated Covid-19, while different parts of the world are still suffering from this pandemic. On Sunday, New Zealand successfully marked 100 days since it eliminated Coronavirus (COVID-19). Life has returned to normalcy for many in the country of 5 million as they have started attended rugby games in packed stadiums. People can be seen heading out to bars and restaurants without the fear of getting infected.
New Zealand eliminated the deadly virus by imposing strict lockdown in late March when there were only 100 people who tested positive for Covid-19, which stopped the spread. According to media reports, there have been no new Covid-19 cases for the past three months. The only recent cases have been of returning travellers who have been quarantined at the border.
“Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone, however, as we all know, we can’t afford to be complacent,” Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health told The Independent. “We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand.”
According to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand has had 1,504 cases of COVID-19 and only 22 deaths.
This article will focus on how New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government won the nationwide battle against coronavirus.
Jacinda Ardern who became the youngest female Prime Minister of New Zealand in 2017 and the youngest leader in 150 years has recently announced that the country has no active cases of Covid-19. Isn’t that shocking? Yes, it is..
She even said she “did a little dance” when she received the news New Zealand’s last coronavirus patient had recovered. Rest of the country also celebrated this good news. This is the reason it is important for us to understand how New Zealand was able to eliminate Covid-19 from its roots with these 5 facts?
Fact no. 1 : Elimination Strategy
To understand this first of all, we need to understand what elimination means
Elimination is known as the absence of a disease at a national or regional level. On the other hand, eradication refers to its global extinction like the case with smallpox.
The country of five million people decided to follow this elimination strategy strictly to beat coronavirus, rather than just aiming to contain the virus.
Elimination requires a high-performing surveillance system and it suggests that active cases are not really the ones we need to worry and care about. By definition, if all those cases get identified and placed in isolation, are very unlikely to infect others. The real target of elimination is to stop the unseen cases silently spreading in the community which enables community transmission. This is why they used mathematical modelling to tell us that elimination is likely.
So, elimination did not mean eradicating the coronavirus permanently from the country, but eliminating “chains of transmission”. To achieve this, the government felt necessary to introduce strict lockdown.
On March 15, when New Zealand had only 100 confirmed cases and no deaths, New Zealand closed its borders to foreign travelers and made people coming home quarantine for 14 days.
Fact No. 2: Strict Lockdown with Effective Communication
“We must go hard and we must go early,” was Prime Minister Ardern’s powerful message.
New Zealand’s first case was reported on 28 February and less than a month later when the country reported 102 confirmed cases, Jacinda Ardern raised the country’s alert to Level 3 lockdown and two days later, the country progressed to Level 4 lockdown. This meant closing its borders to outside travelers and with that, issuing stay-at-home orders in an attempt to “eliminate” the virus all together.
However, what made the difference was, shortly before the strict lockdown, the government sent emergency text messages to residents. “This is a message for all of New Zealand. We are depending on you,” it read. “Where you stay tonight is where you must stay from now on … it is likely [the strictest] measures will stay in place for a number of weeks.”
The government’s message was crystal clear and this is the reason why it successfully managed to live up to people’s expectations.
A resident from the capital city Wellington told CNBC, “We were told it would take two weeks for signs that the lockdown was having an impact on the numbers. This made the purpose of the lockdown easy to understand and accept.”
Fact No. 3: Testing is the KEY
We have already witnessed that large scale coronavirus testing has been a major concern for the whole world as it is the key to success. New Zealand focussed on Testing and tracing which showed remarkable results.
New Zealand has worked hard to ramp up testing and on May 20, it released the NZ Covid Tracer app.
As per reports, New Zealand health officials tested 2950 people on Thursday (i.e.11 June 2020), bringing the total number of tests done to 304,832. Coincidentally, the number of tests still left in stock is almost the same – 304,483.
Fact No. 4: Being an island nation with low population density was an advantage
The fact it is an island nation has greatly helped New Zealand achieve lasting protection against COVID-19. It has much better control over who can enter than all other countries with large land borders. At the same time, having relatively low population density, meaning the virus cannot travel as easily through the population, as fewer people get in contact with each other on a daily basis. PM Jacinda Ardern took all this into account and invested high levels of scientific expert input into the policymaking process to set an example for world leaders.
Yes, it is true that being isolated and having small population proved to be an advantage for the country but what we talked about in this article are the key lessons that we can learn from Jacinda Ardern led New Zealand’s government and its people.
And the last point is Citizens’ Role
We really need to understand why New Zealand’s lockdown was effective and successful despite being tough.
Lockdown can never be successful if it is imposed by the government. Its real impact can only be seen and observed if the specified rules and guidelines are being followed by the citizens. Then only, the lockdown can get the desired results in its real sense.
Remember, it’s all about collective action. If we really want to fight the virus, we need to have self control, we have to become patient and we need to have faith that together we can come out of this, the way New Zealand did.
Thank you very much for reading this article and we hope you liked the message.
Stay motivated and please take care of yourself and everyone around you. 🙂