New Zealand celebrates a milestone we all envy right now — 100 days with no new Covid-19 cases
In news that is both heartening and dismaying, New Zealand revealed on Sunday that the island nation has marked 100 days with no detected spread of the novel coronavirus domestically. This news is heartening because it means the curve can, in fact, be flattened. It’s dismaying because here in the U.S. we just surpassed 5 million confirmed Covid-19 cases — with nearly 50,000 of those reported in the last 24 hours.
Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, confirmed the news on Sunday. “Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone,” he said, adding a word of caution, “However, as we all know, we can’t afford to get complacent. 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 CNN, New Zealand has reported only 1,219 confirmed cases, with just 21 of those being active infections. Any new infections reported had been traced from abroad. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been lauded for her “go hard, and go early” response to the pandemic — which many credit with keeping numbers so low in the island nation.
In March, when New Zealand had a relatively small number of cases at 100, Ardern implemented a strict nationwide lockdown. This mandated that everyone (with the exception of essential workers) must stay home. Leaving the house was only allowed for solo exercise and getting groceries. International travel stopped. These rules remained in place for five weeks, with an unofficial lockdown lasting an additional two.
Just as remarkably, people listened. Now, New Zealand seems to have effectively eliminated the virus.
“Elimination does not mean eradicating the virus permanently from New Zealand,” explains the nation’s Ministry of Health website. “Rather, it is being confident we have eliminated chains of transmission in our community for at least 28 days and can effectively contain any future imported cases from overseas.”
For reference, there are 4.8 million people in New Zealand. This means the U.S. officially has more people infected with the novel coronavirus than New Zealand has residents. And it goes without saying that 5.05 million, our current total of Covid-19 cases, is no small number. Neither is 163,000 — the current number of Covid-19 deaths in America.
Although Ardern lifted all of New Zealand’s coronavirus restrictions in June, authorities still appear to be testing thousands of people a day. As of Monday, the CDC reported roughly 66 million Covid-19 tests in the U.S. If those tests are all unique, that would account for 20 percent of the U.S. population.
The U.S. currently leads the world in Covid-19 cases.