Say hello to hope! New Zealand has effectively “eliminated” the spread of the novel coronavirus
If the daily deluge of grim headlines about the novel coronavirus makes your anxiety level spike (which, same), take heart — not only does one nation seem to have things under control, they actually appear to have stopped the spread. That nation is New Zealand and, in a fact that honestly doesn’t surprise us at all, they have a fierce female leader at the helm.
On Monday, New Zealand relaxed its coronavirus restrictions, moving out of its most stringent category of social distancing. Accordingly, its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, revealed that they’ve “currently” eliminated the novel coronavirus. “So as we have said,” she explained, “elimination means we may well reach zero but we may well then have small numbers of cases coming up again.”
“We have done what very few countries have been able to do. We have stopped a wave of devastation.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country must not “lose any of the gains” they’ve made in responding to coronavirus – as she extends the nationwide lockdown. pic.twitter.com/DkhIi6syqY
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) April 20, 2020
That means that, right now, cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand are virtually non-existent. The numbers have been in the single digits for days, with only one case reported on Sunday. In total, the nation has managed to keep its numbers relatively low, having reported fewer than 1,500 overall with only 19 deaths.
And if you ask Ardern, that’s a testament to the solidarity and willpower of her people. “It’s been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have been impossible. But we did. And we have done it together,” she said during a press conference on Monday.
It's 9pm in NZ – just 5 hours after a historic decision to lift lockdown restrictions was announced, and PM Jacinda Ardern pops in for a Facebook Live (on her bed?), inviting Kiwis to have a cup of tea with her.
"Stay home, stay safe, be kind and let's finish what we started" pic.twitter.com/zNGWVyNxzi
— Ashleigh Stewart (@Ash_Stewart_) April 20, 2020
So, what did New Zealand do differently? In short, they buckled down hard. The nation announced strict bans on travel early in the pandemic. They enforced two-week quarantines for anyone crossing their borders. They launched widespread, efficient testing nearly at the onset. They shut down virtually all public facilities. And Ardern kept an honest and open dialogue with citizens.
While detractors poked fun at Ardern for creating a “nanny state,” the numbers speak for themselves. She managed to not just flatten the curve, but crush it. (See also: When do you ever hear a male leader being lampooned with terms like “nanny state”?)
Now that New Zealand can ease up a bit on social restrictions, businesses will be allowed to remain open with some caveats. Schools can reopen at limited capacity. Low-risk recreational activities, such as swimming, may resume.
If cases started to increase again, Ardern says New Zealand will once again do what they need to do to stamp out the spread. For now, though, there is “no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand.” As she put it, “We have won that battle.”