Countries around the globe reacted to the covid-meltdown in various manners and with different tactics but which model was the most successful and why? The answer is, it would seem, New Zealand. So, the question is, what made the country stand out from the rest and enabled it to eradicate covid so successfully?
Whilst many European commentators, until recently, saw the Swedish “model” as the most holistic and effective in containing the coronavirus while not damaging the economy, the world’s undisputed champion turns out to be on the other side of the planet.
Quite unexpectedly, New Zealand, a country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, was declared covid-free in early June and set as an example for handling the covid pandemic by the WHO. The country has a record number of only 26 confirmed deaths in a population of nearly 5 million people – the lowest rate out of all OECD member states. Even at peak stages, New Zealand experienced under-90 cases per day.
So, how was this possible you may ask? Whilst eradicating covid is, without a doubt, a remarkable achievement, it didn’t come easily. The country’s success is credited to a blend of suitable and rigorous regulations imposed at the right time; pre-pandemic measures included. Before the outbreak on the islands, New Zealand officials began mobilizing hospitals and preparing them to take in large numbers of contagious patients as well as imposing border-control policies further delaying the pandemic’s outburst in the island country.
Based on the existing wildfire warning system, New Zealanders also adroitly introduced a four-stage covid alert system related to the current level of risk and the prevailing restrictions in the region. Furthermore, according to Prime minister Jacinda Ardern, the country imposed the strictest restrictions in the world.
A harsh, short-term and, perhaps most importantly, swiftly imposed isolation process allowed an almost complete barrier to the virus’s transmission on a community level and enabled the country to eliminate the covid-related danger within 100 days of the first recorded case. As a result, New Zealanders are now indulging in the “luxuries” of the pre-covid times, like the rest of the world battles on and plunges into, what seems to be, an incessant rollercoaster of further lockdowns.
Facetiously saying “I did a little dance”, the Prime minister joyfully announced on 8 June 2020, that New Zealand would move to covid-19 alert level 1 (i.e. the lowest level) and begin defrosting the economy as one of the first countries in the world to do so. Coronavirus is indeed now considered to be eradicated in New Zealand with most restrictions taken down on a national scale.
So as to secure the recovery, New Zealand is now rolling out comprehensive preventative measures and announced, on Monday, plans to buy enough Pfizer vaccines to immunise the entire population. The vaccine has an efficacy of approximately 95%, placing it amongst the best on the market. The goal is now to vaccinate the entire populace by the end of the year.
Despite a minor outbreak of 15 cases that occurred recently in Auckland, the country’s largest city, it seems that the government’s spot-on rapid response and contingency measures have proved successful. So much so that last Sunday, a strict stay-at-home lockdown in Auckland was officially taken down. Imposed as a response to an unexplained cluster of the far more contagious British variant, the recent case was declared contained and the metropolis returned to a more or less “normal” state if any of us still remembers what that even means, with only a few relatively un-invasive restrictions in place. At the time this article was published, no more cases have been reported.
In the context of International Women’s Day festivities, whose theme this year was set as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world,” it seems only appropriate to point out that females and not just leaders, such as Prime minister Ardern, have been commended for their coordinated responses to the Covid health crisis, also according to the UN:
“Women stand at the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic.”