New Zealand and COVID-19

March 16, 2021

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Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

How did they do it?  

Since the start of the pandemic last March, you may have heard about New Zealand and their efforts to combat COVID-19 periodically in the news cycle. Early on in the pandemic, they were actually headlining a lot for their harsh lockdowns and border closings. Looking back now, it seems that those efforts were worth it as the majority of the country has been COVID-free since early fall. In fact, it has been so COVID-free that people are attending live concerts, sporting events, and seeing a masked face is a rare occurrence. Yet there are countries that are seeing rising numbers of infection, hospitalization, and death. Some countries are even having daily positive cases far surpass the number of total COVID-19 cases in New Zealand.  

So how did they do it?  

On February 2nd of 2020, the first death of COVID-19 outside of China was recorded. On February 3rd, the New Zealand government mobilized to avoid any potential mass outbreaks from occurring in the small island nation. Immediately, the government placed a travel ban on people coming from China. Slowly they moved to a ban on people coming from the middle east, and the rest of the world shortly after. For months, nobody could enter the country except citizens who were returning home. Even when people arrived in their home country, they were immediately placed in quarantine and tested regularly to prevent outbreaks. By mid-summer, the World Health Organization had praised New Zealand and even addressed them as the “model country” for fighting the pandemic. As summer came and passed, COVID-19 was pretty much gone in the country. In fact, people could resume normal life. They could attend concerts, sporting events, school, and have their regular weekend celebrations. Although the masks were off, the country remained vigilant and ready to remobilize if even a single case were to be diagnosed.  

Eventually, New Zealand left the news cycle through the fall and into the winter. But just a few days ago, 3 people tested positive in one of the largest cities, Auckland. The 3 people were immediately isolated and the government jumped into action for contact tracing and temporarily shut down the city. Even surrounding towns and cities were put on high alert.  

Even though the city is locked down with 3 new cases, no new cases have been identified since and life will shortly return to normal. It has taken a lot of effort for governments to address the pandemic, and each country has its own plan. So what do you think of New Zealand’s plan? Let us know at Healthy.UNH@unh.edu!  

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