In Brief

How New Zealand eliminated coronavirus

A ‘go hard and go early’ approach and mass testing paid dividends

New Zealand said yesterday it had “eliminated” the Covid-19 coronavirus as it reported one new case, four “probable cases” and one death.

The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus was “currently” eliminated but insisted that the country needed to remain alert and could still expect to continue to see new cases.

Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director General of Health, said the low number “does give us confidence that we’ve achieved our goal of elimination, which never meant zero but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from”.

The Independent says New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 has been dubbed the “go hard and go early” approach.

The BBC adds that the country brought in “some of the toughest restrictions in the world on travel and activity early on in the pandemic, when it only had a few dozen cases”. 

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On 14 March, when the country had just six cases, Ardern announced that anyone entering the country would need to self isolate for two weeks. These were among the tightest border rules in the world at the time, says CNN.

On 23 March, Ardern put the country under “level 3” lockdown. Non-essential businesses were closed, events and gatherings cancelled and schools closed. These measures were introduced when there were just 102 confirmed cases, and no deaths.

Two days later, Ardern moved New Zealand into the strictest level 4 lockdown, with people told not to leave home except for essential exercise near their homes. 

Even as cases were declining on 9 April, she tightened border restrictions so that citizens and permanent residents arriving in New Zealand had to spend two weeks quarantined in an approved facility rather than at home.

Throughout this period, New Zealand has performed widespread testing, with 123,920 carried out to date among a population of just under five million people. Ardern says this is one of the highest testing rates per capita in the world.

The prime minister has been widely credited with clear messaging throughout the crisis, but experts say that New Zealand’s remote location and easily sealable borders were also a major advantage.

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