As most of the world scrambles to contain the coronavirus virus, New Zealand is looking into eliminating it altogether.
And experts believe that it could very well be the country to pull it off.
New Zealand’s location could be key. With 5 million people spread across the island nation, which is the size of Britain, surrounded by stormy seas and has Antarctica to the south, the country could easily be described as “socially distant.”
“The virus doesn't have super-powers,” said Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine expert at the University of Auckland. “Once transmission is stopped, it’s gone.”
To constrain and stop the virus from spreading, New Zealand has taken the same approach of most countries around the world -- issuing a “stay-at-home” order. However, the country implemented a strict lockdown in late March, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the new virus. Keeping everyone on board and attacking aggressively, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s motto is: “Go hard and go early.”
According to the NY Post, “New Zealand has so far avoided a widespread outbreak, and new cases have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday, leaving the goal tantalizingly close. Only 13 people have died so far, and Ardern has been personally briefed on each death.”
“We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” Ardern told reporters last week. “But it will continue to need a team of 5 million behind it.”
Unlike Americans, who have protested against stay-at-home orders, New Zealanders have been very receptive of Arden’s strict lockdown, which includes school closures and people working non-essential jobs only leaving their homes for groceries or to exercise.
The country has managed to avoid the “confusion and half-measures” that have hampered other places.
“New Zealand got everything right,” said Petousis-Harris. “Decisive action, with strong leadership and very clear communications to everybody.”