New Zealand ‘Eliminated’ Covid-19 after Weeks of Lockdown
New Zealand’s top health official said Monday that the country had accomplished its goal of eradicating coronavirus as new cases declined to single digits.
Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, stated one new case, four “probable cases” and just one new death at a news conference Monday. Bloomfield said the small number of instances gave officials “confidence that we’ve achieved our goal of elimination.”
“And again, that doesn’t mean eradication, but it means we get down to a small number of cases so that we can mark out any cases and an outbreak that might come out,” he said.
The island nation of nearly 5 million has had 1,472 cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Of those, 1,214 of confirmed and likely cases have healed, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the low numbers “incredible” and said the nation had currently eliminated coronavirus. She told new cases may continue to surface, but that they could be contrived through proactive contact tracing, which the country has scaled up.
“There is no widespread, undetected citizenry transmission in New Zealand. We have won that fight,” Ardern said. “But we must prevail careful if we are to keep it that way.”
Ardern praised New Zealanders for adapting to life under the pandemic and extended her sympathies to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
Monday was the concluding day of almost five weeks of strict level four lockdown measures, which New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed as “the severest constraints placed on New Zealanders in recent history.”
On Tuesday, the country guided into a less conditional lockdown, with 400,000 more New Zealanders going back to work and 75% of the country’s economy rolling, according to Ardern. She also stated that the country would be lowering its lockdown measures from Level 4 to Level 3, which would enable businesses that can function without face-to-face contact and schools to reopen.
Up to 10 people will be permitted to attend funerals and matrimonies. New Zealanders are still boosted to work from home if possible. She said the government would meet again on May 11 to decide to move to Level 2 lockdown.
Ardern has earned praise for her swift response to the pandemic. She closed down tourism and proposed Level 4 lockdown steps in March throughout which offices, institutions, and non-essential services, including bars, eateries, and parks, were shuttered.
“It’s been almost five weeks living and operating in ways that just two months ago would have been unlikely,” Ardern said. “But we did. And we have done it together.”
When it comes to what worked, New Zealand had some advantages in tackling the virus. It had the benefit of time, New Zealand established its first case of coronavirus on February 28, well over a month after the United States confirmed its first case.
It’s a relatively secluded island nation, and comparatively few flights transit through New Zealand. It’s also centrally administered, meaning it doesn’t have states like the US or its next-door-neighbor Australia.
But the real key to New Zealand’s success appears to be an approach that could be applied anywhere — moving swiftly, testing widely, and relying heavily on sound science.