New Zealand took swift action to fight coronavirus by locking down the country for 4 weeks before it had reported any official deaths, a move that’s drawn widespread praise internationally.
There are a number of political, social and health related steps that the country took in the early days of the outbreak that are paying off now.
According to Kiwi Anna Fifield, the Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post, after seeing what was happening in Italy and Spain, “a group of influential New Zealanders" had urged Ardern to move to alert level 4, which would effectively put the country in a state of emergency.
Alert Level 4 was created to totally Eliminate the spread of the virus. The alert places severe restrictions on non-essential travel to and from New Zealand and also requires that citizens only go out if they need to shop for groceries and/or pharmaceuticals, work for an essential business, or do outdoor activities like gardening or going for a walk in their local area.
Leaders in New Zealand had enough foresight to know that they’d eventually have to issue a lockdown, but rather than being reactionary like many other countries, they decided to act.
Otago University Professor Michael Baker told the Washington Post the lockdown and response were "a triumph of science and leadership".
He continued by saying "Jacinda approached this decisively and unequivocally and faced the threat, other countries have had a gradual ramp-up, but our approach is exactly the opposite."
As of right now, the evidence is showing that these measures have been successful. Just yesterday, it was reported that 65 people officially recovered from COVID-19, which is higher than the confirmed and probable new cases reported yesterday, which was 54. To be considered as a recovered patient, there must be at least 10 days since an infected person first had symptoms and they would have to go for at least two days without symptoms.
Additionally, no new significant clusters were reported by the Ministry of Health, which is when 10 or more confirmed or probable cases are identified with the same source event or place.
Currently, there are 12 clusters in the country that health officials are monitoring, and it should be noted that just over half of yesterday's new confirmed cases were part of those existing clusters and they were already in self-isolation when testing was administered to them.
Because of all they’ve done, and continue to do, Epidemiologist Sir David Skegg told MPs that New Zealand was in a brilliant position and the only western country in a position to eliminate the virus.
Even with the curve flattened, Arden isn’t satisfied. The level of risk at the country’s borders is still a point of contention for many in the country and Arden says that advice on how to improve monitoring at borders will be available soon.
She commented on the situation saying "We need a water-tight system at our border and I think we can do better on that."