New Zealand is coronavirus free: Here's what it did right
As countries around the world continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand has declared that it is coronavirus free now. The country has zero active cases of the deadly disease and has lifted almost all the restrictions imposed to eliminate the virus, including the need to maintain social distance and avoid public gatherings. Here's how the country did it.
New Zealand did not report a single new case of COVID-19 for 17 straight days, and the last potentially infected patient has also been discharged from the hospital - after being declared recovered. Notably, this is the first time since February 28 that the Pacific Island nation has no active known cases of the disease that has wreaked havoc for superpowers like US, Russia.
After being informed about this development, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country will lift almost all coronavirus-related restrictions starting Tuesday. Under the new rules, people will be able to go about their lives, without the restriction of maintaining social distance or avoiding public gatherings. However, despite that, the country will continue to keep its borders closed for foreign visitors.
"While we are in a safer, stronger position, there's no easy path back to pre-COVID life," PM Ardern said while announcing the country is coronavirus-free. However, she said, "The determination we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild."
PM Ardern has drawn praise from the WHO for her government's effective approach to contain and eliminate the virus. On March 25, she locked down the entire country for a period of four weeks and imposed strict restrictions requiring every citizen, except essential workers, to stay home. Then, with time, the restrictions were eased allowing non-essential businesses and other activities to resume.
The country established a four-tier response system and started with level 4, which required maximum restrictions. Now, it has moved to level 1 and opened all economic activities, including schools, weddings, funerals, and public transport, just like it was before the beginning of the crisis.
In all, New Zealand recorded a total of 1,504 cases, of which 22 passed away. However, PM Ardern warns that this is not the end of the pandemic, and the country would certainly see new cases again. She emphasized that "elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort" that would be required to beat the crisis permanently.