Shomporko Desk:-WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it got rid of the spread of the coronavirus, an uncommon brilliant spot in a world that keeps on being desolated by the disease.
Life has come back to typical for some people in the South Pacific country of 5 million, as they go to rugby games at packed stadiums and sit down in bars and restaurants without the dread of getting tainted. Yet, some concern the nation might be getting careless and not planning all around ok for any future outbreaks.
New Zealand got rid of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when just around 100 people had tested positive for the disease. That halted its spread. For the past three months, the only new cases have been a bunch of returning travellers who have been isolated at the border.
“It was good science and great political leadership that made the difference,” said professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago. “If you look around the globe at countries that have done well, it’s usually that combination.”From early on, New Zealand pursued a bold strategy of eliminating the virus rather than just suppressing its spread. Baker said other countries are increasingly looking to New Zealand for answers.
“The whole Western World has terribly mismanaged this threat, and they’re realizing this now,” Baker said. He said many leaders saw a false dichotomy between saving lives or saving their economies, when in fact businesses thrive best when they have certainty about things like diseases. Indeed, New Zealand’s economy has fared better than many predicted.
The country has managed to keep its unemployment rate at just 4%, although many economists say the number doesn’t account for recent job losses and will likely get significantly worse after a government-funded wage subsidy expires next month.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership has been widely praised. She reassured people during the lockdown with daily briefings and a message that resonated: “Go hard and go early.”Total infections were limited to just over 1,500 and the country has had just 22deaths. Opinion polls indicate support for Ardern’s liberal Labour Party has surged ahead of a general election next month. Still, New Zealand’s international tourism industry has collapsed and the country remains more isolated from the outside world than before.
Ardern’s government has been reluctant to reopen the border to any other country, even as other nations cautiously do so. Baker said New Zealand remains in a reactionary mode and is not doing enough planning to keep the virus out.
He said the country needs to create a national public health agency and better fund scientists studying the spread of the disease. But Sunday, at least, marked a milestone that many in New Zealand noted with a sense of thankfulness and relief.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Baker
News source: The Associated Press