The world has praised New Zealand’s successful efforts at maintaining Covid-19, as the country marked 100 days of no community transmission yesterday.
However, media have reported that the country’s milestone comes with warnings that the country is becoming too complacent as the pandemic continues to spread across the world.
The Ministry of Health said yesterday that there were no new cases of Covid-19 to report. It is the fourth straight day of no new daily cases.
In a statement, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield thanked every person who had been tested.
“Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone,” he said.
The statement echoed across the globe, as the world heaped praise on Kiwis, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand Government.
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama also congratulated New Zealand on its achievement.
“Fiji and New Zealand are now among the only countries on Earth to go 100 days or more without cases of #COVID19 in our communities,” he posted on Twitter.
“Well done to the New Zealand Government and people – your friends in Fiji have all been rooting for your success.”
US epidemiologist and health economist Eric Feigl-Ding revealed on Twitter that he was “jealous” that New Zealand has a great leader who listens to public health science – making a dig at US President Donald Trump who has repeatedly ignored such advice.
The chair of New York City Council’s health committee agreed with the sentiment, writing: “It is amazing what a country can do when they have a competent leader.”
Meanwhile, international media reported on New Zealand’s milestone, but some pointed to the country’s complacency.
Associated Press – ‘Rare bright spot’
AP reported that New Zealand was a “rare bright spot in a world that continues to be ravaged by the disease”.
“Life has returned to normal for many people in the South Pacific nation of five million, as they attend rugby games at packed stadiums and sit down in bars and restaurants without the fear of getting infected. But some worry the country may be getting complacent and not preparing well enough for any future outbreaks.
“New Zealand got rid of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when only about 100 people had tested positive for the disease. That stopped its spread. For the past three months, the only new cases have been a handful of returning travellers who have been quarantined at the border.
“From early on, New Zealand pursued a bold strategy of eliminating the virus rather than just suppressing its spread.
AP added that an epidemiologist at the University of Otago Michael Baker said other countries are increasingly looking to New Zealand for answers.
The report 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 per cent, 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.
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.”
Still, New Zealand’s international tourism industry has collapsed and the country remains more isolated from the outside world than before.
New York Times – ‘A major milestone’
“New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days without any newly reported cases of local transmission of the coronavirus, a major milestone as the pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — including neighbouring Australia, where recent outbreaks have led to new lockdown measures in Melbourne and broader Victoria State.
“New Zealand, a nation of five million people, reported in March that it had stamped out the virus after strict lockdown measures were implemented, and there has been no community transmission since, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
“Public life has resumed for many people in the country, as they eat out at restaurants, socialise at bars, and attend sports and cultural events. However, some experts warn that letting down their guard now could lead to future outbreaks.”
BBC – ‘Milestone both welcomed and brings warnings’
“New Zealand has gone 100 days without recording a locally transmitted Covid-19 case, a milestone that has both been welcomed and brought warnings against complacency.
“New Zealand has fared better than other countries, recording 1219 confirmed cases and 22 deaths since the virus arrived in late February.
“Praised internationally for its handling of the pandemic, the country’s government has lifted almost all of its lockdown restrictions, first imposed in March.
“An early lockdown, tough border restrictions, effective health messaging and an aggressive test-and-trace programme have all been credited with virtually eliminating the virus in the country.”
The Guardian – ‘One of the safest places in the world’
Meanwhile, UK publisher The Guardian compared the US’s pandemic response to New Zealand’s.
“The US is nearing the grim milestone of five million confirmed Covid-19 cases, with more than 160,000 deaths, as Donald Trump used executive orders to extend coronavirus aid into next year, with a lower level of support for the unemployed.
“In stark contrast to the United States’ ongoing battle, New Zealand reported its 100th consecutive day with no community transmission, making the Pacific island nation of five million one of the safest places in the world.
“With global cases standing at more than 19.6 million, with 726,000 deaths, and many nations reimposing restrictions, New Zealanders have returned to normal life. Authorities, however, are concerned that people were now refusing testing, not using the government contact tracing apps, and even ignoring basic hygiene rules.”
Daily Mail – ‘Harsh lockdown reaps rewards’
“Ardern plunged her nation into one of the harshest lockdowns in the world in March and has reaped the rewards since, with the last case of community transmission on May 1.
“Ardern has been praised for her handling of the global pandemic by swiftly introducing strict measures to eliminate the deadly virus.
“Three measures have been hailed as the drivers behind New Zealand’s success, including: border controls, lockdown and case-based controls.”
Ardern urges Kiwis to remain vigilant
The media are not the only ones that believe Kiwis have become complacent as Bloomfield and Ardern urged people to remain vigilant.
Ardern said earlier today that 100 days would be a milestone but it didn’t minimise the risk in any way, given the ongoing pandemic around the world.
“We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand,” Ardern said.
She said there was a resurgence plan ready to roll out if there was a surge in cases in New Zealand.
Bloomfield repeated his advice for people to ask their GP or call Healthline if they have symptoms of Covid-19, and to stay at home if unwell.
“Keep a record of your movements so you can refer to them for contact tracing if required. Don’t let the team down – none of us can afford to do that.”
On Thursday, Health Minister Chris Hipkins recommended that all households should add masks to their earthquake emergency kits.
Hipkins warned if the country was ever to return to alert level 2, New Zealanders would be encourage to wear masks in situations where they couldn’t physically distance, such as on public transport.
Surges in cases have been seen recently in Victoria, Hong Kong and Vietnam, all regions which had previously kept Covid-19 contained.