New Zealand marks 100 days of virus elimination

Latest News

New Zealand marks 100 days of virus elimination

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Print this page Email A Friend!


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, 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.

"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 realising 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 four 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.

Prime Minster 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 22 deaths. 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 countries, even as other nations cautiously do so.

And the experience of some other countries, including Vietnam and Australia, shows how easily the virus can flare up again even when it looks like it's been brought under control.

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.


Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaper-login


ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT