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Covid-19 has led to over one million deaths, economic strife, and the rapid search for a vaccine all over the world. Countries like the United States, India, Italy, China, and Brazil have been among some of the hardest hit by the Coronavirus. On the other hand, New Zealand has already beaten the virus. How can this be?
New Zealand’s actions against the virus came fast after a man in the Philippines died of Covid-19 on February 2nd. The following day, all foreigners coming from China were banned from entering the country. Within a matter of weeks after this restriction, the country received its first Covid-19 case after someone returned to New Zealand from Iran. By March 15th, the country called for mandatory quarantines for all visitors and less than 2 weeks later this was extended to a lockdown for the whole country. These restrictions were the strictest in the world at the time they were implemented.
As part of the plan, New Zealand put a four level system into place. Level One applies once the number of cases are contained. Level Two applies if the virus has been contained but there is risk of transmission within communities. Level Three applies if there are clusters of outbreaks in communities and includes restrictions like limited travel and bans on gatherings. The fourth and final restriction applies if the virus is not contained and there are outbreaks of the virus in many places. This would result in a lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading out more.
By June 8th, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that there were no new cases of community transmission for 17 days and all Covid patients had recovered. Although this was not their final goodbye to the virus — since a surge of cases appeared in Auckland a couple months after this announcement — it was still a significant achievement.
Even with these restrictions in place, they are not the only reason why New Zealand was able to beat the virus. New Zealand was not merely focused on slowing the spread of the virus, but also aimed to beat it entirely from the start. This mindset is what set them on the path to a Covid-free country. Another factor that helped the country overcome the virus was the effort made by citizens to obey the restrictions that were put in place. For example, once the lockdown started, the roads were clear and the cities were empty.
Overall, New Zealand was successful in beating this virus due to quick government response and a population that was willing to obey rules and regulations to keep themselves safe. While it may seem simple on the surface, overcoming the virus has proven to be a challenge for many countries. When looking at some of the hardest hit countries it is evident that one or both of these factors are missing.
In America, there are currently over 8 million cases of Covid-19 and over 200,000 deaths. While there were lockdowns across multiple states and mask mandates in states like Alabama (as of July 15th), North Carolina (as of June 26th), and Maine (as of May 1st), the country still struggles immensely for a few key reasons. For one, President Trump has called the virus a hoax and downplayed it from the start. This, along with shortages in PPE, and the overlooking of medical-professional opinions, has only worsened the situation.
Brazil has over 5 million cases of Covid-19 and over 100,000 deaths. Brazil had the most cases and deaths in Latin America as of May 4th. In a study by Imperial College in London, UK, Brazil had the highest transmission rate when compared to the transmission rates in 48 other countries. A major reason for the country’s high case number is the lack of effective actions from its leader, Jair Bolsonaro. The president has discouraged social distancing and lockdowns put in place by state governors. He has also removed the Health Minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, for criticizing him for his statement about the virus.
While New Zealand, America, and Brazil differ in size and population density, this alone is not the cause for such different Covid-19 case numbers and effects. If a country is under proper leadership and has a population that is willing to obey rules put in place by the leaders then results similar to those of New Zealand are possible. According to Professor Michael Baker, a professor of Public Health in Otago, New Zealand, “This strategy [New Zealand Covid-19 strategy] could work anywhere that has functioning government and infrastructure.”
As the pandemic continues, many more countries will have the potential to beat this virus, but it will take hard work and cooperation from governments and citizens alike.