Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ended her speech thanking the citizens of New Zealand for their collective effort of beating the Coronavirus last June 8, 2020. New Zealand has one of the world’s most effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must go hard and we must go early,” was Ms. Ardern’s message. Locking down early and ramping up testing was crucial to New Zealand’s success, as compared to other countries who are struggling with slowing the spread of the virus and rising death tolls. Borders were quickly closed except for citizens wishing to return home.
On March 19, with 29 cases and no deaths, gatherings of people were banned and borders were immediately closed to international travelers. The four-stage alert system was implemented and on March 23, the level 3 lockdown began where non-essential businesses were closed, events were canceled and schools shut down. They gave the citizens 48 hours to prepare for the Level 4 Alert when only essential local travel was permitted. Kiwis had to stay home at night and in their household while socially distancing from all others.
The swift actions and measures taken by the government led to effective case isolations. Ms. Ardern said “we have eliminated the transmission of the virus for now. While the job is not done, this is a milestone.” She also mentioned that New Zealand would “certainly see cases again”, adding that “elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort.”
Shaun Hendy, head of Te Punaha Matatini, a scientific body advising the government on COVID-19, said that it will be inevitable that there will be more cases when the border eventually reopens but effective testing and contact tracing will help spot any outbreaks before it gets too large.
The cornerstone of a pandemic response is to find, test, isolate, and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact. That is every country’s best defense against COVID-19 and it is how New Zealand succeeded in overcoming the pandemic.