What is NZ doing to combat COVID-19
May 17, 2020
Right now, as every country in the world is focused on COVID-19, and its citizens, it’s important to see how different nations have different ways of reacting to this pandemic. Many countries, who were not prepared, are struggling with this virus, while others are thriving (at least, as much as one can thrive, in a time like this). New Zealand is one of those countries. With only 1,489 confirmed cases and 21 deaths, compared to the 1.26 million cases and over 80,000 deaths in the U.S.A, people are wondering how are they doing it? These are the top 4 things that New Zealand (and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern) are doing to combat the virus, that other countries need to take note of.
- Swift Lockdown
Jacinda Ardern, shut the entire country down in late March before any citizens had died of the coronavirus. This is when there were only a couple of hundred cases in the entire country. Instead of waiting for the situation to get worse, which would have been harder to contain, the government made sure that New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown. This swift thinking really helped in the long run, as there are very few deaths as of now, compared with other countries who were a lot slower to act.
- Pay Cut
A wage subsidy is being paid out to all the unemployed in the country, adding up to $9 billion, for a total of 1.4 million people. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern stated that she and other ministers will take a 20% pay cut for the next 5 months, in solidarity with those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. It is predicted that the jobless rate in New Zealand is 4.2% as of May 5, the lowest it has ever been since 2008. Trading Economics predicts that by November 5th, 2020, if lock-down is still taking place, the unemployment rate will jump to 9.5%.
- Strict Flight Quarantine
Starting March 19th, anybody flying into New Zealand has to undergo strict 2-week quarantine in government isolation facilities. The country, whose main industry is tourism, will hit harder than usual, by this pandemic. The border is still under lockdown except for kiwis returning home, and few exceptions such as essential workers. Ardern stated, “I’m not willing to tolerate risk at our border, that is where predominantly of our cases are coming from,”, showing this exceptional leadership from the 39-year-old prime minister.
- Increased Testing
New Zealand has also been persevering with COVID-19 tests. Ardern stated earlier last week that they can test 8,000 people per day, and have already tested 168,023 people in the country. Their rate of testing is 2,190 tests per 100,000 people, this is compared to South Korea, a country with a much larger outbreak has a rate of 1,140 per 100,000 people. This initiative benefits the entire country, as the quicker people are tested, then the quicker officials know where the virus is coming from, and how to stop it.
Because of all these actions, and precautions taken over the past few days, new cases have been in the single digits, enabling the country to ease up on its restrictions. Plans are made for May 11 where if numbers are still down, the country will move to an Alert Level 2, instead of the 4 is started out with. This means businesses, schools, and restaurants might be opening up, and gatherings no more than 100 will be permitted. Ardern still advises citizens to work from home where that is available and to keep in mind social distancing, and sanitation. Also, as many fans are joyful about, professional sports, including rugby and netball, might re-open, without large crowds of course.
This leadership and swift problem-solving skills is something all politicians and world leaders should take note of. People respond well to having leaders who know what they are doing and will take care of their citizens. The benefits seen in New Zealand should show us, here in Thailand, that if everyone works together (of course, while social distancing), we too can eliminate COVID-19. Arden said herself, “Stay at home, break the chain, and you’ll save lives.”