The country now has no active cases of coronavirus.
There’s been so much depressing, tragic news coming out of the coronavirus pandemic that it sometimes obscures the better news, the little rays of hope that we’re getting through the worst of it, slowly but surely. Whilst the UK remains in lockdown, and watching the number of deaths from coronavirus fall week-by-week (although it is, of course, already too high), New Zealand has become the first nation in the world to eliminate COVID-19 from its shores – a huge achievement which lends the rest of the world new hope.
In discharging their final coronavirus patient from hospital over the weekend, and having tracked and traced those who’d been in contact with coronavirus patients, New Zealand has essentially eradicated the virus from within its borders. Today marks seventeen days since the nation’s last new case of the virus, and as New Zealand’s borders remain closed, there’s little chance of new cases entering the country at this time.
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As a result, the government has relaxed almost all the restrictions that had been in place to control the transmission of the virus (save for the border controls, which prevent non-citizens and non-residents from entering the country, and require returning New Zealanders to quarantine for fourteen days). Though these restrictions had been easing for several weeks as the country brought the outbreak under control, a return to near-normality means that public events – including sporting events and large gatherings – can go ahead without the need for social distancing. This will, however, still be encouraged whenever possible.
Several factors helped New Zealand achieve such an impressive victory; as an island nation, it was well placed to close borders effectively, and its distance from near neighbours also worked in its favour, giving them time and space to see the severity of coronavirus from afar before deciding upon a course of action. An early lockdown and the widespread acceptance of the rules amongst New Zealanders certainly helped too, all of which kept the number of cases to around 1500 and deaths to just 22.
Though the virus is currently gone from New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – lauded worldwide for her and the nation’s response to the virus – has warned that it could return. Ardern has stated that New Zealand will “certainly see cases again” as the world plots a return to normality and travel resumes, and warned citizens that it would take a long-term effort to truly eradicate the virus. Still, in a world that’s been wracked by bad news since the pandemic began, it’s heartening to see that coronavirus can be beaten and life can return to a more regular rhythm.