New Zealand managed to achieve what few other areas of the world have: a full 101 days without any community transmission of the coronavirus. The country slowly began returning to normal as it celebrated, but unfortunately, the virus recently returned.
“Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone, however, as we all know, we can’t afford to be complacent,” said Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health.
Within two days of Bloomfield’s statement, four new cases developed in New Zealand without a clear source of origin. Nevertheless, New Zealand is hailed by experts and the WHO as a “global exemplar” of COVID-19 containment. Here’s a look at how New Zealand responded to new cases of the coronavirus and how the country’s system has nearly eradicated the pandemic from within its borders.
Using a Cluster System
With every new outbreak, New Zealand uses a refined strategy to identify and isolate the clusters.
As explained by Brian Cox, epidemiologist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, “We got on top of the clusters and isolated them before there were too many of them. Once we realized it was a cluster epidemic, we worked really hard to isolate people that were infected and quarantine the rest of the people in that person’s network.”
New Zealand’s strict lockdown made the cluster quarantine process much easier. By the time lockdown was lifted, all of the clusters had been contained.
Urging Caution to Residents
New Zealand’s leaders also emphasized caution, even as life returned to normal. The government asked people to use the NZ COVID Tracer smartphone app to log where they’ve been in case contact tracers needed to reach them in the event of another outbreak. As of the beginning of August, masks were no longer required, but New Zealanders are still encouraged to carry them along as a precaution.
Yet even with that caution, life is “quite ordinary” again, said Radio New Zealand’s Colin Peacock. “Shopping, movies, entertainment, going to bars. We can dance as close as we like to each other in nightclubs as late as we like. So everything is just fine in that regard, and business is carrying on as normal.”
Closing the Border
Most recently, New Zealand sent 500 military staff to strengthen quarantine facilities and maritime borders in response to the country’s first case of locally transmitted COVID-19 in 102 days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arder placed Auckland, the location of the outbreak, into a two-week Level 3 lockdown to control the cluster. To date, it has infected 75 people and is tracking to be the largest cluster to hit New Zealand since the pandemic began.
Five people are being treated in the hospital, while another 125 people are being held in quarantine facilities. This new measure was introduced by the New Zealand government to stop the spread of COVID-19 between family members living in the same home.
“By scaling up our Defence Force staff we’ll be able to reduce our reliance on private security guards, especially in the highest risk facilities,” Prime Minister Arder said. “Our intention is to stop using private security contractors, particularly in the riskiest places.”
Though the new outbreak in New Zealand was disappointing, for 101 days the country proved that it is possible to slowly recover from the coronavirus and remember what life was like before the pandemic arrived.