New Zealand has successfully put an end to community transmission of COVID-19 by adopting an aggressive approach on time.
On February 28, the country had reported its first positive Coronavirus case. On March 23, less than a month following the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case, New Zealand’s leadership decided to employ an elimination strategy to tackle the outbreak.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced to impose a strict nationwide lockdown at a time when the country had just 102 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and zero deaths. The country reported its first death on March 28.
Citizens were ordered to stay at home and were only allowed to go outside unless absolutely necessary. Borders were shut down except for the citizens and residents who were required to quarantine or self-isolate for 14 days upon entry.
Almost all businesses were closed after the announcement of the lockdown. Only the businesses absolutely essential to ensure the necessities of life, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, were allowed to stay functional.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy is different from the traditional pandemic planning which is based on a mitigation model that is centered on delaying the arrival of the disease, followed by a wide range of measures to contain its spread and ‘flatten the curve’.
Michael Baker, a professor at the University of Otago’s department of public health in Wellington, who has been advising Jacinda Ardern’s government during the pandemic, said that enforcing a complete lockdown has enabled the country to eliminate the disease.
The two biggest benefits of pursuing an elimination strategy are that you have few cases and few deaths and you can get businesses back up and running. The alternative to the elimination approach is that we are stuck with the virus and stuck between mitigation and suppression. Suppression is pretty grim.
In addition to the lockdown, New Zealand carried out mass testing, tracing, and surveillance. The country of 5 million people has so far conducted Coronavirus tests of its 175,835 citizens.
Besides, Jacinda Ardern regularly made appearances on social media to share her personal life with the people under lockdown. She was often seen smiling, without underplaying the gravity of the situation, and used careful language which helped her build public trust.
Siouxsie Wiles, an associate professor and head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland, said that one of the many reasons why New Zealand has been successful in containing the outbreak is how its leadership framed COVID-19 to the general population.
In other countries, people have been talking about war and battle, which puts people in a negative and fearful frame of mind. The response of Jacinda Ardern’s government has been guided by the principle that you do not stigmatize COVID-19.
Siouxsie Wiles said how New Zealand’s leadership communicates the concept of elimination in the days to come will be important.
We don’t want the public to feel like they are being lied to. Elimination to everyone means that it is gone. But in epidemiological terms, it means bringing cases down to zero or near zero in a geographical location. We will still see cases. But only cases in people who have arrived from overseas.
Earlier this week, New Zealand recorded its first day of no new COVID-19 cases. As per the latest updates, the country has reported less than 1500 cases and 21 deaths due to Coronavirus. Of the total confirmed cases, 1347 people have recovered while active cases are just 122.
Yesterday, PM Jacinda Ardern said that the country is “halfway down Everest” in its fight against Coronavirus, suggesting the lockdown restrictions will soon be eased after a month and a half.
Via: The Lancet