US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — In just a few weeks of quarantine, New Zealand achieved its ambitious goal and got rid of the coronavirus.
But glee is still a long way off.
Over the past few days, the number of new cases does not exceed ten. And on Monday, only one sick person was registered throughout the country.
“This gives us confidence that we have achieved the goals of eliminating the coronavirus. This does not mean a complete zero, but now we at least know where the new cases come from, ”said Ashley Bloomfield, director general of the New Zealand Department of Health, on Monday, adding that since April 1 there has been only one case with an unknown source of infection .
Monday was the last day of a strict four-week quarantine of the fourth level, which the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern called “the most severe restrictions in the modern history of the country.”
According to Ardern, on Tuesday the regime relaxed: 400 thousand New Zealanders returned to work, and the country’s economy earned 75%. Third level quarantine allows you to hold a small funeral and buy takeaway food.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are a total of 1,472 confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths in New Zealand. As the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday, 1,214 people recovered – and this is 82% of all cases.
Many rejoice in the success of New Zealand, but Ardern calls not to lose vigilance.
“We have not yet climbed out of this forest,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The third level is a kind of postoperative rest, and now we have to assess whether those incredible measures that the New Zealanders took have worked.”
However, in terms of New Zealand’s success, there is something to brag about. The handicap in time affects: a zero patient in the country was discovered only on February 28 – a month later than in the USA.
New Zealand is located at a relative distance, and relatively few transit flights pass through it. In addition, it is a unitary state where there are no states, as in the USA or neighboring Australia.
Still, the real key to New Zealand success is the approach: quick response, extensive testing, and emphasis on real science. Other countries have a lot to learn.
As in many other countries, New Zealand models predicted dire consequences if no steps were taken at all. But unlike others, the New Zealand authorities reacted immediately.
On March 14, Ardern announced a two-week quarantine for everyone arriving in the country. At that time, it was one of the toughest measures in the world, although only six cases were identified in the country.
When Ardern forbade foreigners from entering the country on March 19, there were 28 of them.
And when March 23, Ardern announced a regime of isolation, there were only 102 patients – and not a single fatal outcome.
“Decisive and timely action helped to avoid the worst case scenario,” Ardern said on Tuesday.
New Zealand had its own reason for this. As Ardern explained at a March 14 press conference, New Zealand is the starting point for many routes to the Pacific Islands, so the country is responsible for the safety of its neighbors too. But decisive measures became a blessing for the New Zealanders themselves.
“Compared to other countries, we don’t have many intensive care beds. That’s why [Ardern] acted so fast, ”Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist at Auckland University, explained earlier this month.
But with all the speed of the reaction, New Zealand is in no hurry to cancel the introduced measures. Although the incidence in the country is decreasing, Ardern ordered that the strictest quarantine of the fourth level be extended for another five days.
Many New Zealanders support restrictions. In a survey by Colmar Brunton last week, 87% of New Zealanders approved a government response.
Ardern said Tuesday that New Zealand has scaled up testing to 8,000 samples per day.
To date, 126,066 samples have been taken in New Zealand. For comparison, the United Kingdom, whose population is approximately 13 times larger, spent just 719,910.
The real sign that testing works in New Zealand is the proportion of positive samples.
As the WHO Executive Director for Emergency Management, Dr. Mike Ryan, recently stated, a minimum of 10 negative samples for each positive sample is considered an indicative criterion. That is, if testing yields positive samples of 9% or less, the country is doing everything right.
The proportion of positive cases in New Zealand is about 1% – which means that covert transmission on a large scale can be excluded.
On Monday, Ardern noted that in other countries, every patient infects about 2.5 people. In New Zealand, this indicator was able to shine to 0.4.
Emphasis on real science
According to Michael Baker, professor of epidemiology at the University of Otago, the real lesson in New Zealand is a combination of quality science and leadership.
During quarantine, Ardern held regular press conferences with Bloomfield and often redirected questions from journalists to him.
Although Bloomfield is an official, he is a medical doctor by training. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, his specialization is the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.
“In New Zealand, we are witnessing a wonderful combination of quality science and brilliant leadership – I think this is a very successful tandem,” said Baker. “It is regrettable that countries with excellent scientific resources – that is, the United States, Britain and many European countries – have achieved much less than New Zealand, although its capabilities are much more modest.”
Although New Zealand is already being cited as an example of a successful strategy against coronavirus, it is still a long way to a return to normal.
Despite the early success of New Zealand, the isolation regime continues, and most people are advised to stay home in their “bubbles” – with family and friends.
“The third level is not yet a return to pre-viral life,” Ardern said on Monday. “This day is bound to come, but it is still a long way off.”
Ardern noted that the fight against coronavirus infection will continue until a vaccine is available. And, as in other countries, New Zealand faces economic difficulties.
Tourism has been hit especially hard – one of the key sectors of the New Zealand economy. Foreign citizens are still barred from entering the country, and any New Zealander is required to leave a two-week quarantine upon arrival. The opening of borders between New Zealand and Australia is being discussed, but no official statements have yet been received.
Even with a favorable outcome, the New Zealand Treasury predicts that unemployment threatens to reach 13%.
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