New Zealand praised internationally for coronavirus response
— 5 minute read — By Safia Bartley
On 9th August, New Zealand (NZ) marked 100 days without any new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19. The country, led by Prime minister Jacinda Ardern of the Labour Party since 2017, has been praised internationally for its success in dealing with the crisis.
The country had been working to control the coronavirus a whole month before their first reported case. They started, on 28th January, with the NZ Health Ministry setting up the National Health Coordination Centre (NHCC) to respond to the initial outbreak in China.
Following this, on 3rd February, the government announced they were not permitting entry to any foreign travellers coming from China – only NZ citizens, permanent residents or family were permitted to enter the country. Four days later, the NZ Health Ministry set up a free Healthline phone number for COVID-19 related calls. This was to help ease the pressure on their emergency health care lines and give access to citizens unable to access quick medical help. They also had a government-chartered flight evacuate 139 New Zealanders from Wuhan to prevent complications later when these citizens returned. On 28th February, the country confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in Auckland.
Due to this, in March, Ardern announced the cancellation of the national remembrance ceremony of the Christchurch Mosque shootings. Both the public and Ardern personally were markedly saddened, but the decision was justified in order to limit the risk of an outbreak. Following this, on 16th March, more restrictions on travel and public gatherings came into play. It meant that any traveller coming from outside NZ had to self-isolate for 14 days and cruise ships were prohibited from docking in the country until 30th June. Gatherings of five hundred people or more were called to a halt, and it was explained to the public that an outbreak could lead to a recession greater than the 2008 global financial crisis.
On 17th March Health Minister David Clark announced any foreign tourist not abiding by their self-isolation rules would be deported. That same day, two tourists were forced into quarantine for defying said rules and deported after two weeks of isolation. Ardern herself described NZ as having the strictest and toughest border control in the world, alas on public health grounds.
Later in March, Finance Minister Grant Robertson declared a $12.1bn COVID-19 business package to help support businesses, worker incomes, health care support, the aviation industry and supply chains. Arden also banned indoor gatherings of more than a hundred people and urged all citizens who were outside the country to return before a complete border shutdown from the 19th March. From then on, all returning travellers required to isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Soon after, Ardern closed all schools and issued a nationwide lockdown, calling on all non-essential services to close within 48 hours, including parliament. However, before parliament was adjourned, passed legislation providing $52bn to emergency services, $27m to social service providers and $1.5bn to over 240,000 workers as part of a wage subsidy scheme. By the end of March, there were 600 confirmed COVID-19 cases in NZ and one related death.
At the start of April, with 708 active cases, the government began focusing on the accessibility of education, and ability for students to continue learning from home. Ardern and the Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduced a $87.7m distanced-learning package which included two educational TV channels (one in English and one in Maori), improved Internet access, online resources for parents, print and online copies of different years learning materials. They also announced a $130m support package for higher education students, including raising the student loan amount for full-time courses. Eventually, limitations on swimming and fishing, gatherings of up to ten people and takeaway services were eased for the sake of individual wellbeing.
As of 1st May, there were a total of 1,132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NZ and, amazingly, 1,252 reported recoveries. Ardern announced they would be easing more rules regarding recreational activities and businesses and allowing gatherings of up to a hundred people, provided strict social distancing ad hygiene measures were enforced. To help monitor the new changes, on 20th May, the Health Ministry launched a coronavirus tracing app called which allowed users to “check in” to locations so they could be alerted should they come into contact with COVID-19.
Come 8th June, the last active confirmed case of coronavirus in NZ for a hundred days recovered. There were to be no more restrictions on day to day life, Ardern proudly announced, however the countries borders were to remain closed to most international travel and travellers entering NZ were still required to quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival. The ban on cruise ships was extended indefinitely beyond the 30th June, but exceptions were made for cargo and fishing vessels.
Eventually by July, life was “back to normal” for the people of NZ. With only 20 active cases. Ardern and Health Minister Hipkins announced there would be an investment of $302m dollars into health services, and laid a new framework for localized lockdowns, like that of Hong Kong or Singapore.
On 9th August, NZ recorded one hundred days without a locally transmitted case of COVID-19. Altogether, they had recorded only 1,752 cases of the coronavirus – one of the best records in the world.
Jacinda Ardern deserves praise for her unremitting focus on public health and wellbeing. Although there are still risks New Zealand could face another outbreak, these risks come externally: as a country, they’ve got it together.