How did New-Zealand beat the virus

The lockdown was swift and tough

„We must go hard and we must go early,” was Prime Minister Ardern’s message. On March 15, when New Zealand had only 100 confirmed cases and no deaths, it closed its borders to foreign travelers and made people coming home quarantine for 14 days. Then 10 days later, it introduced full lockdown measures, which were strict by international standards. Those restrictions lasted for over a month before they were slowly eased again. Now, all social and economic restrictions have been lifted, and only border restrictions remain. The lockdown rules were vital as they „suppressed the spread of the virus early and bought precious time that other countries wasted,” Oksana Pyzik, a senior teaching fellow at University College London’s School of Pharmacy, told DW.

The rules were communicated effectively

Shortly before the strict lockdown, the government sent emergency text messages to residents. „This is a message for all of New Zealand. We are depending on you,” it read. „Where you stay tonight is where you must stay from now on … it is likely [the strictest] measures will stay in place for a number of weeks.” As the situation progressed, Ardern was clear about the approach she wanted to take in the COVID-19 fight. „We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” she told the nation in a briefing on April 16.

The country ramped up its testing capacity

Last week Ardern announced the country could process up to 8,000 tests per day, one of the highest testing rates per capita in the world. In total, it has tested just under 295,000 people, again giving it a comparatively high per capita rate of testing.

Geography was an advantage

The fact it is a relatively isolated island has greatly helped New Zealand’s pandemic response. It has more control over who can enter than other countries with large land borders. It also has a relatively low population density, meaning the virus cannot travel as easily through the population, as fewer people encounter each other.

It followed the pandemic guidebook properly

New Zealand’s government was following the best guidelines for dealing with a new virus.” The cornerstone of a pandemic response for every country must be to find, test, isolate, and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact,” says Pyzik. „That is every country’s best defense against COVID-19 and it is how New Zealand succeeded in overcoming COVID-19.” Stopping the virus also means the country can begin its economic recovery sooner. Ardern said the economy would now operate at just 3.8% below normal. „We now have a head start on economic recovery because at level one we become one of the most open, if not the most open, economies in the world,” she said.