Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plunged her nation into one of the harshest lockdowns in the world in March and has reaped the rewards since, with the last case of community transmission on May 1.
That was just 63 days after the island nation of five million reported its first infection on February 28.
New Zealand has recorded 1,219 infections and 22 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The numbers are a drop in the ocean when compared to other countries still battling thousands of cases and deaths.
Australia had reported 20,272 coronavirus cases as of Friday August 7. The national death tally scaled to 278 after Victoria recored 466 infections and 12 new cases on Saturday. The state is grappling with a deadly second wave of infections following alleged safety breaches within their hotel quarantine program.
There are more than 19.2 million coronavirus cases across the world and at least 719,800 people have died.
New Zealand has gone 100 days without community transmission of coronavirus. Pictured: The nation’s infections since between March and August
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured) has been praised for her handling of the global pandemic by swiftly introducing strict measures to eliminate the deadly virus
Pictured: Passengers wear protective masks and gloves at Auckland International Airport in April
New Zealand entered strict lockdown at the end of March to stop the spread of coronavirus. Pictured: A view of empty Lambton Quay in Wellington during lockdown in April
THREE MEASURES FOR NEW ZEALAND’S SUCCESS
- Shutting the border to everyone except to citizens, permanent residents and their families to stop coronavirus from entering
- Strict lockdown to stop COVID-19 from spreading within the community
- Ongoing control: Testing, contact tracing and quarantine
Ms Ardern has been praised for her handling of the global pandemic by swiftly introducing strict measures to eliminate the deadly virus.
Three measures have been hailed as the drivers behind New Zealand’s success, including: border controls, lockdown and case-based controls.
Australia adopted a similar method of suppression but has since seen a second deadly wave of infections ravage Victoria – with cases creeping into New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
Ms Ardern announced the ‘toughest border restrictions of any country in the world’ in mid-March when she enforced mandatory self-isolation for all international arrivals. The country had just six coronavirus cases at the time of the announcement.
Less than a week later on March 20, Ms Ardern closed the country’s borders for the first time in New Zealand’s history. The number of COVID-19 infections had scaled past 20.
New Zealand’s borders remain shut to this day and only Kiwi citizens, permanent residents and their family members can enter the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a Mihi Whakatau, formal speech of welcome, during a visit to Cardrona Alpine Resort on June 26 as Queenstown’s ski season opens
Pictured: Seagulls take over Queen Street in Auckland’s CBD on March 26 during lockdown
Residents in Wellington wear face masks on March 24 as they leave a supermarket after buying supplies one day before the country goes into lockdown
CORONAVIRUS IN NEW ZEALAND: A TIMELINE
FEBRUARY 3: New Zealand bans travellers from China amid coronavirus outbreak.
FEBRUARY 28: New Zealand records its first COVID-19 infection after a person in their 60s returned from Iran.
MARCH 16: All return travellers must self-isolate for 14 days.
MARCH 20: Borders close to everyone except citizens, permanent residents and their families.
MARCH 26: Alert Level 4 ‘Eliminate’ begins. Residents are required to stay at home.
APRIL 28: New Zealand drops to Alert Level 3.
MAY 14: Alert Level 2 begins.
JUNE 9: New Zealand drops down to Alert Level 1. Residents encouraged to take precautions.
AUGUST 9: 100 days without community transmission of coronavirus.
Ms Ardern continued to move quickly, declaring a State of National Emergency to fight COVID-19 and putting all residents into Alert Level 4 – ‘eliminate’ – from 11.59pm on March 25.
All non-essential businesses and educational facilities were forced to close and Kiwis were required to stay home for four weeks.
Speaking halfway through the strict lockdown, Ms Ardern said lives had been saved by following the ‘huge’ changes.
‘Modelling provided to my office by economist Rodney Jones on the eve of the lockdown suggested New Zealand was on a similar trajectory to potentially Italy and Spain and that our 205 cases on the 25th of March could have grown to over 10,000 by now without the actions we have taken together,’ she said on April 9.
‘And new modelling due to be released later today by Te Punaha Matatini suggests that the current controls at Alert Level 4 have already had a significant impact on new case numbers and we are on track to meet their most optimistic scenario.
‘We are turning a corner, and your commitment means our plan is working.’
Pictured: Police stop vehicles heading north on state highway at Warkworth in Auckland on April 9
New Zealand’s ‘elimination’ strategy
The Government’s overall public health strategy in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting New Zealand is elimination. That is, to apply a range of control measures in order to stop the transmission of COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Elimination does not mean eradicating the virus permanently from New Zealand; rather it is being confident we have eliminated chains of transmission in our community.
It is accepted that this approach will be needed in the long term ie, for many months or longer, depending on the emerging epidemiology and evidence around the disease and its management and progress with developing safe and effective treatments and/or vaccines.
SOURCE: New Zealand Government
Pictured: Auckland motorways are seen empty of traffic as the COVID-19 lockdown takes effect
At the end of April, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 3 and then to Alert Level 2 on in May as coronavirus infections continued to decline.
Mr Ardern said elimination doesn’t mean zero cases.
‘It means zero tolerance for cases. It means when a case emerges, and it will, we test, we contact trace, we isolate, and we do that every single time with the ambition that when we see COVID-19, we eliminate it,’ she said.
‘That is how we will keep our transmission rate under 1, and it is how we will keep succeeding.’
The continuous tracking of cases allowed New Zealand to stop coronavirus from spreading through the community.
Pictured: A closed restaurant is seen in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 16
Ms Ardern arrives for the All of Government COVID-19 update and media conference with Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament on May 7
How Australia and New Zealand are leading the way in testing
Figures as of Friday August 7.
New Zealand entered Alert Level 1 at 11.59pm on Monday June 8. There were no active coronavirus cases in the country and it had been 40 days since community transmission.
Last month, Ms Ardern said the second outbreak in Victoria is a ‘cautionary tale’ to learn from.
‘It appears their current outbreak is linked to a managed isolation facility similar to the ones we run here,’ she said.
‘That goes to show how quickly the virus can spread and it can move from being under control to out of control, and that even the best plans still carry risk in a pandemic.’
New Zealand has continued to report COVID-19 cases in returned travellers but the infections have not travelled into the community. There were 23 active coronavirus infections as of August 7.
Otago Medical School epidemiologist Sir David Skegg said the likelihood of the return of community transmission is ‘very high’.
He told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking it was likely New Zealand would return to Alert Level 2.
‘But not next week or next month, I hope. This virus is going to be around for a long time,’ he said.
‘It’s only a few months ago everyone was saying it’s going to be a short, sharp shock. But, we’re talking probably years here.
‘Unfortunately, the world is a different place and it’s almost inevitable with the possibilities of human error, that sooner or later, we will have incursions of the virus into New Zealand.’
Sir Skegg said New Zealand must detect cases quickly to avoid a ‘Melbourne-type situation’.
Victoria reported 466 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, marking its 34rd consecutive day of a triple-digit increase.
Premier Daniel Andrews said there are now 7,808 active infections across the state and 988 of them are healthcare workers – an increase of 140 from Friday.
There are 636 coronavirus patients in hospital, with 44 in intensive care and 29 of them are fighting for their lives on ventilators.
The latest figures come after the state reported 450 infections on Friday, a dramatic decrease from its record of 750 cases on Wednesday.
Victoria reported 466 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, marking its 34rd consecutive day of a triple-digit increase
On July 1, Premier Daniel Andrews said genomic sequencing had traced a big proportion of coronavirus cases to breaches in the hotel quarantine program
At least a significant number of Victoria’s current second wave cases could be linked to the hotel quarantine program, which is now being investigated by a former top judge.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he first learned of problems with hotel quarantine from media reports, but only realised it was responsible for a ‘significant proportion’ of the second wave’s cases when genomic reporting was released.
It might never be clear if hotel quarantine is entirely to blame, with Prof Sutton declaring it’s impossible to tell if the state had completely eliminated community transmission before the problems were discovered.
‘We’ve got genomics for many cases in Victoria at the moment,’ he said.
‘There’s no evidence of original virus in the genomic report, but we haven’t tested everyone.’
Not everyone can grow the virus, and a genetic fingerprint is not always available even where the virus can be grown, meaning evidence can’t be examined, he says.
‘But where we do, there is evidence of virus that goes back to February, March, April,’ Prof Sutton said.
The $3 million hotel quarantine inquiry, led by former Family Court judge Jennifer Coate, is now due to begin on August 17.
Mr Andrews is not answering questions about the inquiry, saying he wants the government to be at arm’s length to avoid ‘self-assessment’.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a national dashboard of data, used to examine outbreaks nationally, had been updated with information from all states.
On whether that modelling should be released publicly, he said chief health officers were already being transparent, providing a wealth of information each day.
On July 1, Mr Andrews said genomic sequencing had traced a big proportion of coronavirus cases to breaches in the hotel quarantine program.
A motorway sign on the State Highway One reads ‘Essential Travel Only’
New Zealand has four different alert levels amid the coronavirus pandemic
New Zealand COVID-19 alert levels
Level 1: Prepare
Border entry measures to minimise risk of importing COVID-19 cases applied
Stringent self-isolation and quarantine
Intensive testing for COVID-19
Physical distancing encouraged
Mass gatherings over 500 cancelled
Stay home if you’re sick, report flu-like symptoms
Wash and dry hands, cough into elbow, don’t touch your face
Level 3: Restrict
Travel in areas with clusters or community transmission limited
Affected educational facilities closed
Mass gatherings cancelled
Public venues closed (e.g. libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks)
Alternative ways of working required and some non-essential businesses should close
Non face-to-face primary care consultations
Non acute (elective) services and procedures in hospitals deferred and healthcare staff reprioritised
Level 2: Reduce
Entry border measures maximised
Further restrictions on mass gatherings
Physical distancing on public transport Limit non-essential travel around New Zealand
Employers start alternative ways of working if possible
Business continuity plans activated
High-risk people advised to remain at home (e.g. those over 70 or those with other existing medical conditions)
Level 4: Eliminate
People instructed to stay at home
Educational facilities closed
Businesses closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics) and lifeline utilities
Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities
Travel severely limited
Major reprioritisation of healthcare services