What We Can Learn From New Zealand and Its Efforts to Eliminate the Novel Coronavirus

Amanda Prahl
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 08: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on June 08, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 1 at midnight on June 8. Alert Level 1 will see people return to work, school, sports events and domestic travel without restrictions. There will also no longer be any restrictions on numbers at mass gatherings. Controls at the borders will remain in place for all people entering New Zealand, including health screening and testing for all arrivals, and mandatory 14-day managed quarantine or isolation. There are no longer any active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 08: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on June 08, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 1 at midnight on June 8. Alert Level 1 will see people return to work, school, sports events and domestic travel without restrictions. There will also no longer be any restrictions on numbers at mass gatherings. Controls at the borders will remain in place for all people entering New Zealand, including health screening and testing for all arrivals, and mandatory 14-day managed quarantine or isolation. There are no longer any active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

While cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, continue to climb around the world, New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced on June 8 that the country has "eliminated the transmission of the virus for now." A combination of natural advantages and some of the world's strictest lockdown measures likely contributed to the nation's success in stamping out the virus. What could the rest of the world learn from New Zealand in preparation for a potential second wave? Here are a few factors that may have helped yield those results - and could possibly slow the spread in other countries, too.

1. Leaders Knew What to Expect

New Zealand's geography and its smaller size relative to many hotspot countries gave it two natural advantages to combating the virus. The country has only five million residents - for comparison, New York City alone has more than eight million - and is isolated as an island nation. More helpful, however, was the fact that New Zealand had a little bit of lag time on other countries and could see what had and hadn't worked, according to CBS News. The virus first appeared in late 2019 and began spreading in earnest in January and February of 2020, but New Zealand only had a handful of cases by mid-March, with the first confirmed case arriving on Feb. 28. This delay gave the nation's leaders time to figure out what to do when, inevitably, the virus began to spread in New Zealand - an early warning that could benefit other countries in the event of a second wave.

Related: Here's What We Actually Know About How Long COVID-19 Antibodies Could Last

How Long Do You Have Antibodies For COVID-19?
How Long Do You Have Antibodies For COVID-19?

2. They Took Swift, Decisive Action

In March, Ardern quickly led the way, imposing a series of increasingly restrictive measures in an attempt to quash the spread of the virus. CNN broke down the timeline: on March 14, anyone entering the country was required to self-isolate for two weeks, and all foreigners were banned from entry on March 20. On March 23, with 102 cases and no deaths, the country went on "level three" lockdown: closing nonessential business, requiring work-from-home as much as possible, canceling all gatherings, and closing schools except to care for children of essential workers. The country then entered the strictest "level four" lockdown on March 25, with everyone required to stay at home except for essential workers.

The New York Times reports that, over the course of New Zealand's outbreak, the country reported only 1,504 cases and 22 deaths, largely due to these incredibly strict measures. By April, New Zealand also had one of the highest per-capita testing capacities in the world - able to handle more than 8,000 tests per day - which helps to identify cases and trace anyone who may have had contact with an infected person. Regular communication from Ardern also played a role in bolstering cooperation: the prime minister got on social media at least weekly - Facebook Live being her preferred method - to talk directly and informally to New Zealanders about the pandemic, casting the whole country as collaborators on a single effort to take care of themselves and each other.

That particular style of governing, however, may not be something easily replicated elsewhere. "You need the whole context, the way the political system has evolved," Helen Clark, a former prime minister, told the NYT. "It's not easily transferable."

Related: Is It Safe to Go Back to the Gym? Here Are 5 Factors to Consider, According to a Doctor

How to Make Sure Your Gym Is Safe During Coronavirus
How to Make Sure Your Gym Is Safe During Coronavirus

3. They Were Measured About Reopening

While the lockdown worked to slow the spread of the virus, it did, of course, have economic consequences. New Zealand has a thriving tourism industry, but the lockdown brought it to a screeching halt. Businesses took heavy losses, leading to higher unemployment rates. "The harder you push your lockdown, the more you get unintended consequences," Dr. Simon Thornley of the University of Auckland told the NYT. New Zealand slowly began lifting restrictions, and by the middle of May, the country had reached "level two:" the largest gatherings were still banned, but the heaviest restrictions were lifted and life slowly began returning to normal, with ongoing testing and intensive contact tracing apps.

On June 8, Ardern announced that the virus appeared to be eradicated from the country and everything could reopen. CBS News reported that, at the time of the announcement, it had been 17 days since the last new case was reported, and this was the first time the country had no active cases (as in, everyone who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 had officially recovered). Borders remain closed, residents are asked to continue scanning QR codes at public places to keep contact tracing up to date, returning citizens and residents are still required to quarantine, and it's understood that new cases may arrive when the borders reopen - but for now, the country is hopeful.

In a news conference, Ardern noted that "elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort." She continued: "We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say that again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs, we have to make sure - and we are - that we are prepared."

More From

  • 12 Stylish and Affordable Sectional Sofas You'll Love Lounging On

    Shopping for a new sofa isn't always an easy task, especially if you're searching online. One way you can make it easier is by narrowing in on what you want. If you're looking for something functional and comfortable, we suggest a sectional. These designs are perfect for fitting in any space from an apartment to a large house. Plus, you'll love lounging on them all day and night. Need more convincing? We turned to Amazon, because the site has so many affordable stylish finds that are delivered right to your doorstep. Ahead, you can shop the 12 choices that customers love and we can't stop thinking about. From stylish velvet choices to ones that even turn into beds, no doubt the one you love will transform your living room. Keep reading to shop them all. Related: I Replaced All My Home Cleaners With This Sustainable Set, and It's a Game Changer

  • What to Do If You've Been Around Someone Who Has Tested Positive For COVID-19

    So, your community has largely reopened, and you decided to get lunch with a friend, only to find out a few days later that they have tested positive for COVID-19. What do you do now?

  • We're Facing a Mental Health Crisis in Healthcare Workers, the Majority of Whom Are Women

    More than 130,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, a novel strain of coronavirus, and cases continue to surge in communities across the country. But for front-line medical workers, particularly those working in emergency rooms and treating COVID-19 patients, the fight has only just begun.

  • Bill Hader and Rachel Bilson Have Split After Less Than a Year of Dating

    Six months after going public with their relationship, Bill Hader and Rachel Bilson have split. According to People, the breakup was amicable and neither Bill nor Rachel have commented on the split.