As of 17th April Friday local time, Australia has reported 6,462 coronavirus cases and 63 deaths, while New Zealand has recorded 1,401 cases and only nine deaths
New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern,announced on 23 March that the government would move swiftly to implement a stringent national shutdown – at that point no one had died from the virus and a little more than 200 active cases.
To date only 9 people have died of the virus in New Zealand, with more patients having recovered than there are remaining active cases.
Central to New Zealand’s approach is a scientific fact that most western leaders appear to have ignored, according to Michael Baker, a professor at the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health in Wellington who sits on the government’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group. That is that the virus usually has an incubation period of five to six days, twice as long as influenza.
“That means that when someone gets sick, if you isolate them quickly and round up their contacts, you can quarantine those people and interrupt that chain of transmission,” said Baker. “With influenza you can’t really do that because by the time you’ve found their contacts it’s too late, they’ve infected other people.”
And yet most countries treated Covid-19 as if it were influenza, he said, trying to slow its advance rather than eradicate it
The early signs are promising. The rate of new infections has dwindled to the lowest in weeks, and the death toll — at 11 — is one of the lowest among developed nations. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, will decide on Monday whether to start easing a quarantine that requires everyone but essential workers to stay at home
On Monday she is due to signal whether her government believes four weeks of the most restrictive lockdown measures – which will expire next Wednesday – have been enough to flatten the curve and what the next steps will be.
The island nation’s lofty goal of elimination is not without critics, who say it’s unrealistic and comes at a devastating economic cost. Even if New Zealand succeeds, its borders will have to remain closed to much of the world for a considerable period to keep the virus out. That will decimate the tourism industry, its largest source of foreign exchange earnings.