New Zealand has no active cases of COVID-19, but truly eliminating the virus in the country will be challenge.
New Zealand has “eliminated” COVID-19 “for now”, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared, announcing the nation will move to alert level 1 from midnight on June 8, lifting all requirements for social distancing and restrictions on businesses.
Below, two of the key epidemiologists who worked on New Zealand’s elimination strategy explain today’s news – and the challenges ahead.
Today, for the first time since February 28, New Zealand has no active cases of COVID-19.
According to our modeling, it is now very likely (well above a 95% chance) New Zealand has completely eliminated the virus. This is in line with our Te Pūnaha Matatini colleagues’ modeling.
Today is also the 17th day since the last new case was reported. New Zealand has a total of 1,154 confirmed cases (combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1,504) and 22 people have died.
This is an important milestone and a time to celebrate. But as we continue to rebuild the economy, there are several challenges ahead if New Zealand wants to retain its COVID-19-free status while the pandemic continues elsewhere.
It remains important that good science supports the government’s risk assessment and management. Below, we recommend several ways people can protect themselves. But we also argue New Zealand needs an urgent overhaul of the health system, including the establishment of a new national public health agency for disease prevention and control.
New Zealand’s decisive elimination strategy appears to have succeeded, but it is easy to become complacent. Many other countries pursuing a containment approach have had new outbreaks, notably Singapore, Korea, and Australia.
New Zealand has spent months expanding its capacities to eliminate COVID-19. But maintaining elimination will be challenging. Airports, seaports, and quarantine facilities remain potential sites of transmission from overseas, particularly given the pressure to increase numbers of arrivals.
New Zealand’s move to alert level 1 will end all physical distancing restrictions. If the virus is reintroduced, this creates the potential for outbreaks arising from indoor social gatherings. New Zealand is also moving into winter when respiratory viruses can spread more easily, as is seen with the highly seasonal coronaviruses which cause the common cold.
(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday she was confident New Zealand has halted the spread of the coronavirus after the last known infected person in the country recovered.
It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported, while 40,000 have been tested in that time. And Monday also marked the first time since late February that there have been no active cases.