Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern, answering questions at the press conference at the German Chancellery in Berlin.
New Zealand is currently in a full lockdown to contain the COVID-19 virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shut down the country on March 25, when New Zealand had only 205 reported cases, in a move to prevent the exponential growth patterns that are currently taking place across the world. The nation closed itself down only 25 days after reporting its first case, who was a traveler from Iran. In comparison, Italy, which shut itself down on March 7, but only after thousands had already contracted the virus, has now reported 152,271 cases and 19,468 deaths by April 12. The United States, the country with the most coronavirus cases in the world with 528,301 on April 12 and which had its first reported case on January 21, has not declared a national lockdown. New Zealand’s lockdown strategy has been successful, with there being only 1,330 confirmed and probable cases and 4 deaths as of April 12.
The New Zealand lockdown requires the closure of all nonessential businesses and several restrictions have been placed on people’s freedom of movement. These restrictions, including maintaining a six-foot distance from others, are enforced by the police.
Prime Minister Ardern, using Google data, reported that recreational movement and visits to parks and essential services have significantly tapered off since the lockdown. Ardern said that she was proud of the results, and that “going hard and going early appears to be paying off for [New Zealand].” A government model showed that due to the lockdown, the country has only one-fourth of the cases it otherwise would have had without one.
The country of only five million has also set itself up for success with its ability to administer tests to all who need one. Access to tests played an essential role in South Korea in slowing down the virus, by being able to identify and isolate cases quickly.
On top of the lockdown, some New Zealand citizens are taking further measures to reduce coronavirus cases. Outside of a city called Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island, locals have set up their own checkpoints to not allow people to pass through. Although it is illegal, the still-continuing method has helped to limit the city of 36,000 to only one reported case.
In regards to the economic effect of the lockdown, New Zealand passed a 12.1 billion NZD ($7.36 billion USD) economic relief package, aimed at supporting workers and businesses affected by the shutdown. The deal does not cover most people’s full salaries and will have a large impact on the lower class; however, it will certainly ease the economic pains of the coronavirus.
With recent success, including more people having recovered from the virus in the last day than new cases reported, Prime Minister Ardern has been called upon by some to reopen the nation for Easter. The lockdown, when announced, was set to last four weeks. The Prime Minister will announce soon whether the lockdown will continue longer than expected, or if she will reopen the country.
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