Some countries have been hit harder than others by the novel coronavirus, with the United States currently being among the most affected. There are exceptions in other parts of the globe, however, with one of the most glaring examples being New Zealand. On the relatively rare occasions when the national media pays any attention to the tiny nation, they generally fall all over themselves to heap praise on that nation’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She has been on a crusade to wipe the virus from her islands entirely, no matter the cost. And at this point, they are edging closer to achieving that goal. But what comes next? (NY Post)
While most countries are working on ways to contain the coronavirus, New Zealand has set itself a much more ambitious goal: eliminating it altogether.
And experts believe the country could pull it off.
The virus “doesn’t have superpowers,” said Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine expert at the University of Auckland. “Once transmission is stopped, it’s gone.”
And Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken bold steps, putting the country under a strict lockdown in late March, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the new virus.
Ardern’s motto from the beginning has been to “go hard and go early.” The virus didn’t show up in New Zealand until March, but as soon as it did, when there are less than one hundred cases, Ardern terminated all travel to and from New Zealand with almost zero exceptions. She shut down nearly all businesses that didn’t involve getting food and medical resources to people. She ordered everyone into lockdown and brought the country (and its economy) to a standstill.
And at least so far it’s worked. The country’s infection rate never went above 100 per day in the following weeks and today they reported only five. The government appears to sincerely believe that they can wait this thing out for another week or two and there should be no cases of COVID-19 in the entire country. And I have to admit… they could be right.
But what happens after that? Ardern will be the leader of a nation with no infections, but also virtually zero herd immunity. At the moment, most workers are at home receiving government-subsidized pay. Soon, if nothing changes, they may indeed be back to work and life would look as if it’s returning to normal. But New Zealand relies on tourism to stay alive. The travel industry supports nearly ten percent of the jobs held by New Zealanders and accounts for a significant portion of their GDP.
She can’t simply turn New Zealand into a hermit nation. Sooner or later they will have to open their doors to the outside world again. And if a vaccine hasn’t been developed (something that is not only unlikely in the near future but may prove entirely impossible in the end) they will be wide open to a fresh surge in cases. How many times will New Zealand be able to “go hard” and return to total lockdown conditions before their economy is completely collapsed?
What we’re seeing here is pretty much the complete opposite of the experiment going on in Sweden. They went with the herd immunity approach, for the most part, only locking down the oldest and those with compromised immune systems. New Zealand is putting itself in a vacuum. But sooner or later that vacuum has to be released and the air will come rushing back in. Air that will most likely contain the novel coronavirus. By the end of the year which should know which of these approaches was wise, assuming either of them come out of it intact.