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.
Geography has helped. If any place could be described as socially distant it would be New Zealand, surrounded by stormy seas, with Antarctica to the south. With 5 million people spread across an area the size of Britain, even the cities aren’t overly crowded.
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.
New Zealand has so far avoided a widespread outbreak, and new cases have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday, leaving the goal tantalizingly close. Only 13 people have died so far.
“We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” Ardern told reporters last week. “But it will continue to need a team of 5 million behind it.”
Ardern on Monday announced the country would stay in lockdown for another week before slightly easing some work restrictions to help restart the economy. Most of the social restrictions will remain in place.
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