Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

New Zealand COVID Control

April 2, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

New Zealand has maintained one of the lowest COVID cases since its inception last January. This can partially be due to this country being geographically isolated in comparison to other countries with much higher COVID cases such as the United States. However it is largely due to the prevention and de-escalation measures that were effectively implemented by its government. The country anticipated the pandemic to spread quickly and widely from their disease models projections and therefore began implementing a pandemic influenza plan earnestly in February. Parts of this plan entailed preparing hospitals for the expected influx of patients and initiating border control policies.

All of the preparing executed by government officials was soon needed as their first Coronavirus case was reported on February 26th. Shortly after, community transmission rapidly occurred causing national leaders to switch from mitigation strategies to elimination strategies by implementing strict countrywide lockdown measures that were designated at Alert Level 4. This occurred exactly one month after the first case was diagnosed, on March 26th. After 5 weeks of lockdown, New Zealand experienced a rapid decline in cases and receded to an Alert Level 3 countrywide lockdown for 2 more weeks. The last known case was reported in early May. On June 8th, national leaders moved to Alert Level 1 and declared that the pandemic was officially over in New Zealand, only 103 days after the very first identified case.

Chart: New Zealand Reaches 0 Active COVID Cases | Statista

Since the last reported case in early May, the only other cases have been from international travelers that are confined to government-managed quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. With cases low, New Zealand’s economy has returned to operating as it did pre-Covid. Public life for citizens has mostly returned back to normal. However, it is advised that this country plans to respond to resurgences of cases with control measures such as mandated masking. Surprisingly, masking was not a part of their elimination strategy. Considering the strict countrywide lockdown measures this is understandable but I still wonder how citizens protected themselves from catching the virus when they had to fulfill their essential tasks such as grocery shopping or walking their pets.

The total case count for New Zealand thus far has been 2,501 with only 26 deaths. There has been a resurgence of cases more recently (February 11) in the country’s largest city, Auckland. The city had to go into a mandatory three-day lockdown following the discovery of these unexplained cases. This happened to be the first lockdown the country enforced within 6 months. Prior to this lockdown, citizens had gone back to the normalcy of life prior to Covid-19 such as returning to work, attending concerts and even sporting events without having to wear a mask.

Due to this country being able to efficiently eliminate the spread of the virus prior to vaccines being available, the distribution of current vaccines isn’t as urgently needed as it is in other countries. However, being that New Zealanders are still experiencing unexplained, random cases I would firstly allocate the vaccine to healthcare workers, and then to those that are most vulnerable of being infected. This would include children, the elderly, and young adults and adults that have respiratory health concerns. Among the reported cases, there have been relatively few fatal outcomes. I believe that the best way to allocate the vaccine to citizens would be to firstly obtain a consensus of those that desire to receive it. From those that expressed wanting to be vaccinated, prioritizing the most vulnerable. This country has done an outstanding job of containing and terminating the virus from its communities. Providing vaccines to citizens would further help to reduce the spread of the virus, and catalyze the efforts being made by government officials to completely eradicate the existence of COVID.

Civic Health and Social Distancing

As aforementioned, New Zealand should still implement COVID-related precautionary measures. Though cases have been managed to be kept at minimal levels, we can never be too sure or safe with this virus. It is still an infectious disease we know so little about. Especially with the emergence of new strains and variants. Just when we think we know what this virus is, something else happens and we seem to find ourselves back at square 1; trying to piece together this unknown pandemic of a puzzle. It was advised that this country enforce mass masking (I am still so shocked to know that masking was never enforced being that the main spread of the virus is through air particles). I am sure that if masks were publicly mandated, and social distancing measures were strictly implemented, cases would continue to plateau for New Zealanders. I don’t think that life will ever go back to “normal” once this is finally resolved. I believe, well mostly hope, that the same sanitary initiatives that are being implemented now will continue on even after this pandemic is over. I know that we are all earnestly waiting to be able to enjoy our lives as freely as we did before, but I don’t think that would be the wisest thing for us to do as individuals, communities, countries, and as a united team that is globally warring with COVID. It is my belief that the safest, surest thing for us to do as we progress through these unprecedented times is to continue being safe. Continue being cautious. Continue being considerate.  

I have to commend New Zealand on handling the pandemic in a way that other countries could certainly benefit from. Government leaders have done an outstanding, upstanding job of putting their citizen’s health and well-being FIRST. Their swiftness in implementing evidence-based risk assessments, decisive government action, instating border-control measures, community transmission control measures, and case-based control measures were an effective, critical way to eliminate the spread of the virus. Having empathetic national leaders also played a crucial role in reducing spread. By providing citizens with a strong sense of care and confidence, they are much more likely to adhere to necessary pandemic control measures.


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