The world continues to battle extraordinary circumstances owing to the invisible enemy with global COVID 19 cases exceeding the 4.6 million mark. But more than the virus grappling livelihoods, the focus seems to have shifted, and quite rightly as some may agree, towards unleashing the supremacy of science, to deliver scalable, usable, and beneficial innovations that are for everyone, everywhere, at the same time.
A ray of hope dawned upon when few countries like New Zealand, Australia, states in the US, Germany, India and Spain, to name a few, began vigilantly easing restrictions to have their respective economies gradually pick up steam at the back of their Governments thriving to grease the wheels.
New Zealand has particularly emerged as one of the strongest economies to have combatted the battle, primarily owing to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern robust and timely strategies that make her a model of compassionate leadership in this crisis and as some may deem, the leader our troubled times need.
Moreover, New Zealand has assembled up its health system to specifically act as a defence against the virus and can undertake up to 12k tests per day, with 3.5% of the total population already been tested. Testing rates are also one of the highest in the world per capita, ahead of countries like Germany, Singapore, Australia, the UK and South Korea.
Current COVID 19 Stance in New Zealand
On 20 May 2020, New Zealand had 1,153 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus with 21 deaths. There have been no additions in the last 24 hours in the confirmed cases stats. Labs finished 6,113 tests on 20 May 2020, which brings the total number of tests finished to date to an impressive 244,838. The country is presently at Alert Level 2 with most businesses allowed to open, though need to ensure operational safety.
A good day for the APAC country, New Zealand registered no new cases of COVID 19 on 20 May 2020, though the total number of confirmed cases increased by 4 on 19 May 2020, owing to people who returned to New Zealand from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship in April and tested positive in Uruguay (and have reportedly recovered). 96% of entire probable and confirmed cases have recovered in the country, according to the Ministry of Health.
Despite things streamlining gradually, New Zealand’s strong focus right now remains on fighting this pandemic.
Alert Level Recap
Though there are still plenty of restrictions, getting to coronavirus alert level 2 last week was a big relief for New Zealand in a world that is immensely exposed to the virus threat even now. In order to beat COVID 19 to an impressive extent, the country endured 6.5 weeks in alert levels 4 and 3. However, it is worldwide acknowledged and appreciated fact that Kiwis from all walks of life have been resolute and determined in this crisis period with the support of an efficient Government.
As per PM Ardern’s post-cabinet conference from 11 May 2020, by the end of level 4, New Zealand’s R value (number of persons each case goes on to infect) was 0.4. In level 3 it has continued to be low. Experts opine that if the R value remains under 1, the country will eventually attain its goal of coronavirus elimination.
Let us have a recap of Alert Levels in New Zealand:
In the current situation, retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and other public spaces, including playgrounds and gyms, can reopen and health services will restart. However, strict hygiene measures and physical distancing norms need to remain in place.
Take on Alert Level 1
New Zealand is now currently aiming for Alert Level 1 which, if imposed, will ensure that the country has contained the novel coronavirus disease, though some restrictions like contact tracing of any positive case, safe operation of workplaces and schools, encouraged physical distancing, top-notch hygiene protocols and few border entry measures will continue to exist.
However, it should be noted that the rules for gatherings are due to be reviewed later in May, which makes it safe to admit that there is still a challenge and a long way to shift from level 2 to level 1. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is that New Zealand is headed into winter and the flu season soon, which translates into the need of more testing. But there is a silver lining-
PM Ardern notified on 11 May 2020 that the country can now contact trace 185 cases per day and has the capacity to contact 10k people per day via a new national call centre that has been established since the beginning of the virus outbreak.
On 20 May 2020, PM Ardern updated the country on further decision-making milestones for level 2 and for level 1 and released a digital diary app that will allow users to track their movements themselves. To date, she has not a put a number on the Level 1 date and stated that “If we slacken up, then we might move in the wrong direction.”
The change in Level will not happen till Dr Ashley Bloomfield, director general of health is not convinced. On Monday i.e May 25, 2020, the first check will happen after relaxation and thereafter regular inspections will take place every 2 weeks.
As deciphered, only time and the virus’ stubbornness will decide how soon or far can New Zealand move to the much-awaited Level 1. But one thing is for sure- the country has been ahead of many and continues to. Not ignoring the risk factor, we conclude quoting the globally loved PM- “We may have won a few battles, but we have not won the war. None of us can assume COVID isn’t with us”.