If flattening the curve were a sport, New Zealand would be Usain Bolt. Social distancing is a relatively new term in our vernacular, but it didn’t take long for one country to master it. New Zealand entered lockdown on March 25, but it fully committed to that lockdown. All nonessential businesses closed immediately, and people are pretty much confined to their homes, with the exception of exercising in their neighborhoods or grocery shopping. After just 10 days of lockdown, the number of new coronavirus cases in New Zealand has already started to drop.
On Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases in New Zealand was 54, while the number of recoveries was 65, and only one person is known to have died of COVID-19. The secret to the country’s success isn’t really a secret at all. It’s doing what the rest of the world is doing, except it’s focusing on “elimination,” rather than “containment.”
In early March, New Zealand began requesting that visitors self-isolate for 14 days, and then closed its borders entirely on March 19. The government implemented a strong, unwavering message for people to stay at home.
While the lockdown isn’t easy on business owners, many were in full support of the measure, realizing that early social distancing was crucial to eradicating the virus. Stephan Tindall, founder of the Warehouse, New Zealand’s largest retailer, said, “We were hugely worried about what was happening in Italy and Spain. If we didn’t shut down quickly enough, the pain was going to go on for a very long time. It’s inevitable that we will have to shut down anyway, so we would rather it be sharp and short.”
Due to early and effective efforts, the virus peaked at 82 cases on April 2, and has been declining ever since. Although some have called for an early end to the lockdown, citing the encouraging trend, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is committed to keeping the strict measures in place for a full four weeks.