Coronavirus Currently Eliminated in This Country, Here’s What They Did
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced that the coronavirus is “currently” eliminated in the country.
This is fantastic news. I’d applaud this for any country.
So while she says it’s currently eliminated, it’s not completely non-existent in the country. There were 5 new cases reported on Monday but there was no widespread community transmission. Then on Tuesday there were 8 news cases reported.
I’m not really sure then how she can say it’s eliminated, but it is very minute.
As such, from midnight on Monday, certain businesses such as construction will be allowed to reopen, but social distancing rules will still apply.
“We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives,” Ms Ardern said at the daily government briefing.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the low number of new cases in recent days “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination”.
He warned that “elimination” did not mean there would be no new cases, “but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from”.
So what was their plan of action?
On 23 March New Zealand committed to an elimination strategy. Both countries had relatively low case numbers at that time: New Zealand had reported 102 cases and no deaths and Australia had reported 1396 cases and 10 deaths. On that day the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that New Zealand was going to rapidly escalate levels of physical distancing and travel restrictions, reaching the level of a full national lockdown on 26 March (level four on the alert scale).
Taking an elimination approach is very different from mitigating pandemic influenza. With mitigation, the response is increased as the pandemic progresses, and more intensive interventions such as school closures are often held in reserve to “flatten the curve”. By contrast, disease elimination partly reverses the sequence by using vigorous interventions early to interrupt disease transmission.
New Zealand needed this lockdown for several reasons. By effectively putting the country into mass home quarantine for a month it extinguished many chains of Covid-19 transmission. This period gave us much needed time to ramp up the critical measures required for elimination to work (more rigorous quarantine at the borders, expanded testing and contact tracing, and additional surveillance measures to provide assurance for when elimination had been achieved).
So it’s still a good thing that their numbers are as low as they are, but I don’t think I personally would define that as eliminated.