New Zealand goes 100 days with no COVID-19 transmission

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a community meeting with COVID-19 community responders at Wainuiomata's Memorial Hall on July 30, 2020, in Wellington, New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a community meeting with COVID-19 community responders at Wainuiomata's Memorial Hall on July 30, 2020, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Image credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand, a country of about 4.8 million, has now gone 100 days without a single locally transmitted case of COVID-19, according to news reports. 

The last COVID-19 case acquired locally from an unknown source was reported on May 1, BBC News reported, around the time that lockdown measures began to ease. In late March, the South Pacific island implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, "a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor's yard was banned," The New York Times reported

To date, New Zealand has recorded a total of 1,569 cases and 22 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard. Just 21 cases are considered active, and those people are isolating, CNN reported.

Related: Read live updates on the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the second week of June, life in New Zealand has gone nearly back to pre-pandemic ways. Then and now officials warned that letting down their guard could lead to a second wave.

"Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone. However, as we all know, we can't afford to be complacent," Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-General of Health, said on Sunday (Aug. 9), BBC News reported. "We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand."

That was the case for Vietnam, which showed no community transmission of COVID-19 for 99 days, and then a 57-year-old man in the city of Da Nang in central Vietnam tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. By the end of July, according to news reports, Da Nang became the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak, reporting the country's first pandemic death. 

Other countries have been successful at blazing by the 100-day milestone. For instance, Taiwan, which could have experienced a severe outbreak given its nearness to China and the fact that so many Taiwanese work in China, also has gone more than 100 days without any community transmission. Since July 22, when Taiwan reported 455 cases and more than 100 days of no local transmission, the island has logged just 22 new cases; none of the new cases appeared to have been locally transmitted, according to news reports. 

The success in Taiwan has been partly attributed to a culture that both takes infectious diseases seriously (after suffering from the SARS outbreak in 2003) and is acclimated to wearing face masks, STAT News reported

Though New Zealand has not been strict about mandating face masks in public, the country has such a low density — about 47 people per square mile compared with 93 per square mile in the U.S. — and they practiced strict lockdown measures for five weeks. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.