The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. keeps getting worse. China is just starting to reopen its society. South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are managing their outbreaks with the help of massive contact tracing detective work. But New Zealand, which saw its first confirmed case on Feb. 28, is on track to stop its outbreak before it ever had a chance to begin. That's likely thanks to early and decisive nationwide action by its government.
The small country of nearly 4.8 million people was able to quickly contain the virus and appears to have a real chance of wiping it out entirely, The Washington Post reported. As of April 7, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the country has logged 1,160 confirmed and suspected cases in the country and just one death. More people recovered in the last 24 hours (65) than were found to have been infected (54), suggesting that the local outbreak is declining.
Moreover, as of April 7, just one person is known to have died of the disease, according to Worldometer, which tracks COVID-19 cases around the globe.
The key to success has been a straightforward, two-pronged strategy led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Related: 13 coronavirus myths busted by science
—Coronavirus in the US: Map & cases
—What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
—How deadly is the new coronavirus?
—How long does coronavirus last on surfaces?
—Is there a cure for COVID-19?
—How does COVID-19 compare with seasonal flu?
—How does the coronavirus spread?
Early in March, according to The Washington Post, the country began to instruct all international visitors — in normal times, the country gets as many as 4 million tourists a year — to self-isolate for 14 days. Then on March 19, the tourism-dependent nation fully closed its borders to international visitors, a move that was likely effective because it came before community spread took off locally.
Just as importantly, according to The Washington Post, the Ardern government pushed a strong "stay home" message beginning early in the crisis, and implemented a strong social distancing order as of March 23. The order shut schools and nonessential services and banned many outdoor activities. New Zealanders (including immigrants) have also received recurring payments from the government designed to make it easier to people to avoid working. A member of Ardern's government caught mountain biking and beach going with his family even faced public condemnation from the prime minister. And, according to the post, Ardern's political rivals have not taken any steps to minimize the crisis.
New Zealand plans to keep strict social distancing measures in place for at least a full month, according to Ardern. If current trends continue, that could put the country on pace to begin reopening its society sooner than the U.S. or Europe, even as it enters the Southern Hemisphere's winter months.
Originally published on Live Science.
- Going viral: 6 new findings about viruses
- Top 10 mysterious diseases
- The 12 deadliest viruses on Earth
OFFER: Save 45% on 'How It Works' 'All About Space' and 'All About History'!
For a limited time, you can take out a digital subscription to any of our best-selling science magazines for just $2.38 per month, or 45% off the standard price for the first three months.
New Zealand gets right around 4 million visitors per year (noting that they are an island nation - perhaps to comparison to Hawaii would make better sense?). Kansas gets 25 million tourists per year - noting that Kansas is a land-locked state. New Zealand get's 450,000 Chinese visitors per year - the number for Kansas is unknown to me based on a quick search of Chinese visitors to Kansas - but my son lives in Kansas City Missouri - there are a good number of Chinese people visiting and/or working there - including many that work with Visa's at his tech company employers.
What we really know about the spread of Covid-19! That outside of China - the spread has largely been dictated by global travel. New Zealand announced it would close it's borders from international travel - China specifically on February 2nd (2 days after the US did!). This, both from New Zealand's perspective and the US perspective, was the greatest step that could be taken to minimize infections - blocking entry from those who recently traveled to or reside in the high infection areas.
New Zealand has only 1 city of over 1 million people (1.45 million specifically) and 7 cities total of over 100,000 people. When compared to similar sized cities and areas in the USA - New Zealand ceases being a standout in the fight against the corona virus. Are the results in New Zealand a result of nothing more than a combination of it's much more closed society from outsiders (an island nation)? Is it nothing more than just a result of it's incredible low population density? Or is there truly a correlation between their actions taken and the end result? Over the past week, New Zealand's rate of increase has been 100% (doubling in one week). This is nearly identical to the rate of infection increase in the USA over the same past week. So this shows simply that the rate of increased infections in New Zealand is literally matching that of the USA - so wouldn't it be just as fair to say that the USA is doing just as good (or just as bad) of a job as New Zealand is?
Of course, no country in the world is testing their entire population - anywhere! Every single country in the world is suffering from not having enough test kits to administer them to everybody and are therefore relegating tests to symptomatic people and those who have been in close proximity to known infected people.
New Zealand is always going to have fewer total infections and deaths versus the US - after all our population is 75 times larger than New Zealand's. And to add to that, the areas where the US is seeing the largest outbreaks or hotspots, is also in areas of FAR higher population densities.
Remember, China's rate of infection at their peak rate was between a 1.4 to 1.5 day over day rate of increase (this may have been contributed by their lack of initial testing and large backlog of patients needing testing). This correlates with a weekly increase of 10 fold the number of infections. Ie. increasing from 10 to 100, or from 100 to 1,000 or from 1,000 to 10,000 over the course of 7 days. The US has not seen this rate of increase in infections or deaths anywhere (yet). We are much more in high infection areas, likely to see day over day increase rates of 1.15 to 1.25. Of course, like China, the rate of day over day increase is closely tied to the number of people tested . . . and just like in China, testing starts out more gradual. China largely used the WHO tests, which proved to be faulty - lots of false negatives as it turned out.
Of course, taking or reading much data from China is HIGHLY risky. China's numbers simply cannot be trusted. A perfect example of this is to read and understand how China has handled the 2018 and 2019 Swine/Pig virus and how they purposely hid those numbers as well. Simply Google: "Reuters Coronavirus Pigs" to get an idea of the efforts China makes to hide the truth from the public and the world - in recent/current times (not decades ago).
So are we rightfully giving credit to New Zealand from actions that they have taken and proven to be successful - is there really any causal relationship between their actions and the results? Or are we giving credit to New Zealand for a coincidental outcome that is not based on their actions, but more so based on their population, location, and circumstances that are largely unrelated to the actions that they have put in place?
We can certainly look to New York vs. California for a comparison in how quickly "shelter-in-place" orders played out. Parts of CA that were showing higher infection rates issued localized shelter-in-place orders pretty early - and their cases never spread at such an uncontrollable rate. Whereas in New York and NY City specifically, I think half the country was thinking to themselves and their family - why isn't NYC in lockdown? Then a few days later, the NYC Mayor (De Blasio) started pushing the idea and suggesting that NYC do exactly that! But the Governor (Cuomo) was opposed to locking down NYC. For days the Mayor pushed the idea, for days and days the NY Governor (Cuomo) fought and criticized the idea. Only after the spread had become so obviously expansive, did Cuomo finally agree to locking down NYC! From the day De Blasio started recommending the city-wide lockdown to the day Cuomo confinely capitulated and allowed the "shelter-in-place" order to go into effect - ended up knowingly and statistically costing the city a huge increase in spread - which when all is said and done will probably represent at least 25% of all cases and all deaths in the NYC area - all because their Governor refused to shut down the city day after day, with the highest population density in our country and with known, expansive spread of the Coronavirus among the city's population!
Yes, the USA has made some huge mistakes - like the refusal to do the obvious in NYC/NY. We have done a poor job of providing a consistent message, both from the media, the government and the various States/Governors. Yes, we did not use the WHO tests (which in the end proved to be faulty) and instead chose to develop our own tests (which also used a faulty part that was intended to be used as a double check to see if the testee actually had the "generic" flu - designed to be used to detect false negatives in the two parts of the test that were testing for the coronavirus). But the US has also taken many very smart steps to stem the flow of infections. We were among the first countries (1/31) to block travel from China and people who had visited China. This was hugely unpopular at the time - the mass media claimed it was dumb, combative, juvenile and counter productive (of course, now most of that very same media is criticizing our government for having not done it sooner!). We implemented mandatory quarantines for repatriated American's from overseas. That was so unpopular by the media, that the ACLU actually threatened to sue our government on the premise that it was against our civil rights! Apparently somebody thought that one through and weighed the consequences of the "egg on face" if they actually won that suit - only to find a large spread of infections from those repatriated Americans that went unquarantined. Then when outbreaks started in the EU, our government shut off travel from the EU nations - and again the media attacked our government for that decision - saying it's apparent protectionist attitude was harmful, was anti-American, and was simply dumb and wouldn't accomplish anything anyway!
In the end, this pandemic will play it's course. Hopefully, we can find some medicines that will reduce the symptoms and save lives - making it a little bit less scary. Hopefully, we'll find a reliable vaccine that will be ready in time so that we won't have to worry about the virus re-emerging at a later date and causing more of the same damage. But mostly, hopefully, we'll get lucky and this will pass. Perhaps, we'll even learn something from this pandemic, from the 2009 MERS, the 2009/2010 H1N1 Pandemic, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the 2015 ZIKA outbreak, the 2002/03 SARS outbreak, and of course the big one, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. So over the past 100 years, of these major health outbreaks and pandemics, all but two have attacked respiratory systems - and yet, during all these administrations and these different government leaders over all these years (even recently), and us as a population have really done nothing to very little to be prepared for the next one! During most of these outbreaks and pandemics - we as a country never even bothered to timely cut off travel from high-exposure countries in an effort to prevent the import of these diseases into our own country! In the end, we simply got LUCKY with these other pandemics - we didn't prevent them, slow them, or stop them out of any degree of intentional government actions - we truly simply just got lucky that those diseases did not spread into our country at high enough rates.
I remember clearly the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Then our government refused to shut down our borders from those countries actively experiencing outbreaks (though we did suggest that the third world countries monitor passengers getting on airplanes). There were some that highly criticized our government for putting American's at risk by not doing so (myself included). The Government and nearly all of the media claimed it was not humanitarian to restrict such travel - it would not be good for our image or for the image of those infected countries! Instead, it was decided we'd "check" passengers arriving for fever (hoping they'd be symptomatic at their time of entry into the USA) - a hope and a prayer approach. But we got lucky, and that is all we counted on, and we didn't see contagion and community spread in the USA. Maybe it is fortunate that Ebola is so deadly and so quick and spread only when symptoms are present that the "hope and prayer" approach worked - but it really boiled down to luck in the end. We took a naive approach, we ignored the worst-case scenario risks, we pretended it wouldn't/couldn't happen here. We really did somewhere between absolutely nothing and the absolute minimum - and got lucky in the end. And worse, for years after that, we refused to recognize that we simply got lucky and did virtually no concrete planning for the next instance when maybe we wouldn't get so lucky! In the end, we were just as unprepared for ZIKA in 2015 - sure some States sprayed for Mosquitos and citizens took it upon themselves to wear mosquito repellent - but once again, our Government demonstrated it had no grasp on the situation and the potential risk to our society and in the end, did virtually nothing - certainly less than what our government has done during the current pandemic - but of course, nothing was done in advance, it has all continued to be mostly reactionary approaches.
Can we really prepare for a pandemic? What does that really mean?
You failed to mention the deaths from the virus which is 1 in the case of NZ and in 27 Kansas. You also failed to mention the financial support sent out to support businesses and individuals three weeks ago. They also have a leader who is very empathetic and competent which can hardly be said of the political line up in either Washington or Topeka. You also went on to compare it to Hawaii where the population is one third of NZ and they have 5 deaths in comparison. So I understand as an American you want to be supportive of your nations efforts in this crises, but dumping on an article that praises a nation like NZ is not the way to do it.
My point is that I question that NZ's actions (which are not particularly unique in many ways) themselves have created a causal impact on the number and rate of infections. And to be honest, I don't think statistically and scientifically there is very strong evidence for a causal relationship of the numbers of infected people due to NZ's actions (again, not particularly unique) vs. other very different countries. I think ignoring that NZ is a small island nation with low international travel rates and a very low population density with few to no large, highly dense population cities needs to be considered.
Comparing to a place like Hawaii, or Bermuda, or some other moderate to small sized island area is relational in that the flow of people is very different - than with a land locked country with open borders or a State within a country. Kansas (or pick any number of States in the USA or countries in the EU) see travel through the area that acts to potentially bring in infections from elsewhere.
I am not sure how providing financial support to individuals and businesses serves as a significant impact on the spread of the virus. Certainly some businesses (like everywhere) are continuing to operate. Food must be consumed, energy produced, water cleaned, hospitals staffed, garbage removed, essential items produced, and the like.
Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that NZ appears to have done well in stemming the rate of infection - at least up until this past week when their rate of infection increase has spiked up to a doubling over the week. We know from elsewhere, the number of infections start out small and the initial spread is slow - there is the wait for contagiousness, then that wait repeats with each spread. Only after the rate of infected people starts to reach a critical mass - will the daily/weekly rate of spread with higher numbers start to appear - as NZ saw last week.
Kiwi's are probably better than American's at taking this seriously and doing/living carefully as they should - obeying! Unfortunately, this is not an attribute (we) American's are known for.
Like many news articles in this day and age of Coronavirus - I think this article lacks any in-depth analysis and assigns a causal relationship prematurely, while completely ignoring other natural factors inherent in the subject destination. One could accurately state that the rate of spread in Africa has been exceptionally low! Yet, do any of us really believe this is the result of specific actions taken by those nations? Just a matter of timing? Or an impact by other factors? We simply don't know at this point.
To your point that I am a cheerleader for how the US has responded! I don't agree with that. While I think the US has made some correct moves that were extremely unpopular at the time (by the media, some Americans and even the WHO) - like cutting off travel from China and later the EU. We have also failed to take strong actions elsewhere (like the excessively long delay in shutting down NYC). I think we should have cut off domestic air travel in the USA a month ago! We should have closed access to nursing/elderly care facilities and required staffing to temporarily live on premise. I think our population and all of our leaders should have been paying attention to this in late January and early February - but apparently we had far more important political fighting that required 100% of our attention. We should have started taking care of this decades ago - insuring that our capabilities and capacities weren't shipped overseas to low-cost labor destinations - so that when "catastrophic" events arrived - we aren't forced to rely on outside actors (who have their own interests to address) to provide us with needed supplies and materials - preventing us from addressing our own needs. Of course, it is always very, very easy in hind sight to say what we should have done. It's much easier to be the person who didn't have to make the decisions in real time, but to simply get to be the person who gets to look back with 20/20 vision in hindsight and suggest certain things were done wrong.
The financial life line that the NZ government sent out weeks ago and the one the US government is just talking about make a huge difference to anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck. The worry of how to pay the rent or mortgage has meant people are not tempted to go out unnecessarily to find an income
When looking at data like the weekly doubling, it is important to look at the regional or community spread, as that data is IMO more relevant. Travel inside NZ is closed, whereas the States things are a lot more add hock, which is due to government policy as much as the kiwi personality.
New Zealand in not Africa, so I think it is fair to say their numbers can be trusted.
Hello, well obviously you're not giving NZ any credit at all, you're not giving me any credit at all and I live here, in Palmerston North precisely! For the past 2 weeks I like almost every other non essential person have been living under lock down. Instead of going anywhere I please any time I please I have to stay at home, with someone I barely know, he's my Boarder and moved in just a week before the lock down. I hardly even know him.
The reason we went into lock down was the projected increase of cases AND a local case that couldn't be linked to overseas travel. We had local transmission, and we wanted to stamp it out asap. Most people in NZ do in fact live in cities, with suburbs and shopping centres and theaters, everything you have in the USA just smaller. So a sports venue holding 30,000 people will still cause the virus to be spread with people crammed in one seat apart as it would in a large venue holding 100,000 people. The size of the venue is irrelevant compared to the distance apart the seats are! If people do not gather, do not be close together, we can slow down and eventually eliminate the virus. Today there were 29 new cases, yesterday there were 50 new cases, the day before there were 54 new cases, and 4 days ago there were 69 new cases. So tell me please how many new cases per day the USA has gone down over the past 4 days?
Our leader Jacinda Adern took scientific advice and along with her Government decided stern action was required. Projections if we did nothing are that there would be 4000 DEATHS by now in NZ, as it happens we have 1 death. So unlike your opinion the death rate IS an important factor. My friends and I are debating at present whether the USA deaths will reach 1 million, personally I think that's a bit high, I think more like 400,000, as even your airlines are still flying the virus around America! Your leaders are doing nothing to stop the spread of the virus. All they're doing is trying to contain it, and they're failing, and they will continue to fail whilst twiddling their thumbs and sitting on their hands prevails.
All the internal borders must close, all the airlines must stop flying, Every non essential business must close, all the schools must close, everything currently being done must continue, and get a new leader, the one you have is incompetent.
I don't dispute the NZ numbers and don't think I have suggested that. Having lived for 10 years in the South Pacific, worked with many New Zealanders (they referred to themselves as Kiwis, at least those I know/knew and where I lived at the time) and I am not completely immune to NZ.
I am also not suggesting that what the NZ government has done is bad, worthless, or anything of the sort - I think it was just yesterday that NZ announced/or became effective the mandatory quarantines to all arriving people from foreign countries (regardless of their nationality). I think NZ has taken responsible actions.
But! and this is my main point about NZ, is that the conditions and factors present in a very small, island nation country with a VERY low population density and extremely limited foreign (outside the "community" - being the nation) travel potential has to be a serious consideration it determining the natural existence that quells and/or slows/minimizes the level of spread of a infectious disease - any infectious disease.
NZ is not home to any really large population cities, there is 1 city with over 1 million people (about 1.4-1.5 million) and only 7 total cities with a population of over 100,000 (most of them just barely over 100,000).
These factors, of and by themselves, contribute to a reduced risk of rate of spread. And yes, on top of that, doing the common practices that other countries have imposed will further support the reduction of spread. So suggesting that the acts taken by NZ (which are really all not that unique) may have improved the outcomes in NZ (considering the geographic and demographic conditions), those same or very similar actions do not necessarily result in the same outcomes in areas that are far different geographically and demographically - as has been seen.
Kia, I do give NZ credit, at no point do I suggest the actions taken have not positively impacted the outcome for NZ. My point is and has been that NZ also has other factors (geographic and demographic) that need to be considered as part of the infectious disease spread situation - especially in understanding the statistics.
Ignoring these factors, and promoting or assuming that the only impact on the spread of Covid-19 in NZ is due to the governments actions (which I think are good actions) and them alone, and therefore assuming if every other country simply does what NZ does, would have the same end result, is ignoring all the science and statistical analysis that is required to understand why there is or is not success from the same actions in different locations.
I have a lot of respect for NZ. It is one of a few places my daughter wants to live - after having visited (your beautiful country) for a wedding there a few years ago. After having friends and professional contacts who are from NZ. I have only positive feelings for NZ. This is not about feelings or respect though - my opinions are about the importance of understanding how situations (in this case geography and demographics) play a role in the science and statistics (that it is not just the government's and people's actions). The other factor is the coming change in seasons - though I am not really seeing nearly as much support for the scientist's "hopes" and "forecasts" (which they have reduced themselves b/c they do not appear to be as accurate this time) that spring and summer would likely slow the spread of the disease - NZ is now moving into it's winter season - and if one accepts the science of similar corona based infections/outbreaks - that could increase the risks. Let's hope that NZ (and elsewhere) can identify 100% of infected people and practice full quarantining of the infected, until they recover. And can get to a point of zero infections.