As the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold in Europe and the United States, new Zealand’s Prime minister Jacinda Ardern Presented her country with a choice in mid-march.
They could let coronavirus creep into the community and brace for an onslaught, as other countries around the world had done, or they could go hard by closing the border, even if that initially hurt the island nation’s hugely tourism-dependent economy. When New Zealand had only reported 28 cases, Ardern closed borders to foreigners, and when there were 102 cases. she announced a nationwide lockdown.
The country reported its first cases of community transmission in three months, forcing the country’s most populous city, Auckland back under lockdown. The national election was postponed for one of the few times in the country’s history. The authorities said, “virus appeared to have crept in though the border, as of Thursday, New Zealand has 101 active cases, bringing the country’s total reported coronavirus cases to 1,304, including 22 deaths.
Ardern offered New Zealanders a deal, put up with some of the toughest rules in the world, and in return be kept safe, first from the deadly coronavirus and later from potential economic devastation.
It seemed a deal had paid off, for a while. But New Zealand spent seven weeks under lockdown, five of them under strict rules that meant even takeaway food and travelling outside of their immediate neighborhood were off limits. But by June, life was basically back to normal and in August, New Zealand marked 100 days without any community transmission. Last week, then it changed.
David Seymour, the leader of right-wing minority part ACT, said “The Government has one job, keep the virus out of our community so we can avoid lockdowns. it has failed and we are all paying the price.”
Australia for instance also took swift, tough action at the start of the pandemic, but issues at the border lead to an outbreak in the state of Victoria, prompting the country’s second-biggest city, Melbourne, to return to a lockdown and be placed under the curfew. Around Asia-Pacific, other countries that entered into similar implicit deals with their citizens are facing similar situations.
Now, as those in Europe go on holiday, people in parts of New Zealand and Australia, two countries that were once held up as examples of how to handle the virus, remain under lockdown. To some, that raise questions, did they take the right approach and by promising safety, were governments like Ardern’s always setting themselves up to fail.
Ardern did not want to a simply limit the impact of coronavirus, she wanted to eliminate it. Elimination, which meant , the New Zealand health authorities defined as stopping the chains of transmission in the country, was an ambitious goal, and one that few nations adopted.
Ardern and her government said, it was the right one to protect the health of both the public and economy, and by April , New Zealand announced that it had achieved its goal of eliminating the virus.
Director General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield advised people to stock up on face masks. On a Facebook Live Q&A session, he said “I don’t think its scaremongering asking people to prepare for potential natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and so on, it actually looking after people, this is about being prepared.”
Authorities have admitted that workers at New Zealand’s border facilities people who would have been most vulnerable to catching the virus, were not being tested on a regular basis.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said, “I want to acknowledge, at the outset that testing of staff working at out border has been too slow. Adding, he told, ” It has not met the very clear expectations of Minister, the decision that Cabinet has made were not implemented in a timely or robust manner, that is disappointing and frustrating.”
“As smugglers have known for , borders controls are never foolproof”, said by the scientist Peter Gluckman, former prime Minister Helen Clark, and former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe wrote in a pare in July.
In April, when New Zealand was under its strict lockdown, a survey showed 88% of New Zealanders trusted the governments pandemic response, state broadcaster TVNZ reported. In the months since, Ardern’s party Soared in [popularity to well over 50%. But now, with the election only eight weeks away, Ardern’s opponents have seize on the problems at the border.
Judith Collins, the leader of the man right-wing opposition National Party, on Thursday, launched its own proposed border policy, saying that the governments disorderly and confused response had to put the health and livelihoods of 5 million New Zealanders at risk.
Paul Goldsmith, from the National Party, on Tuesday said that, “We were told we went hard and early and we stayed longer in lockdown the first time, those additional hard weeks, because we wanted to avoid a yo-yo back inti lockdown and here we are again”. As he noted , there is not just a health risk in the virus returning, there is an economic one from a return to lockdown.
Ardern and her party will try to play up the benefits that have come from their strict handling, even if has not been perfect.
The prime Minister has consistently said that the best economic strategy is to win the fight against Covid-19. After all there are costs to letting the virus spiral out of the control. An out of control outbreak would have economic impacts anyway, and on top of that there is health resources the cost of a slow recovery from coronavirus and death.
Arden’s real test is yet to come, when the country heads to the polls in October, she will be hoping that, despite the hiccups the country still thinks her tough coronavirus approach was worth it.