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DAVOS 2021: Why New Zealand is one of most successful countries in tackling COVID-19

Lianna Brinded
·Head of Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, speaks during a welcoming powhiri for APEC 2021 on 1 December in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, speaks during a welcoming powhiri for APEC 2021 on 1 December in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand just recorded its first coronavirus case since 18 November last year after a 56-year-old woman, who recently returned from Europe, had tested positive.

While the country’s minister of foreign affairs and trade Nanaia Mahuta told delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) virtual gathering — The Davos Agenda — on Monday that she couldn’t comment further, she did lay out exactly why New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries in the world in tackling COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to nearly 100 million COVID-19 cases and out of those, over 2 million have died.

In New Zealand, with a population of around 5 million, there have been just over 2,200 coronavirus cases of which only 25 people have died. To put into perspective, the US, with a population of about 330 million, has had over 25 million cases of which half a million people have died of COVID-19. The UK, with a population of over 66 million people, has had over 3.6 million cases and over 90,000 deaths.

WATCH: New Zealand probes likely local COVID-19 case

Why are New Zealand cases so low?

New Zealand said that newly recorded case was from a 56-year-old woman, who recently returned from Europe. She, like all travellers, spent 14 days in quarantine and twice tested negative before returning home on 13 January. However, she later developed symptoms.

The government said there was no immediate evidence the virus was spreading in the community

Foreign minister Mahuta was on a leadership panel on The Davos Agenda, the virtual version of the famous annual gathering of the world’s most powerful people in politics, finance, tech and society.

Alongside three other panelists, she examined the most effective response and recovery efforts, with recommendations on how businesses and governments can improve and increase their collaboration — with New Zealand being a key case study.

“We are all in the same storm but the way we have navigated through [it] has been different,” said Mahuta.

“Our prime minister [Jacinda Ardern] said very early on that the best economic response is a health response — go hard and go early — and we took strong steps towards a lockdown because that was part of our elimination strategy. As a government, we take a science-based informed approach and we don’t just respond — we educate the public to get them to understand the global pandemic and the tools of our continued response.

“Our response has three parts — test, trace, isolate.”

READ MORE: Increase in world's 10 richest men's wealth during pandemic could pay for globe's COVID-19 vaccine

While the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the world in over just one year, New Zealand has proven that it has been able to keep cases low, or at zero for periods of time, and respond swiftly to the emergence of any new cases.

On 11 August last year, it recorded four new cases of community transmission for the first time in more than 100 days. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern immediately put the city of Auckland into lockdown for three days. From 18 November, no new cases were recorded until now.

Mahuta told Davos delegates on Monday that the government will continue to be vigilant in isolating any outbreak and educating the public. She also repeatedly called the New Zealand population “the team of 5 million.”

“We will also rebuild and regenerate our workforce capabilities and educate the public and team of 5 million on the vaccination. We are all learning as we go and I don’t believe we have all the answers but we go on a science-based approach and we will continue to refine and learn.”

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