Many Americans are opposed to COVID mandates or restrictions. They do not want to get vaccinated, wear masks, or curb their outdoor or indoor activities. But researchers maintain that early interventions do make a difference. New Zealand is an interesting case in point. It closed its borders early in the pandemic to prevent a COVID crisis. It worked…until Delta.
How Did New Zealand Beat COVID?
The public health authorities in New Zealand banned foreign entry early in the pandemic to prevent a COVID crisis. Any Kiwis who returned to New Zealand or became sick were carefully quarantined. As a result of these strict measures the country avoided a COVID crisis and the kinds of health problems most other countries have encountered.
Of the 5 million people on the island nation, there were fewer than 3,000 cases of COVID and only 26 people died. Ireland, another island nation with a similar population, has reported over 330,000 COVID cases and more than 5,000 deaths.
1 COVID Case Led to Total Lockdown:
This week, New Zealand detected its first local COVID-19 cases since February. On August 17, 2021 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held a press conference. She announced the government’s reaction to the discovery of one case of COVID. The country imposed a total lockdown to try to prevent a COVID crisis.
All businesses are closed except for grocery stores and pharmacies. Travel is severely restricted along with all indoor and outdoor activities.
Prime Minister Ardern told her countrymen that:
“…we need to again go hard and early to stop the spread. We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance.”
Tracking COVID Cases
On Thursday, Aug. 18, 2021, the government announced the origins of the Delta strain found in New Zealand. A man who traveled from Sydney, Australia, to New Zealand on August 7, 2021, was thought to be the source of the outbreak.
The Prime Minister said that key discovery increased the country’s:
“ability to circle the virus, lock it down and stamp it out.”
Over the last two days cases of COVID grew from 11 to 21. Public health officials have already located 1,000 close contacts of the positive cases. It is a full-court press to quarantine anyone who tests positive and trace all contacts. They are trying desperately to prevent a COVID crisis.
US Citizens Differ from New Zealanders:
Americans are individualistic. We are not very good team players. Whenever we can challenge authority, we do so with abandon. That is partly why there is such division in the US and why so many people will not get vaccinated, wear masks or avoid gathering indoors.
Super spreader events occur here with enthusiasm. It is estimated that there were 700,000 people at the Sturgis, S.D. Motorcycle Rally. It wrapped up several days ago. It remains to be seen what the impact will be.
As of yesterday, North Dakota has 14,983 cases per 100K residents (Washington Post, Aug. 19, 2021). That is the 2nd highest per capita incidence in the US. Right behind North Dakota is South Dakota. It has 14,468 cases per 100K residents.
We know that it is not fair to compare an island nation like New Zealand with a state in the US. That said, the state of Louisiana has 4,657,757 people. New Zealand has 4,822,223 people. Pretty close, wouldn’t you say?
As of today, Louisiana has had 638,443 reported COVID cases and 11,793 deaths. Let me remind you that New Zealand has had fewer than 3,000 cases of COVID and only 26 deaths since the pandemic began. On Thursday, August 19, 2021, the daily average number of deaths in Louisiana was 55.
New Zealanders are far more likely accept a lockdown than US citizens. They are trying hard to cooperate and collaborate to shut down viral spread. People have referred to Kiwis as the “team of five million.”
It remains to be seen whether the latest outbreak can be contained there. The government is trying hard to prevent a COVID crisis, but it may not be successful. Only time will tell whether the country can beat back the Delta variant before it can gain a foothold.