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Yes, NZ Can

Yes, it is possible, and not even all that hard to defeat the coronavirus. New Zealand did it — they just celebrated 100 days (more than three months) without anyone inside NZ catching COVID-19. And all domestic restrictions were lifted… in June. No more social distancing, no more masks, the economy is fine, schools are open, almost everything back to normal.

How did they do it? If you’ve been paying attention, I’ll bet you already know the answers:

  • NZ locked down early, when it was easier to use contact tracing to find people who were exposed and isolate them. Nobody said stupid things like “it will just magically go away”.
  • They ramped up testing early. Nobody left it to local governments. They worked together.
  • They made sure that people would not violate isolation orders, which meant that they only needed to do it for a short time. Nobody decided to hold campaign rallies or motorcycle festivals.
  • They closed their borders, preventing anyone who is not a resident of NZ from arriving. And they tested all arrivals, and had them quarantine for two weeks.

Are you seeing a pattern here? NZ responded early, and enforced restrictions, which allowed them to return to normal much more quickly. In other words, they did the opposite of what Trump did.

Currently, NZ has 23 active coronavirus cases. All of them are residents who returned from abroad with the virus, and were promptly isolated. They are tested three times before they can leave.

They even have officers stationed by quarantine facilities to make sure nobody in isolation sneaks out. It might sound drastic, but keeping the spread contained meant that far fewer people had to be isolated, and with restrictions lifted in June, far less inconvenience for everyone.

Bottom line: New Zealand had 22 deaths from COVID-19. The US is currently at 165,617 deaths. Adjusting for population the US already has — per capita — 112 times the deaths of NZ, and we are still dying here.

New Zealand had 1,219 confirmed cases. The US has passed 5 million cases (and rising).



  1. Hassan wrote:

    While I agree Trump sucks, and instead of making things better he made worse (exponentially), comparing New Zealand to USA is wrong. It is easy to control less diverse population of small country than to so huge diverse population (diverse in many ways).

    Bottom line is, in New Zealand, “new zealanders” live, in USA “Muricans” live. If USA had Jacinda Ardern as President, she would have done excellent job controlling Covid-19 till she would have been assisinated by some right winger.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Hassan, having lived in NZ (and having friends there) I can say that NZ is quite a bit more diverse than you posit. In addition to Ardern’s party — Labour — they do have a National party, and an even more nationalist, populist party — NZ First. They have conservatives, and even tea-partiers. Plus NZ has the unique distinction of having a governmental system that includes power-sharing with the Maori. They are diverse in many ways.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  3. Jay Jaffee wrote:

    There is something else that I assume happened in NZ. The political parties probably supported the public health efforts rather than politicizing them and enabling/encouraging people to resist public health efforts as we are seeing in the U.S. – e.g., Sturgis!

    It seems that no one really wants to talk about the Republican’s role in the poor response to the pandemic. It starts with Trump, which has been addressed often, but it continues down through Congress and to the state level. I live in Minnesota and the opposition to our Governor’s emergency orders have constantly been led by Republican office holders, party executives and candidates. Last spring “We are all in this together” was a frequent refrain. Clearly we are not all in this together and it is leading to our national failure to address the coronavirus!

    Why doesn’t the press address the Republicans’ role in our country’s failure? They need to be held responsible for their behavior.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Excellent comment Jay. Thanks for posting it.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  5. Wildwood wrote:

    Jay, in other words, “The elephant in the room”.

    I think the right is so self absorbed and so certain they are correct in all they do, that trying to talk about their shortcomings causes such backlash that most are reluctant to address the issue.

    I just had a cousin “unfriend” me because I called her out about something she posted and she and her friends, (southern belles all), got their shorts in a knot about what I had said in response. They gather together in their bubbles of self-righteousness, and probably right now are praying for my misbegotten and miserable soul. Or not. I assuredly could have been nicer, but they wore me out with their silly assumptions and lack of facts or the ability to see a fact when it was there. They do harm and don’t see it. They wholeheartedly deny reality. And empathy is only to be shown to like minded sycophants.

    I really need to learn to edit.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 3:05 pm | Permalink