100 days without COVID-19: New Zealand and Fiji

New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, a rare bright spot in a world that continues to be ravaged by the disease.

Fiji is the only other country in the world that has this honour.

From the first known case imported into New Zealand on February 26 to the last case of community transmission detected on May 1, elimination took 65 days.

New Zealand relied on three types of measures to get rid of the virus:

1. Ongoing border controls to stop Covid-19 from entering the country
2. A lockdown and physical distancing to stop community transmission
3. Case-based controls using testing, contact tracing and quarantine.

New Zealand went into a complete lockdown and roads were eerily empty

Collectively, these measures have achieved low case numbers and deaths compared with high-income countries in Europe and North America that pursued a suppression strategy.

Life has returned to normal for many people in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, as they attend rugby games at packed stadiums and sit down in bars and restaurants without the fear of getting infected. But some worry the country may be getting complacent and not preparing well enough for any future outbreaks.

“It was good science and great political leadership that made the difference,”

Professor Michael Baker, University of Otago

The Fiji Scenario:

Even though Fiji was much unscathed by the worldwide pandemic, their economy has took a deep dive. The country had just 27 cases of coronavirus and only 1 death which was reported last Friday.

Fiji’s largely dependent on tourism. A large percentage of its economy and jobs are in from the tourism sector. A decimated tourism industry is very bad for the economy and the future looks bleak with no international visitors coming to Pacific island nation.

Australia and New Zealand are Fiji’s two biggest sources of international visitors. Fiji hopes the tourism would revive once the countries start allowing international travel.

Nearly 100,000 employees have lost their job due to the downturn in the tourism sector. There isn’t any jobs for them to do except to go back to sustainable farming to make their ends meet.

“There is no other industry that can take its place,”

Ms Lockington

“The only way that we can kickstart our economy very, very quickly is to get those borders open and to bring in the international visitors.”

New Zealand’s international tourism industry has collapsed and the country remains more isolated from the outside world than before. The government has been reluctant to reopen the border to any other countries, even as other nations cautiously do so.

The experience of some other countries, including Vietnam and Australia, shows how easily the virus can flare up again even when it looks like it’s been brought under control.

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