New Zealand marked 100 days on Sunday after it wiped out the spread of coronavirus, a remarkable bright spot in a world still plagued by the disease.
For many people in the 5 million South Pacific country, life has returned to normal as they attend rugby games at packed stadiums and sit in bars and restaurants without being afraid to get infected.
But some fears the country may become complacent and does not plan well enough for future outbreaks.
New Zealand got rid of the virus by enforcing a strict lockout at the end of March when the disease was screened positively by just around 100 people.
That halted the spread. The only new cases have been a handful of returning travellers who were quarantined at the border for the past three months.
“It was good science and great political leadership that made the difference,” said professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago. “If you look around the globe at countries that have done well, it’s usually that combination.”
“The whole Western World has terribly mismanaged this threat, and they’re realising this now,” Baker said.
Many leaders said they saw a false dichotomy between saving lives or saving their economies, when businesses actually thrive best when they are certain about things like diseases.
In reality, the economy in New Zealand has done better than many predicted. The nation has managed to keep its unemployment rate at just 4 per cent, but many analysts claim the figure doesn’t compensate for recent job losses and is likely to get substantially worse after a government-funded wage subsidy expires next month.
The leadership of Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern has been widely commended. After the shutdown, she encouraged people with regular updates and a tweet that rang out: “Go hard and go early.”