Only one coronavirus death has been reported in New Zealand amid the country’s stringent lockdown — which orders all residents to stay home for four weeks — with few exceptions, data shows.
A total of 1,239 cases have been reported in the country, with 317 recoveries, statistics from Johns Hopkins University show.
The one person who died of the illness was an elderly woman with underlying health conditions, The Washington Post reported.
“The signs are promising,” Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, told the paper Tuesday.
In an initial step to contain the virus, the country shut its borders to foreigners March 19, according to the report.
Two days later, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a televised Oval Office-style address from her office — the first time since 1982 that such a speech had been given, the paper reported.
She presented the country’s coronavirus response alert plan involving four stages, with a full lockdown being Level 4.
A group of influential leaders quickly urged her to scale up to Level 4.
“We were hugely worried about what was happening in Italy and Spain,” one of them, Stephen Tindall, founder of the Warehouse, New Zealand’s largest retailer, told the paper.
“If we didn’t shut down quickly enough, the pain was going to go on for a very long time,” he added. “It’s inevitable that we will have to shut down anyway, so we would rather it be sharp and short.”
On March 23, Ardern took that advice and gave the country 48 hours to prepare for a large-scale lockdown.
“We currently have 102 cases,” she told New Zealanders. “But so did Italy once.”
As part of that lockdown, everyone — except essential workers — is required to stay home for four weeks, outside of trips to the supermarket or exercising very close to home.
Swimming at the beach and hunting in bushland are also prohibited.
“Jacinda approached this decisively and unequivocally and faced the threat,” Michael Baker, a professor of public health at the University of Otago and one of the country’s top epidemiologists — who had been advocating for a full lockdown — told the outlet.
“Other countries have had a gradual ramp-up, but our approach is exactly the opposite,” he said.
Because of the promising results, some have called for Ardern to ease the lockdown, even slightly, for the Easter holiday.
But the prime minister remains adamant that the country should complete the four-week lockdown period.
She has, however, joked that the Easter Bunny is an “essential worker,” according to the report.
Ardern is also considering a mandatory quarantine for New Zealanders returning to the country from elsewhere, The Hill reported.
By Thursday morning, 432,438 coronavirus cases had been reported in the US — the most in any country, according to Johns Hopkins data.