How New Zealand and Australia are tackling COVID-19

A man walks to the sea as Bondi Beach reopens to surfers and swimmers after it was closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), with strict social distancing measures remaining in place, in Sydney, Australia, April 28, 2020.  REUTERS/Loren Elliott - RC2ADG9UVQ8D
Australia's famous Bondi Beach has re-opened to surfers.
Image: REUTERS/Loren Elliott
  • Australia and New Zealand have a case-fatality rate of just above 1%, compared with 6% in the US and 13.5% each for Italy and the UK.
  • Neither nation currently has community transmission.
  • Both island nations still have their borders closed.
  • Countries easing lockdowns are facing the new challenge of suppressing new cases.

Both New Zealand and Australia have worked hard to successfully contain COVID-19. The two countries are the latest to ease restrictions and craft a new normal while putting measures in place to reduce future transmission.

In New Zealand, there is strong evidence that widespread transmission has been avoided for now, and the strictest social controls have been lifted.

And while social distancing measures remain in place in Australia, some restrictions have eased. Additionally, citizens are downloading the government’s voluntary coronavirus tracking app that notifies them if someone they know has the virus.

Both countries have a case-fatality rate of just above 1%, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, compared with 5.7% in the US and around 13.5% each for Italy and the U.K.

New Zealand has 0.4 deaths per 100,000 population and Australia has 0.3, compared with 17 in the US and 31 in the UK.

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The number of confirmed cases in Australia.
Image: Australian Government

“There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” Ardern told a press conference. “We have won that battle, but we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”

In relaxing the restrictions, she said, the government’s aim was to open up the economy, but not to open up people’s social lives. The nation has a 4-level COVID-19 Alert System, and is now at level 3, down from the top level 4.

That means people are expected to “stay within their household bubble” but can reconnect with close family, bring in caregivers and support isolated people. Early learning settings and schools can reopen, but remote education will continue where possible, for example for older students.

Australia is also in the midst of a national emergency plan including social distancing and has closed its borders. To date, government data shows the majority of confirmed cases acquired their infection overseas, including on board cruise ships or on trips to Europe or the Americas.

Testing has been a key frontier for all countries battling the virus and the World Health Organization says finding and testing every suspected case will be essential to success. Australia has carried out more than 500,000 tests, the government website says.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Ardern said New Zealand has one of the highest testing rates in the world per capita and together with moving slowly and cautiously this would help guard against a new wave. Not locking down so early and aggressively might have resulted in 1,000 cases a day, she said.

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New Zealand tracks its clusters closely.
Image: New Zealand Government

“We can look overseas and see that this devastating scenario has played out in other countries,” she said.

Countries easing lockdowns around the world are facing the new challenge to suppress new infections. Other nations where cases fell, including Singapore and China, have seen a rise after initial successes.

new zealand australia Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
New Zealand contains COVID-19.
Image: New Zealand Government

New Zealand is watching what’s happening in other countries, Ardern said, and will be particularly cautious and aggressive in the management of any future cases.

“This is a tricky virus,” said Dr Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director-General of Health. “That’s why we’re not going to reduce our vigilance one bit.”