New Zealand has reached a major COVID-19 milestone: 100 days without a single new local case. The country’s Ministry of Health confirmed the good news in a statement on Sunday, Aug. 9. Currently, New Zealand has 23 active cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation facilities.
By contrast, coronavirus cases are spiking in neighboring Australia. And in the U.S., the total number of cases recently surpassed the 5 million mark. New Zealand has only 1,219 reported cases of the virus.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, New Zealand has been upheld as an example of how to respond — and how to keep citizens safe. The country — and specifically its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern — was praised globally by the World Health Organization (WHO) for a rapid, zealous response to the health crisis.
The WHO shared a video to social media on July 7 that highlighted New Zealand’s success in “fighting COVID-19 with testing, isolating and treating cases and tracing contacts” in line with the organization’s guidance.
New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million, went into a strict lockdown in April, closing schools and the majority of businesses, including food delivery. Things started to go back to normal for its residents in early June, when Ardern officially declared the nation virus-free. Social distancing requirements ended, and limits on public gatherings were lifted.
“While we’re in a safer, stronger position, there’s still no easy path back to pre-COVID life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild,” Ardern told reporters in early June. “While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple, ‘Thank you, New Zealand’.”
However, New Zealand’s borders remain closed to foreigners, and any resident returning home from elsewhere in the world must self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. And public health officials remain realistic, knowing there’s always the possibility of another outbreak.
“Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone,” the director-general of health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said in the statement. “However, as we all know, we can’t afford to be complacent.”