NZ’s coronavirus response ‘one of the strongest’, says WHO

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark ... "There's a lot that global communities can learn from the [NZ] response." Image: Dom Thomas/RNZ

By Max Towle, Worldwatch reporter of RNZ News

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says New Zealand has been world-leading in its response to the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

But at the same time, a top official for the organisation is warning against complacency.

Western Pacific incident manager Abdi Mahamud said the WHO had been particularly impressed with how the government had communicated, and how people had observed social restrictions.

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“Our view of New Zealand’s response has been one of the strongest in the world, and there’s a lot that global communities can learn from the response,” he said.

“There are aspects of New Zealand’s response that can be easily replicated in all countries, regardless of geography and resources.”

But in response to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comment that New Zealand has eliminated the virus, Dr Mahamud warned the country must not become complacent.

“Elimination? Every country has a different connotation with [the word], but what we understand is that the prime minister means a reduction in the undetected chain of transmission in the community,” he said.

‘We have to be cautious’
“But we have to be very cautious moving forward so we don’t fall into a sense of ‘we did it’.”

Dr Mahamud said until a safe and effective vaccine was developed, some social distancing requirements must continue.

“We believe in the New Zealand government’s strategy, that is based on science and evidence.”

He said that on May 7, Minister for Health David Clark would appear in the WHO’s weekly videoconference to discuss the challenges New Zealand had faced.

He also urged New Zealand to support Pacific nations, should there be significant outbreaks in those countries.

“We would like to request New Zealand support to other developing countries, particularly the Pacific Islands,” he said.

“There are Pacific nations with limited resources and fragile health systems, so the deployment of senior [health] officers and financial support [would be helpful].”

742 complaints over businesses
RNZ News reports there were 742 complaints of businesses not complying with the rules on the first day of alert level 3, most over the lack of social distancing.

In this afternoon’s Covid-19 media conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry for Primary Industries will be following up on the complaints.

In addition, police recorded 104 breaches in the first 18 hours of alert level 3 – of those 21 were prosecutions and 71 were warnings, Ardern said.

She said the rules are in place for a reason and that it only takes one person to potentially affect many.

“We will not hesitate to take firmer measures if required.”

The Health Ministry has revealed there were just two new cases of Covid-19 reported in the past 24 hours.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the two new cases were made up of one confirmed and one probable case.

The total number of confirmed cases is now 1126, with 348 probable cases, for a combined total of 1474. Dr Bloomfield said an earlier probable case had now been reclassified as confirmed.

There have been no further deaths.

Six people are in hospital, but none of them are in intensive care.

  • This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP – don’t show up at a medical centre.
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