5 Ways New Zealand Society Has Innovated Post-Pandemic

By Ellen Kershner on June 2 2020 in Society

New Zealand defeated COVID-19 faster than other countries. Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash
New Zealand defeated COVID-19 faster than other countries. Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash
  • New Zealand’s impact was relatively mild, with 1,154 cases and 22 deaths.
  • New Zealand’s first reported coronavirus case was on February 28.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, public service chief executives, and government ministers have taken a 20 percent pay cut during the crisis.
  • the Prime Minister stated that there would be no expenditure cuts to essential services.

The whole world is keeping an eye on New Zealand, which seems to have emerged from COVID-19 faster than most. News outlets are describing the country’s “eliminate strategy,” and its claim on May 4 of having zero new coronavirus cases. As of June 1, 2020, Worldometer reported over 6.3 million cases worldwide, 2.9 million recoveries, and 376,000 fatalities. Out of these, there were over 1.8 million cases in the United States (population: 328 million), 519,000 in Brazil, and 415,000 in Russia.

New Zealand’s impact was relatively mild, with 1,154 cases and 22 deaths. It is true that the country's population is just 4.8 million (compared to 328 million in the United States), but New Zealand has set a standard that the rest of the world could learn from.

Under 100

Beaches are now back open in New Zealand. Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

As of May 14, New Zealand was close to eliminating COVID-19, with less than 100 people infected and no new cases reported in several days. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is leading the nation’s return to post-pandemic society, as people return to restaurants, cafés, parks, and beaches. The country’s top health official, Ashley Bloomfield, said that careful hugs between close friends and family members were now permitted.

How New Zealand Handled the Pandemic

New Zealand’s first reported coronavirus case was on February 28. Within weeks, this number grew to 800 identified cases, and the majority were individuals who had recently returned from overseas travel and their contacts. Here is the timeline:

  • February 3 – Some travel restrictions were imposed.
  • March 19 – The country closed its borders. All inbound travel was banned, except for essential health workers and returning New Zealanders.
  • March 23 – A level 3 lockdown began. Non-essential businesses were closed, and all gatherings and events were canceled. Discretionary, domestic air travel was also banned.
  • March 25 – The lockdown was increased to level 4, also called the “eliminate” policy. New Zealanders were instructed to remain in contact only with people that they lived with.
  • April 27 – Some of the lockdown measures were lifted, and things returned to level 3. People were allowed to resume contact with close family, outside of their homes and were permitted to travel within the country if necessary, in one direction.

Post-Pandemic Measures

A four-day workweek may encourage people to travel locally. Photo by Andres Iga on Unsplash

As New Zealand emerges from the crisis, its approach is more low-key than one might think:

  1. In late April, New Zealand’s Parliament approved a tax reform package. More than three billion New Zealand dollars ($1.8 billion in U.S. dollars) will be refunded to small businesses. Including earlier fiscal measures to preserve the economy, this adds up to $23 billion in aid.
  2. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, public service chief executives, and government ministers have taken a 20% pay cut during the crisis.
  3. The possibility of a four-day workweek without pay cuts is being considered. Arden claimed that giving New Zealanders more leisure time could be a boon for the country’s tourist industry.
  4. For now, the Prime Minister stated that there would be no expenditure cuts to essential services. Doing so at this time would be “not only immoral, it is economically wrong,” said Arden. She also stated that there was no playbook for New Zealand’s recovery and that before the pandemic hit, unemployment was at 4% and the national debt had been reduced.
  5. With tourism falling flat, tech and film industries here may be able to attract new investors and entrepreneurs. One example is the “Breaking through the Pandemic” online platform, designed to encourage innovators to build up their skills and connect with other like-minded people.

Ardern is facing an upcoming election next September, and warned her country that the upcoming winter would be a tough one, with “challenging economic conditions.” She and her government are working on New Zealand’s next budget, and it is sure to be interesting news for the global economic community.

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