With the United States passing 100,000 deaths as a result of coronavirus, it can sometimes be hard to imagine a world where the virus is eliminated, even after a vaccine is created. But on Wednesday, New Zealand announced that they had discharged their last coronavirus patient from the hospital and that there had been no new confirmed cases of the virus in five days.
Ashley Bloomfield, the head of the country's health ministry, told reporters yesterday that Auckland's Middlemore Hospital had discharged the last coronavirus patient in the country.
"I think this is the first time, at least probably in a couple of months, that we haven't had somebody in hospital," he said, "so that's another good position to be in."
Among New Zealand's population of 4.8 million people, there are just 21 confirmed remaining cases of coronavirus, with none of them in hospital. The country has had a total of 1,504 cases, along with only 21 deaths.
The country has also conducted a total of 267,435 coronavirus tests, and contact tracers are monitoring the last known cases.
The remote nation was able to keep cases so low by closing its borders quickly, which Bloomfield said was "so important for us to keep the infection out of the country." Along with closing their borders, Bloomfield praised the public for maintaining proper hygiene, such as hand washing.
In April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that New Zealand had "won" the battle against coronavirus on a local level. To fully "succeed," she said that the country must "hunt down" the remaining cases of the virus.
"There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle," Ardern said. "But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way."
New Zealand's victory comes as the United States passed 100,000 deaths as a result of the virus, with over 1.7 million total confirmed cases.
Experts have warned against comparing countries, however, with Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN in April that "it isn't as simple as that."
"You know, it isn’t as simple as that, Jake, I’m sorry. I mean, to just say this is all happening because we got started too late. Obviously, if you look, could you have done something a little bit earlier, and would it have had an impact? Obviously," Fauci explained when asked how South Korea had managed to keep deaths so low. "But where we are right now is the result of a number of factors: the size of the country, the homogeneity of the country."
"I think it’s a little bit unfair to compare us to South Korea where they had an outbreak in Daegu, and they had the capability of immediately, essentially, shutting it off completely in a way we may not have been able to do in this country. So obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start. But I don’t think you can say we are where we are right now because of one factor. It’s very complicated, Jake."
Prime Minister Ardern has earned high praise for her response to the virus, this is in comparison to President Donald Trump, who has been repeatedly criticized for his response. In February, Trump referred to fear surrounding the coronavirus as the Democrat's "new hoax." In the same month, while the United States had 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus, Trump said "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."
"What I wouldn’t give to have a prime minister who was smart, empathetic, calm in a crisis and didn’t reduce the country to a global laughing stack through amorality," one user wrote of Ardern.
"They didn’t bend curve. New Zealand crushed it. Leaders lead," another added.
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.