New Zealand is on the brink of becoming the first country in the world significantly affected by Covid-19 to eliminate all active cases.
Active cases dropped quickly to just one over the last week. Over the same period, no new cases were confirmed by the Government.
Since Wednesday May 27, the number of active infections fell from 21 to just 1. Of those, 19 people have fully recovered, while one, a 96-year-old woman connected to the St Margaret’s Rest Home cluster, died.
The country’s sole active case is in the Auckland DHB region, where the last notifications of infection happened in the first week of May. There were two positive tests on May 1 and a probable case five days later in the region.
This week’s rapid decline in active cases vaulted New Zealand ahead of Iceland in the race to 0. And New Zealand may have the better chance of making it to zero since the Nordic nation reported a new case on Thursday.
As of May 29, Iceland has only 3 active cases according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
New Zealand and Iceland are among the 113 countries to have reported a total of at least 700 Covid-19 cases and reached a 7-day average of at least 30 new cases per day.
Behind them in that group are Hong Kong (27 active cases), Andorra (31) and Thailand (62). Slovenia is reporting 9 active cases but this is on the back of a one-day drop of some 1000 active cases, believed to be the result of a reporting issue.
Both New Zealand and Iceland have benefited from geographical isolation. However, they have taken different paths to eliminating Covid-19.
Iceland invested in massive testing but took a more relaxed approach to social isolation and movement restrictions. Kiwis, on the other hand, went through a strict mandatory quarantine that effectively closed down the economy for a month.
The divergent approaches were quantified by Oxford University’s stringency index. On a 0 to 100 scale, New Zealand scored a whopping 96.3 at the peak of its lockdown. It was the only nation among World Bank’s high-income economies to go above the threshold of 90. Since the easing of restrictions, New Zealand’s stringency index fell to just 36.1.
Iceland, where cafés and restaurants stayed open throughout the epidemic, has maintained a 53.7 stringency score since mid-March.
Albeit an important milestone, reaching 0 active cases does not mean a country has eradicated the disease. An Otago University study suggests eradication may be possible in New Zealand with 95 per cent certainty around the third week of June.
It is also widely accepted there could be undetected, asymptomatic cases still circulating within New Zealand, highlighting the importance of testing in the next phase of the fight against the coronavirus. On this measure, New Zealand has performed relatively well too. On Thursday, 4162 tests were conducted. On a measure of tests per 1000 people, New Zealand ranks in the top five countries.
The Ministry of Health classifies people who have recovered from Covid-19 as having “had the virus, are at least 10 days since onset and have not exhibited symptoms for 48 hours”.
This content was originally published here.