New Zealand has announced lifting of COVID-19 restrictions after new reported cases dropping to zero. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the message on Sunday in a press conference.
New Zealand authorities enforced Level-2 alert system and lockdown on March 21 following 13 confirmed cases of the contagious disease in the country. They called a Level-4 alert on March 25 with 205 cases. The authorities declared closure of essential and non-essential business and educational centers amid Level-4 lockdown.
In five weeks, they minimized the lockdown to Level-3 in late April corresponding to successful intensive care which led to more patient recoveries. At Level-3, the government allowed non-essential business and takeaway services to resume their services.
The government announced to ease the lockdown further down to Level-2 in May and Level-1 in June. The PM announced opening of schools, businesses and shops in June but borders would remain closed to prevent a second wave.
Unlike many developed countries, New Zealand has had a pandemic plan since 2010, which is the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan (NZIPAP). New Zealand revised the plan in 2017 with the contribution of Geoffrey Rice, a medical history professor. The government used the NZIPAP to mitigate this pandemic.
What is the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan (NZIPAP)?
The New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan (NZIPAP) is a structured government framework for implementation during a pandemic. The New Zealand government revised it in 2017. Medical History Professor Geoffrey Rice aided the government in this.
The NZIPAP has 4 parts and 6 phases as follows.
Part A: The ministry of health, District health board (DHB) and all other governments will approach to pandemic planning, preparation, response and coordination will at one place in the event of pandemic.
Part B: In the event of pandemic action plan summaries and government will provide guidance at both phases (International and New Zealand specific). They will share potential action relevant to each phase with the responsible authority and agencies.
Part C: Identification and technique shall be further classified depending on the pandemic per the part B.
Part D: The NZIPAP provided information to guide key decision making and these factors will depend on the pandemic.
The appendices contain the Public Information Management Strategy, additional factors considerable at the time of the Influenza pandemic. It contains recovery and key terms and glossary that had utility throughout.
Six phase New Zealand Pandemic Strategy:
The key strategy of this phase is to give focus and attention on the chief task. It’s a simple way to plan the activities and not to panic at the time of pandemic.
- Plan For It
Plan to prepare and reduce the health, social and economic impact on New Zealand at a time of pandemic.
- Keep It Out
Prevent human to human transmission of novel influenza. The border management to keep a safe distance of pandemic virus in New Zealand.
- Stamp It Out
Cluster control the virus detected in New Zealand.
- Manage It
Manage the impact of pandemic influenza in New Zealand. Create separate cluster location to reduce the spread of virus.
- Manage It: Post Peek
Expedite the recovery rate (here the transition to recovery phase). Plan to prepare for the entrance of a second wave of virus.
- Recovery From It
The expedited recovery rate of New Zealand population by vaccine. Post pandemic the country will also recover its health, community and society. The management also worked to bring back normal services.
How the Strategies of NZIPAP are being put to use during the coronavirus Pandemic?
Authorities and the Health officials used two key strategies from NZIPAP: elimination strategy and mitigation strategy.
We can define the elimination strategy as the utilization of tools and techniques to eliminate the pandemic from the state. As per strategy, the authorities closed international borders of New Zealand in February. The officials have made sure that travelers would not have COVID-19. They practised strict quarantine. The officials have kept the borders closed still in level-1.
Besides, they used physical distancing as per mentioned in the plan 2017. The authorities made four level warning system. In March, health officials asked the government to cancel gathering function. On March 25, the Civil Defense Minister declared “state of emergency” in the country. Besides, the Epidemic Response Committee came into existence that cross-check the steps of the government. The country had a state of emergency till May 13.
Because of public distancing, they offered the financial packages to businesses and students. The government launched two educational channels on television to assist students. Besides, they announced relief packages for radio stations and TV channels.
However, they eased the level to level-3. They allowed only 10 people to attend funerals and weddings and tangi. Schools remained closed.
To follow the elimination strategy with accomplishment, the authorities used communication strategy to provide information to the public. Arden called the population of the country as “5 million member team” to inform them. The public received guidance and information about lockdown. They had updates regarding the easing of lockdown and lifting of restrictions by the PM through electronic media and conferences.
As mentioned in a revised plan, they practised hand hygiene and cough etiquettes in the country. They designed an antiseptic gel to keep New Zealanders safe from the disease.
On May 20, the Health Ministry launched the Contact App for Android phones and iPhones. The application assisted people to track OR codes at business and public gatherings where they could be in contact with the COVID patients.
We can define mitigation Strategy as a set of tools and techniques that assist to reduce and control the pandemic or outbreak of the disease in the state.
Majority of the countries applied mitigation strategies along with suppression strategies, yet they cannot combat the coronavirus. Pakistan and US have kept their borders closed and there’s a prevailing lockdown, but the cases have been increasing ever since.
Unlike developed countries, New Zealand has used mitigation strategies with elimination strategies to triumph over the virus. They have closed the borders to control the number of cases. Besides, they have designed antiseptic gel and lockdown to keep the citizens safe.
World powers are struggling to diminish the pandemic spread. New Zealand, however, has excelled at it.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 success was anything but overnight. It was the aftermath of careful planning started years prior. “We’ve done the hard mahi here, and the work has paid off,” Director General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said on 9 June.
The key to New Zealand’s success is the all-inclusive and thoroughly implemented NZIPAP. The plan exemplifies what works at a large scale. In that regard, it has high potential. World leaders will take notes from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The lady of the hour has achieved something remarkable.