Coronavirus: Four weeks into lockdown, leading expert couldn't be prouder of Kiwis

New Zealand has been thrown into what only months ago may have been an unimaginable situation, but public health professor Michael Baker says he is very proud of how Kiwis have acted.

Wednesday night marks four weeks since New Zealand's nationwide lockdown was imposed, keeping Kiwis at their residences and closing non-essential businesses. The restrictions - amongst the toughest in the world - were introduced to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes the deadly respiratory illness COVID-19.

Over those four weeks, New Zealand has seen the daily number of COVID-19 cases slide downwards, with only five being reported on Tuesday, down from a peak of 89. The Director-General of Health has expressed confidence there is no widespread undetected community transmission in the country and recommended to the Prime Minister that New Zealand shift out of full lockdown next week.

So far, New Zealand has recorded 1445 cases of the virus and had 13 deaths.

Prof Baker, one of New Zealand's leading epidemiologists, told Newshub he couldn't be prouder of how New Zealand reacted to the lockdown.

"The whole country has really got behind the lockdown, and more importantly, why are we doing it? This is to deal with a serious virus and we're not just suppressing this virus, we actually want to eliminate it from the country and that really requires everyone to work together," Prof Baker said.

"I think it is absolutely remarkable because none of us have been through a pandemic before. This is so far outside our normal behaviour, and yet everyone seems to be fitting in.

"I know it's very tough for some people, they have lost their livelihoods, their jobs, they might be in a poor housing situation where it may be crowded, but people just seem to be pretty stoic about it and got on with it."

Asked where New Zealanders may have fallen short, Prof Baker couldn't pick an area, noting that while there will always be "a few people doing odd things and not really seemingly fully understanding what the point of it is", they are a very small minority

The requirements placed on Kiwis would have only a few months ago seemed unimaginable, but those in charge of ensuring the lockdown ran smoothly had stepped up to the task, Prof Baker said.

"I never thought in my life I would be saying to the Government: 'I think we should shut the country down like this'. It is so outside the range of things I ever would have imagined, and yet suddenly it became the right thing to do," he told Newshub.

"Our political leaders, our business leaders really got it and have been fantastic. The whole public service has turned around and said 'We have to make this happen' and in the space of just a very few days I think they did a very smooth transition.

"I am just very proud of the whole country and really all of our institutions."

But he also warned against the "real enemy": complacency. 

New Zealand's alert level 3 - which we will stay at from Monday night for at least two weeks - is still incredibly restrictive. While more businesses can reopen and most children can go to school if they need to, people are generally instructed to stay home and not partake in any social activities.

Prof Baker said New Zealand had the opportunity to do what most countries around the world cannot and avoid yo-yoing in and out of lockdown until a vaccine is developed.

He reminded Kiwis that elimination doesn't mean we won't see any new cases, but that there is no community transmission.

There are 2.5 million people infected with the virus worldwide, with 174,000 people having died.