Coronavirus: World reacts to New Zealand's 100-day milestone of no detected community transmission

New Zealand has been internationally lauded for its latest milestone - 100 days without evidence of community transmission - in the ongoing, global battle against COVID-19.

Sunday marked 100 days since the last case of the virus was acquired locally from an unknown source, indicating there is no community transmission in the country. 

The achievement was highlighted by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield in a statement on Sunday. Dr Bloomfield, a key figure in the Government's COVID-19 response, called it a "significant milestone" for New Zealand. 

He also issued a sobering reminder that Kiwis can't afford to be complacent, as the pandemic rages overseas and across the ditch. New Zealand's achievement comes a week after Victoria entered a stage four lockdown in response to skyrocketing case numbers.

One-hundred days without community transmission is a "rare bright spot" in a world ravaged by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2, the Associated Press reports. The US has surpassed five million confirmed cases, while Brazil has recorded more than three million. India is the third country to surpass the million-case mark, with almost 2.2 million, according to the latest data. Russia and South Africa round out the five most affected countries at present.

Following Sunday's milestone, global media have hailed New Zealanders, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government for the continued success of the COVID-19 response.

Fiji's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, shared his congratulations in a warmly-worded tweet on Sunday, noting Fiji's success at keeping out COVID-19.

"Fiji and New Zealand are now among the only countries on Earth to go 100 days or more without cases of COVID-19 in our communities," he wrote.

"Well done to the New Zealand Government and people - your friends in Fiji have all been rooting for your success."

Prominent US epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding used the achievement to make a pointed dig at President Donald Trump, who has faced frequent backlash for his obstinate refusal to acknowledge common public health measures and advice.

"Who else is jealous? New Zealand has now gone 100 days with no detected community spread of COVID-19," he tweeted.

"Jealous of a great leader and a good Govt that listens to public health science and acts fast and competently."

'A major milestone'

An article for The New York Times lauded New Zealand's accomplishment against the virus as a "major milestone", but noted the country's close proximity to neighbouring Australia and its surge in case numbers.

"Public life has resumed for many in the country, as they eat out at restaurants, socialize at bars, and attends sports and cultural events," The NY Times said, acknowledging our 'new normal' under level 1 of the alert level framework. 

New Zealand moved quickly through the alert levels, officially leaving level 4 lockdown on April 27 after about four-and-a-half weeks. Although the stringent protocols were initially deemed as harsh, Ardern and Dr Bloomfield reiterated that "going hard and going early" would pay off.

'One of the safest places in the world'

The Guardian has hailed New Zealand as one of the "safest places in the world" following Sunday's announcement, drawing comparisons between the United States' under-fire response.

"In stark contrast to the United States' ongoing battle, New Zealand reported its 100th consecutive day with no community transmission, making the Pacific island nation of 5 million one of the safest places in the world," The Guardian reported.

"With global cases standing at more than 19.6 million, with 726,000 deaths, and many nations reimposing restrictions, New Zealanders have returned to normal life."

However, the article noted repeated warnings against complacency from the Ministry of Health, with Dr Bloomfield revealing last week that health officials are operating on a "not if, but when" basis regarding the reemergence of community transmission.

It also pointed to the ministry's recent efforts to boost lacklustre testing rates within the community, establishing a number of pop-up clinics across the country - efforts that appear to have been successful, according to the latest testing data. On Saturday, just 542 swabs of the 4249 processed tests were taken in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, showing the vast majority of tests were performed out in the community. 

'A rare bright spot'

The Associated Press (AP) has likened the 100-day streak to a "rare bright spot" in a COVID-ravaged world, but acknowledged the collapse of the country's tourism sector due to the stringent border restrictions. 

"Some worry the country may be getting complacent and not preparing well enough for any future outbreaks," AP wrote.

"The country remains more isolated from the outside world than before."

Last week, Dr Bloomfield outlined the ministry's COVID-19 'resurgence plan' in an interview with The AM Show, revealing that masks would become a key component of the response if community transmission were to reemerge.

Masks had been largely disregarded by the All of Government team earlier in the year, but both Dr Bloomfield and Health Minister Chris Hipkins have since called for Kiwis to stock up on reusable masks as a precautionary measure. 

Border restrictions remain in place, with all new arrivals required to complete 14 days of managed isolation at a designated facility before moving into the community. 

'Border controls, lockdown, case-based controls' have 'reaped rewards'

A piece by the Daily Mail outlined New Zealand's overall response leading up to the 100-day milestone, highlighting the three key measures that have New Zealand "reaping the rewards".

"New Zealand has gone 100 days without recording a single case of community transmission of coronavirus, something that seems hard to imagine compared to the battle Australia is facing," said the article.

"Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plunged her nation into one of the harshest lockdowns in the world in March and has reaped the rewards since, with the last case of community transmission on May 1.

"Ardern has been praised for her handling of the global pandemic by swiftly introducing strict measures to eliminate the deadly virus.

"Three measures have been hailed as the drivers behind New Zealand's success, including: border controls, lockdown and case-based controls."

Similarly, BBC News praised New Zealand's "tough border restrictions, effective health messaging" and "aggressive test-and-trace programme" for "virtually eliminating the virus", while a piece from across the ditch, adapted from a Reuters wire published in Wellington, noted the resurgence of the virus in Victoria and Vietnam - a country that went three months without detecting community transmission. Local health officials are now working to eliminate a new outbreak in Danang - "fuelling fears in New Zealand that further loosening of measures could spark a similar resurgence", as reported by the Australian edition of the Huffington Post.

It cited Dr Bloomfield's statement on Sunday, in which he warned New Zealanders of "how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control".

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