Coronavirus: New Zealand's COVID-19 response praised by World Health Organization

New Zealand has been singled out by the World Health Organization's executive director as a country that has "done well" against the COVID-19 virus.

On Monday (local time), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised nations, including New Zealand, that have used past outbreaks of infectious diseases to inform their responses.

"These countries have done well because they have done well because they learned lessons from previous outbreaks of SARS, MERS, measles, polio, Ebola, flu and other diseases," Tedros said during a news briefing in Geneva. 

The World Health Organization is urging countries to learn from the current pandemic to ensure better preparedness in the face of future diseases.

In a stark warning, the executive director called on nations to increase their investment in public health and "build back better". 

"This will not be the last pandemic. History teaches us that outbreaks and pandemics are a fact of life," he said. 

"But when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready - more ready than it was this time.

"In recent years, many countries have made enormous advances in medicine, but too many have neglected their basic public health systems which are the foundation for responding to infectious disease outbreaks."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization's head of emergencies, Dr Michael Ryan, has urged governments not to use the pandemic for politically-motivated agendas, reminding politicians that "transparency, consistency [and] honesty" are imperative to building the public's trust.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo credit: Getty

On Monday, Dr Ryan said presenting "oversimplified, simplistic solutions for people is not a long-term strategy that wins" after being asked by a reporter about conflicting messages issued by the Brazilian government regarding its COVID-19 response. He said governments can often imbue public health messages with "political overtones". 

"If communities perceive that they're getting information that is being politically manipulated or that it has been managed in a way that is distorting evidence, then, unfortunately, that comes back to roost," he said.

In August, a senior World Health Organization official also heralded New Zealand's "strong" response to the virus.

Speaking to Magic Talk's The Ryan Bridge Show, Dr David Nabarro, one of six special envoys to WHO on the virus, said New Zealand had been efficient from the outset.

"By getting ahead of the virus at the beginning, you stopped there being a lot of virus in the country," he told Ryan Bridge.

"I think there you can show the rest of the world that the key is going to be to get on top of the virus and hold it at bay, because the virus is the enemy, people are the solution. I personally believe New Zealand is giving the rest of the world a lot to learn from."

More than 27.19 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 888,326​ have died, according to a Reuters tally, since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

As of Monday, New Zealand has recorded 1425 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 24 virus-related deaths.