It had been back to normal for three months in New Zealand until a family of four was reported to be coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) positive on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.
New Zealand had the most stringent lockdown policy when at Alert Level 4, everyone (except essential workers) was confined to their homes starting March 25. With the reduced number of infections, the government put the country on Alert Level 1 on June 8 without any restrictions except border controls. New Zealanders and returning residents were allowed back to the country subject to 14-day quarantine, which proved to be effective; as there were arrivals who were found to be Covid-19 positive, a few coming from the Philippines. The tally: 1,569 cases and 22 related deaths. With no subsequent deaths and no community transmission, New Zealand was back in business. Politicians busied themselves campaigning for the parliamentary election in September. The property market was alive again as banks lowered their lending rates. People were visiting local tourist spots, as foreign travel remained restricted. The faithful once more filled the churches. For me, it was back to the eight-hour grind in the law office.
There was national pride on the 100th day of no-community transmission and it seemed the team of five million had finally beaten the virus. Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, on Aug. 9 said: “Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone. However, as we all know, we can’t afford to be complacent.” In the city where I live, the Hamilton City Council had scheduled an event from Aug. 14 to Aug. 16, called “Essential Workers Thank You” offering special deals across community facilities to those who performed essential duties during Alert Level 4. It has since been canceled.
The breaking news about the family of four was taken very seriously by the government, imposing the next day Alert Level 3 in Auckland where the infection was detected. The rest of the country was placed under Alert Level 2. Contact tracing was set into motion immediately, thereby identifying clusters for containment. On Aug. 14, there were 12 new confirmed cases. Other than campaigning for observance of the usual health protocol, the government is speeding up testing in most communities, as well as, those assigned in border control. This development in New Zealand should serve notice to the rest of the world that there is no place for complacency until a vaccine is found to stop the spread of Covid-19. As of Aug. 13, the World Health Organization dashboard had the following figures: 20,439,814 confirmed cases, including 744,385 deaths.
Let us not let our guard down. Covid-19 remains a threat to you and me.