This Country Just Discharged Its Last Coronavirus Patient

How New Zealand's strict lockdown measures kept COVID-19 cases way down.

At a press briefing today, officials from the New Zealand Ministry of Health shared the encouraging news, per CBS News, that the country's last hospitalized COVID-19 patient had been discharged from Middlemore Hospital in Auckland. At present, the number of known active coronavirus cases in New Zealand is a mere 21. Officials count the number of recovered cases at 1,462. And only 21 deaths in the country have been attributed to the disease.

While there's still helpful information to be gleaned from the New Zealand government's handling of pandemic, it's too late for countries like the United States to benefit from steps they implemented early. CNBC reported that "Level 3" lockdown was enacted nationally on March 23, limiting travel, closing non-essential businesses, and canceling events. New Zealand progressed to "Level 4" on March 25, which—among other measures—permitted no takeout food, forced smaller food purveyors like bakeries to close, limited consumers to one at a time in many stores, and promoted social distancing from anyone outside of one's household. CNBC pointed out that New Zealand closed its borders to anyone but essential workers and citizens returning home from abroad on March 19. The government also disseminated information to citizens via text message, explaining lockdown levels and why they were put into place.

Woman looking at view of Auckland
Shutterstock/Naruedom Yaempongsa

Per CBS News, New Zealand has performed 267,435 COVID-19 tests and used contact tracing to limit further spread by identifying people with whom individuals who tested positive interacted. Citizens have been encouraged to download the NZ COVID Tracer app to register their movements and contacts; that way, if someone in the user's web tests positive, a contact tracer can follow up right away and get the user tested.

In a late April press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, "There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way."

To that end, New Zealand remains at "Level 2" lockdown for now. Gatherings of more than 100 people are still prohibited, but schools and most businesses will reopen and strict social distancing is no longer required, per Stuff. The United States, meanwhile, has racked up 1.72 million coronavirus cases, with approximately 101,000 so far resulting in death. For more information about how other countries are handling the pandemic, check out This One Habit May Be Why Thailand Has So Few COVID Cases, Doctor Says.

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