The Washington Post wrote that New Zealand is 'squashing' its coronavirus curve. An expert agrees, but says the elimination policy could still fail.

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The Washington Post wrote that New Zealand is 'squashing' its coronavirus curve. An expert agrees, but says the elimination policy could still fail.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks on during a press conference at Parliament on April 07, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

  • New Zealand's approach to the coronavirus, by closing its borders to foreigners and focusing on eliminating rather than containing the coronavirus, has been praised by The Washington Post.
  • Washington Post Beijing bureau chief Anna Fifield, who's from New Zealand, wrote that it only took 10 days for signs to show the country's elimination goal was working.
  • Otago University professor Nick Wilson told Business Insider that The Washington Post was on point, but there was a still chance that elimination would fail and New Zealand would need to shift to an alternative strategy.
  • As of April 8, New Zealand, a nation of about 5 million people, had 1,160 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

New Zealand's approach to the coronavirus - closing its borders to foreigners and focusing on eliminating rather than containing the coronavirus - has been praised by The Washington Post, although one professor warns elimination could still fail.

On April 7, the Washington Post published a story titled: "New Zealand isn't just flattening the curve. It's squashing it."

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Anna Fifield, who's from New Zealand but has lived abroad for the last 20 years and is The Post's Beijing bureau chief, wrote that "it took only 10 days for signs that the approach here - 'elimination' rather than the 'containment' goal of the United States and other Western countries - is working."

As of April 8, New Zealand, which has about 5 million people, had 1,160 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death. For two days in a row, new case numbers fell despite more testing.

Professor Nick Wilson, who is the director of a burden of disease epidemiology program at the University of Otago, told Business Insider he agreed with The Post, but he warned that New Zealand hasn't beaten the coronavirus yet.

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"Things are looking promising for success - but still a chance elimination will fail in NZ, and the country will need to shift to an alternative strategy," he said.

Wilson co-wrote an opinion piece for Stuff.co.nz, with Michael Baker, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at the University of Otago who spoke to Fifield for The Post's piece. They wrote: "New Zealand is now the only Western nation to pursue an elimination strategy (though this is the model being used in Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Taiwan)."

The opinion piece set out that it wouldn't be clear until afterward whether elimination was the right decision to make.

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"On balance, we think this is the right decision, based on what we know now about this threat, its likely high impact on health and inequalities, the available alternative strategies, and potential co-benefits," they wrote.

University of Auckland microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist Dr. Siouxsie Wiles told Business Insider it was "great" that the response was being praised internationally. She also said she hoped those who had criticized the approach would "take note."

"There is always more that could be done but I hope this is an eye-opener for those who have been arguing we should have followed the 'herd immunity' or 'wait a bit longer' approach," she said.

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Fifield, who arrived in New Zealand about a month ago, outlined in The Post's piece how New Zealand managed to control the coronavirus so quickly. She said it did the "previously unthinkable:" it closed its borders to foreigners on March 19, which was a big deal since about 4 million people visit each year.

Closing borders played a large role in the response, especially since New Zealand is a small island nation, and most cases could then be traced through international travel.

She noted that Ardern held the first televised address from the Prime Minister's office since 1982 on March 21, and how on March 23 she didn't take the situation lightly when she said: "We currently have 102 cases. But so did Italy once."

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She said the nation's response had been mostly united the country, with people reporting breached lockdown measures, as well as the National Party, the main opposition political party, refraining from criticizing the government's response.

New Zealand's next challenge will be maintaining a virus-free nation once it gets to that point, and border security could be tightened.

Read the full Washington Post story here »

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