New Zealand has warned of complacency as it reaches 100 days since the last national case of the coronavirus.
The Pacific island nation has come back to pre-pandemic life, with people attending sports stadiums and eating out, but has warned its five million residents against dropping the guard as it watches how neighboring countries like Australia and Vietnam are again experiencing outbreaks.
“Reaching 100 days without community transmission is an important milestone, however, as we all know we cannot afford to be complacent,” said Dr Ashley Bloomfield, chief health officer.
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“We have seen abroad how quickly the virus can reappear and spread to places where it was previously under control, and we must be prepared to quickly eradicate any future cases in New Zealand.”
The country eradicated the virus by blocking it early and completely in March, when only around 100 people had tested positive. In the past three months, the only cases have involved residents returning from overseas, who were then quarantined upon their return.
As the country marks this impressive milestone, authorities fear that people have started to take a lax approach to prevention, refusing testing and contact tracing, and that many no longer follow basic, but crucial hygiene rules. .
The milestone comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched her re-election campaign on Saturday, announcing it would be a “Covid election”.
Although the country’s successful fight against the virus has made it one of the safest places in the world today, a resurgence in infections due to recent laxity could be used as ammunition against the incumbent.
The so-called ‘Covid fatigue’ is of particular concern in light of the struggles in Vietnam and Australia, which once appeared to have national epidemics under control.
“For countries like Australia and New Zealand, the source of these outbreaks is likely to come from managed isolation and quarantine facilities, due to the large number of people being held there and the multiple staff changes involved. in their care, ”said Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago.
Vietnam is now struggling to control a new outbreak in the coastal city of Da Nang, having managed three months without domestic transmission.
Meanwhile, Melbourne is under a six-week lockdown after quarantine breaches led to a second wave in Australia’s second-largest city.
New Zealand has 23 active coronavirus cases in quarantine facilities, and there have been cases of security flaws, including cases of residents escaping quarantine after returning from overseas.
In its continued fight against the virus, the country stepped up testing at isolation centers and managed clinics last week and started developing Bluetooth technology to track cases.
New Zealand has recorded a total of 1,569 cases and 22 deaths.