What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Why have Australia and New Zealand been so successful at managing COVID-19?

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced this week that the country has eliminated the novel coronavirus, but warned that residents must stay vigilant. Neighboring Australia has also experienced relatively high success in battling COVID-19. Nick Schifrin reports on how the Pacific nations have kept their losses from the pandemic low compared to other countries.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This week, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country had eliminated the coronavirus, but warned, residents must stay vigilant to keep it that way.

    Next door, Australia has seen comparable success in battling the virus.

    Nick Schifrin reports on how these two Pacific nations did it.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On the day life resumed, the first thing Kiwis wanted was coffee.

  • Woman:

    Amazing. It's never tasted better.

  • Woman:

    So stoked. So stoked.

  • Man:

    Honestly, it's so good to have a coffee.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    For more than a month, New Zealand endured one of the world's strictest lockdowns. Today, the government partially lifted the lockdown and said it had — quote — "eliminated" the virus; 400,000 people went back to work.

  • Alex Zuur:

    I have got bags of goodies that I'm dropping off to people's houses.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And New Zealand researcher Alex Zuur filmed herself delivering some of this massive haul of homemade groceries to friends.

  • Alex Zuur:

    Whilst I can't physically make contact with them, it's nice to be able to have just a little bit more chances to leave your neighborhood and provide things to those who need them the most at the moment.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    New Zealand has less than 20 coronavirus deaths, and in the last week, single-digit newly diagnosed infections.

    Today, the reopening was announced by the country's symbol of success, and vigilance, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

    There is not one point in time that this mission ends now. Yes, we have done that in lockdown. The goal now is to keep up that work. So, we are now in the next phase of the battle, and we are not done.

    Evening, everyone.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Ardern's known for a personal, empathetic touch, including after the 2019 Christchurch mosque attack that killed 51 people.

    During the coronavirus crisis, between press conferences, she took to Facebook live.

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

    Many of you, of course, will have got the message from Civil Defense systems this evening, the blast of the horn on your phone, and then some messages that we're really keen for everyone to stick to as we go through the next several weeks at home.

  • Collin Tukuitonga:

    Compassionate leadership, based on good science and good advice, was really a very powerful combination here.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Collin Tukuitonga is an associate professor of public health at the University of Auckland. He acknowledges that New Zealand's success comes in part from its small size and isolation.

    But he also says it elevated public health over economic concerns.

  • Collin Tukuitonga:

    We were single-mindedly focused on public health first.

    In fact, our former Prime Minister Helen Clark basically said, you can recover from a damaged economy, but you can't recover if you're dead from COVID-19.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Next door, Australia has also had success. Australia's conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison has worked with the progressive Ardern and issued early movement restrictions and communicated clearly, relying on science and stark warnings.

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison:

    There are no guarantees, I want to stress. This virus writes its own rules. And we have to seek to try and understand them as best we can, and respond as best we can to the pressures that we face.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Morrison's response has been a political recovery, after he stumbled during Australia's worst ever brushfires.

    Tukuitonga fears the U.S. is stumbling today.

  • Collin Tukuitonga:

    In terms of the leadership for the nation and for the world that the U.S., as we have known it, isn't showing those leadership required for controlling the pandemic at home, but, obviously, in terms of communicating to the rest of the world.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But the Kiwis' steps clicked, so even tourists trapped in the country because of border closures were happily stuck.

  • Alex Warlow:

    I actually feel like I'm in the safest country I could be in the world. It feels like a safe haven. It feels like they have done things really promptly.

  • Collin Tukuitonga:

    We're a small, small place at the bottom of the world. But, nonetheless, I think, on this occasion, we seem to have done something — something right.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And maybe have some lessons for the rest of the world?

  • Collin Tukuitonga:

    Yes, I think so.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest