If there is a bright spot in the global response to the pandemic, it is surely New Zealand. While governments worldwide have vacillated on how to respond and ensuing cases of the virus have soared, New Zealand has set an uncompromising, science-driven example. Though the country didn’t ban travel from China until February 3 (a day after the United States) and its trajectory of new cases looked out of control in mid-March, austerity measures seemingly have brought COVID-19 to heel.
The country began mandatory quarantines for all visitors on March 15, one of the strictest policies in the world at the time, even though there were just six cases nationwide. Just 10 days later, it instituted a complete, countrywide lockdown, including a moratorium on domestic travel. The Level 4 restrictions meant grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and petrol stations were the only commerce allowed; vehicle travel was restricted; and social interaction was limited to within households.
“We must fight by going hard and going early,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement to the nation on March 14.
My wife and I tumbled into these restrictions unwittingly. She, an editorial photographer, and I, a travel writer, flew to New Zealand for assignments on assurances from the U.S., Kiwi, and Australian governments that no controls were afoot. But between the time we left home and the time we landed, New Zealand enacted quarantines for visitors. Before we could get new tickets home, the country halted all travel completely. Like an estimated 100,000-plus international visitors, we were stuck.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction