New Zealand's Covid-19 response rated best in the world in new survey

Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 Nov 2020, 3:47PM
Jacinda Ardern. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Jacinda Ardern. (Photo / NZ Herald)

New Zealand's Covid-19 response rated best in the world in new survey

Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 Nov 2020, 3:47PM

New Zealand is the best place in the world to be in the coronavirus era, according to the new Bloomberg Covid resilience ranking.

The Bloomberg report sought to answer the question: where has the virus been handled most effectively with the least amount of disruption to business and society?

It ranked 53 countries with economies of more than $200 billion on 10 key metrics relating to impact of Covid-19 and the quality of life.

"New Zealand tops the ranking as of November 23 thanks to decisive, swift action," the report said.

"Early on, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Government said it would target 'elimination' of the virus, pouring resources into testing, contact tracing and a centralised quarantine strategy to snuff out local transmission.

"Having largely achieved it, New Zealanders are basically living in a world without Covid. The nation has seen just a handful of infections in the community in recent months, and live music and large scale social events are back on."

New Zealand topped Bloomberg's Covid resilience ranking. Photo / Screenshot

Overall, New Zealand had a resilience score of 85.4, ahead of Japan on 85, Taiwan on 82.9 and South Korea on 82.3.

Taiwan, often lauded as the benchmark, lagged behind New Zealand on metrics such as universal healthcare coverage and access to vaccines.

They were followed by western countries Finland (82), Norway (81.6) and Australia (81.2).

Sweden, which has been under intense scrutiny for following a herd immunity strategy but has suffered a recent surge in cases, was 16th on 68.7.

The US was 18th (66.5), its ranking boosted because of access to vaccines, the UK was 28th (61.5), and the lowest ranked of the 53 countries in the report was Mexico (37.6).

On Covid measures over the last month, New Zealand has had two cases per 100,000 people, a 0 per cent fatality rate (the share of deaths among cases), a 0 per cent positive test rate (the share of tests that are positive), five total deaths per 1 million people, and access to two Covid vaccines.

On quality of life measures, New Zealand scored 22 for lockdown severity - the lowest of all countries in the report - 0.3 per cent for community mobility (comparing freedom of movement with before the pandemic), 83 for universal healthcare coverage, and 0.92 on the human development index - a measure of well-being defined by life expectancy, access to education and income per capita.

New Zealand's 6.1 per cent drop in forecast 2020 GDP growth was also a factor in the overall score.

The Bloomberg report noted New Zealand's lockdown earlier this year and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the economy.

"The small island nation locked down on March 26 before a single Covid-related death had occurred, shutting its borders despite the economy's heavy reliance on tourism.

"Though its tourism industries are suffering, New Zealand is also well positioned for a vaccine with two supply deals in place, including one for the shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and Germany's BioNTech SE."

Eight of the top 10 in the rankings are democracies.

"Success in containing Covid-19 with the least disruption appears to rely less on being able to order people into submission, but on governments engendering a high degree of trust and societal compliance," the report said.

"New Zealand emphasised communication from the start, with a four-level alert system that gave people a clear picture of how and why the Government would act as the outbreak evolved."

The report noted that the US and UK were ranked as the most prepared for a pandemic but have been repeatedly overwhelmed by infections.

"The lack of an effective response to the virus by the US has been one of the most stunning developments of the pandemic.

"The superpower leads the world in cases and deaths, and its reaction to the crisis has lagged from the start, from a shortage of medical equipment and PPE supplies, to the absence of co-ordination on testing and tracing efforts and the politicisation of mask wearing."

The US would have been 11 rankings lower had it not been for its access to vaccines.

Japan's success was due to a strong public health centre, and its second place is despite a lack of a legal means to enforce a lockdown.

Bloomberg noted Taiwan's use of technology to tell people where masks were in stock or locations where people were infected.

"Like New Zealand, life has largely reverted to normal, though borders remain shut. Taiwan has so far, however, failed to ink any bilateral deals for the most progressed vaccines."