Why New-Zealand? You may ask. Other countries, including Germany, Norway and South Korea have all experienced relatively low death tolls; via being fast to react regarding the lockdown and having sufficient health care in place. Thus combining these factors, the capacity to deal with the confirmed cases effectively, and to prevent the spread. However in New-Zealand, as well as the pragmatic approach to this now and healthcare plus the empirical judgements made based on what some of the earlier countries got wrong, but it has been the overall approach taken to nurturing the needs of the country.
Striking my attention, was the impressive attitude Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s PM, had towards tackling the economic issues which will inevitibly arise due to the pandemic, which will hit hard; businesses, workers and families. More specifically it was her decision to give her, her close allies and her public service chief execuitives a 20% pay cut, in order to show soladiaraty to those who are economically effected due to this pandemic. She acknowledges that “We acutely feel the struggle that New Zealanders are facing” and while it “Won’t shift the government’s overall fiscal position, it is about leadership”.
Arden, so far, has been the first and only leader of any Country to reduce their own, and their aquantances wages, during this pandemic. This reduces annual salary by $47,104 for 6 months, the equilivant to £22639. While in the UK, MP’s wages remain the same- having only increased by 2.7%, april last year, above the rate of infllation.
So this is such a positive movement to make, showing New Zealander’s that she really does prioritise her country and its citizens over the wealth of herself and her close allies. And while it will not eradicate the problems that the country will face, the attitude of the country’s leadership has meant that other decisions have been made- proving to be very successful.
A strict lockdown was only imposed in New Zealand two weeks ago, in-fact being almost identical to what was imposed in the UK, both only allowing residents to go outside for exercise, or for essential travel. However New Zealand’s lockdown was imposed when there were 363 confirmed cases there contrasting to the UK where there were 6650 confirmed cases before the lockdown. By inflicting the lockdown measures early, it made it easier to control and reduce the spread. What with less pressure on hospitals, with fewer cases, managing treatment becomes far easier. She also thanked New Zealand’s residents for taking these measures seriously and “creating a wall of defence” to prevent further spread of the virus. This has led to only 14 deaths in New Zealand, compared to over 18,000 in the UK.
However this has not been the only reason to why New Zealand has experienced so few cases and such a low death toll. What with being more generally isolated than the UK, with their surrounding countries like Australia having far fewer cases (yet we are still surrounded by the sea…) they’ve definitely been more “on it”. Regarding testing, there has been several testing centres up and running within the country, while she states that the Country has “the capicity” to test far more cases. Yet again contrasting with the chaos within the UK, with the goal of testing 100,000 per day, when the reality is there is currently the capacity of testing just 40,000 people. However reading further into the UK’s mess of testing, the number of tests carried out was a mere 22800 within 24 hours; meanwhile the mirror claims that really only 13500 people were checked due to tests having to be repeated on the same person due to unreliability. This and the late government response is part to account for the few numbers of testing, but it is also due to the vast amounts of distances that many would need to travel to recieve testing, due to too few testing centres within the UK.
But as we have seen from the wage cut, it isn’t only the competence of the government regarding lockdown measures and healthcare helping the citizeens. It is also the compassion and dedication to the wellbeing of the Country. A new “mental health initiative” was launched in New Zealand in response to this crisis called “get through it together”. This is a website which includes tips to how to manage mental health, information on other resources to help with mental health as well as the main help lines as well as an area devoted to children regarding their emotional wellbeing. Launched by herself, having to juggle the economic consequences, healthcare and many other unprecedentated challenges, this really does show a leader’s genuine gratitude for their citizens.
If this doesn’t emphasise the wholeheartedly spirit of NZ’s government enough, on the run up to Easter Arden also announced on her instergram account that the “tooth fairy” and the “Easter Bunny” are “essential workersw”, responding to “the kids of New Zealand”.
Finally, although this previous bit may have seemed trivial to you, maybe this huge amount of leadership strength and positivity is what all countries could do with, right now- and really within any times. Being 8th on the “happinesss index”- with a world budget “prioritising citizen happiness over capitialist gains”, plus being first on the social development index which only takes social development factors like education and health into account and excludes any monetary factors like GDP, perhaps it is time that other contries will begin to follow this; her example.
So a persistent mindset, a compassionate support system and competent leadership- may be the key to making a county one of the least effected by this pandemic within the world. In stark contrast to the countries which have tended to put wealth in front, being now more effected by this pandemic- including the USA and arguably here in Britain…