New Zealand aims to slay the monster Covid

Virus free goal

I bummed around New Zealand when I was nineteen. Started out in Auckland, basement apartment in a rooming house next to the YWCA, a view of women’s legs from the knees down walking by. Worked on the newspaper, writing obits, a cadet reporter’s job. Wanted to be a real writer. Quit the paper, drove a truck for a department store. Wrote stories at night. Crashed the truck, got fired, worked as a baker’s laborer, scrubbing pots big enough to jump in. Had a short story published in the Auckland Star. Moved to Wellington, in those days a ramshackle San Francisco, old houses on steep hills, modern now I bet, built on an earthquake fault, the same one I believe that runs all the way up through California. Worked on the docks, loading heavy bags with huge hooks like in the Marlon Brando movie On the Waterfront. But I was no Marlon and had to quit. Worked as a mailman, lugging bags of letters up those steep hills. Loved that place.

We now return to regular programming.

‘The virus doesn’t have superpowers —once transmission is stopped, it’s gone.’

This tiny country down near Antarctica is fighting a Beowulf-and-Grendel battle to destroy the virus that has killed 172,000 people around the world.

New Zealand’s goal: Kill the bastard once and for all.

Fights monster

Most countries in the world are struggling just to contain the mass murderer, with the constant threat of it coming back to kill again.

But that’s not good enough for New Zealand.

With the cooperation of its five million inhabitants, it plans to eliminate it altogether.

Medical experts believe the country can win the battle.

”The virus doesn’t have superpowers,” said Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine expert at the University of Auckland. “Once transmission is stopped, it’s gone.”

The far-flung location of the island nation (actually two islands) and the fact that it is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean is the key. Test people coming in, make sure they don’t have the virus and they’re home free. If they test positive they are quarantined for two weeks. New Zealanders who travel outside the country are okay with that.

In March, only 90 people tested positive for the virus, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern locked down the country immediately. 

“Go hard and go early,” she said at the time, and it has paid off. New Zealand has avoided a widespread outbreak. New cases plummeted from a peak of 90 a day to just five this week. There have been 13 deaths — 0.00026 percent of the population.

“We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved — elimination of the virus,” Ardern said. “But it will continue to need our five million people behind it.”

Five million plus one aging writer from Upstate New York.

 [With notes from AP]


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