In a global pandemic, one person seems to have emerged as a leading light – Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand – among all the missteps and mismanagement from pretty much every other world leader.
New Zealand locked down before the country’s first death in order to flatten the curve – and it seems to be working.
The country was also among the first to ease lockdown measures, but Ardern and her government are obviously cautious as they don’t want to risk a second wave of infection. On The AM Show, a politics morning show in New Zealand, the right-wing host Duncan Garner asked why New Zealand was remaining at ‘threat level 3’ – where all businesses, not just essential services, can reopen.
There have been calls for a move to level 2, but Ardern pointed out that it was crucial to keep community transmission low and traceable in order to stop another outbreak from happening. When Garner asked her why the government hadn’t already moved to Level 2, Arden replied:
I didn't realise you were an epidemiologist - congratulations on your new qualification.
On social media, people responded favourably – Ardern’s approval rating has gone up during the Covid-19 crisis. A Twitter account posted a screenshot of Duncan Garner’s Wikipedia page, with a recent edit.
Other people pointed out that it was refreshing to look at a competent leader for once. While it’s obviously important to ask questions of the government, Ardern’s approach has been backed up by real epidemiologists, who caution that social distancing measures are still necessary in order to stop Covid-19 from spreading further.
Garner has also written a series of articles criticising Ardern’s response to the crisis, and asking why she doesn’t care about the economy enough to lift lockdown restrictions. He said, “Until there's a vaccine, people will keep on dying, new cases will pop up, people will recover and life goes on.”
As lockdown restrictions have been gradually lifted in New Zealand, retailers, restaurants and schools have been allowed to open with some measure of social distancing in place. New Zealand has reported zero new cases of Covid-19 today.