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New Zealand Reaches Milestone In The Fight Against COVID-19

NOEL KING, HOST:

New Zealand has gone 100 days without a locally transmitted COVID-19 case - 100 days. But Prime Minister Jacinda Arden is telling people not to get complacent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDEN: We will almost certainly see cases here again. And that is not a sign that we have failed. It is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs, we have to make sure - and we are - that we are prepared.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Still, New Zealand has done very well. So how did that happen? Geography and natural isolation is part of it. When you have an island nation that's not too large, it's easier to cut it off. But epidemiologist Brian Cox also points to New Zealand's early intervention.

BRIAN COX: Once we realized it was a cluster epidemic, we worked really hard to isolate people that were infected and quarantine the rest of the people in that person's network.

KING: The country's recorded just over 1,500 cases and 22 deaths from the pandemic. And with the virus under control for now, Radio New Zealand's Colin Peacock says life really is pretty normal.

COLIN PEACOCK: Shopping, movies, entertainment, going to bars. We can dance as close as we like to each other in nightclubs as late as we like. So everything is just fine in that regard. And business is carrying on as normal. The big difference is that closed-down border.

INSKEEP: New Zealand's borders remain closed to foreign nationals. And Kiwis returning home are forced to follow a strict 14-day quarantine. Public health experts, including Dr. Cox, say that's critical to keeping the pandemic in New Zealand under control. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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