After naming coronavirus our Villain of the Year, thinking about exactly who should be called our Hero of the Year didn’t take as long as you may think.
World leaders have approached the covid-19 pandemic in a number of different ways. The one person who has risen above all others thanks to her grit and determination to keep the people of her country safe however, is New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Clamping down on the virus with what have been described as the strictest measures in the world to tackle the disease, for which she “would make no apologies”, Prime Minister Ardern kickstarted her historic response by banning entry to any foreigner coming from or via China into New Zealand from February 3rd, 2020. Even New Zealand natives would have to isolate for 14 days if coming back to the country from China.
That flight ban was extended to Iran - the origin of New Zealand's first case - with restrictions later placed on anyone arriving from South Korea, northern Italy and anybody who may have shown symptoms of the virus.
On March 16th 2020, everybody would have to go into self-isolation on arrival in the country, unless they were arriving from the largely unaffected island nations of the Pacific.
Just a few days later, the PM closed the borders entirely to almost all non-citizens or residents, stopping the community transmission of coronavirus as well as forcing the brakes on the influx of new cases into the country.
In late March, a four-stage alert system was introduced, indicating social distancing measures and the current risk in different areas of New Zealand. It began on level two, but rose to level four across the nation on March 25th, triggering a total lockdown with just essential services running and residents restricted to remaining in their home “bubble".
No deaths and just 102 cases had been reported in New Zealand at this point. At the same time, the United Kingdom had over 330 deaths and 6,500 cases.
With a population that was by a huge majority behind its leader’s decisions, New Zealand rose to the occasion and smashed the virus into the ground. Whilst they were of course critics, they were largely ignored.
Whilst its isolated location and relatively-low population were a small factor in New Zealand eliminating coronavirus cases, it was only a minor benefit. The strategic forward-thinking of PM Ardern has been lauded by professionals and experts and she is undoubtedly a fine recipient for our Hero of the Year Award.
PM Ardern has built a lasting legacy of trust with her people; so much so that she won the recent New Zealand election with a massive majority of 65 seats in the 120-seat Parliament for her Labour Party.
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