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New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, declared victory against her country’s coronavirus outbreak last week, stating that “There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” and that COVID-19 had “currently” been eliminated from the country. The country of 5 million people has confirmed around 1,200 cases of COVID-19 and 20 deaths so for, and had no new infections reported diagnosed on Monday this week.
New Zealand ranks among the world's most successful countries in the global fight against the coronavirus, along with Australia, where the daily number of new cases has plummeted from 460 in late March to only 16 last Friday, bringing the total to just over 6,800. Now, the two neighbors are beginning to relax restrictions on movement and economic activity. While their successful efforts to contain the coronavirus can offer lessons for other countries still struggling with major COVID-19 outbreaks, how Australia and New Zealand reopen—and whether they can do so without causing a spike in cases or sparking a political backlash—will be instructive as well. For more on the lessons from these Pacific countries, see my new World Politics Review article.