Business Web Directory  - Article Details

New Zealand beat Covid-19 by trusting leaders and following advice – study

Date Added: July 24, 2020 06:29:32 PM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: Regional: New Zealand

The secrets to New Zealand’s success at eliminating coronavirus has been revealed by university researchers, who have found compliance with basic hygiene practices and trust in authorities was at nearly 100%.

Researchers at Massey University interviewed more than 1,000 people post-lockdown, to investigate how New Zealanders responded to the pandemic.

“We came together as a country, in part because we believed in our political and health experts to deliver and they did,” said Dr Jagadish Thaker, a senior lecturer at the school of communication, journalism & marketing at Massey University.

“Simple, clear health messages, communicated with kindness and empathy, resonate with people, even when they are demanding tough changes.”

A total of 22 people died in New Zealand of the disease and less than 1,500 were infected, after stringent border controls were introduced and a nationwide lockdown came into force on 25 March – one of the earliest in the world.

Researchers found that New Zealanders had a high level of knowledge about the disease and how it was spread, with eight out of ten respondents saying they adopted frequent hand-washing behaviours, while 9 out of 10 said they practised social distancing.

“Almost all New Zealanders correctly understand important facts about the coronavirus,” researchers concluded.

“About nine in ten New Zealanders know about the symptoms, protective behaviours, and about the asymptomatic transmission. A large majority of New Zealanders correctly identified false or misleading statements.”

New Zealanders also showed a high level of knowledge that enabled them to dispel some of the common myths regarding coronavirus, with 94% of respondents knowing that it was false that only elderly people get infected, and that 5G towers were spreading it.

In mid-May New Zealand began to loosen lockdown restrictions and two months later the country has largely returned to normal, apart from the borders remaining closed.

Despite the country’s success at eliminating the virus, researchers found the pandemic had taken a significant toll on New Zealanders’ lives, with nearly one in five reporting they or a family member had lost a job, had filed for unemployment benefits, or been unable to pay monthly bills.

Four out of ten respondents also noted that they or a household member had felt depressed or had trouble sleeping.

New Zealand’s Indigenous population was disproportionately affected by the crisis, with Māori twice as likely to report they or a household member had lost a job, was unable to pay monthly bills, or had signed on for unemployment benefits, compared with New Zealand Europeans.

Māori were also more likely to report other economic consequences, distress or lack of access to adequate medical care during the emergency.

Following the lockdown the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern achieved the highest approval ratings of her three-year cycle and became the most popular leader in a century.

Epidemiologists working on managing the spread of the disease in New Zealand singled her out for praise.

“The brilliant, decisive and humane leadership of Ardern was instrumental in New Zealand’s rapid change in direction with its response to Covid-19 and the remarkably efficient implementation of the elimination strategy,” wrote Otago university epidemiologists Michael Baker and Nick Wilson.

The report found that Ardern and director-general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, were given nearly perfect marks by respondents for their communication style and leadership throughout the crisis, while the general dissemination of information also came in for “high praise”, researchers found.

“When political will backs science, we save lives,” Thaker said.

However, it was not all good news. One in three New Zealanders thought that the coronavirus was created in a lab, while about one in four thought that exposure to sun or extreme heat can prevent or kill the coronavirus.

Thacker said he found an “overwhelming support to reduce or restrict immigration and tourism; seen as a backbone of the economy” surprising, but expected the usual positive attitudes of Kiwis to bounce back once the world learnt to better deal with the health crisis.