An article in the National Geographic describes how New Zealand effectively eliminated coronavirus.

New Zealand has had a small number of infections and fewer than two dozen deaths.

Travel journalist Aaron Gulley was in New Zealand when the pandemic was recognized.

He writes:

If there is a bright spot in the global response to the pandemic, it is surely New Zealand. While governments worldwide have vacillated on how to respond and ensuing cases of the virus have soared, New Zealand has set an uncompromising, science-driven example. Though the country didn’t ban travel from China until February 3 (a day after the United States) and its trajectory of new cases looked out of control in mid-March, austerity measures seemingly have brought COVID-19 to heel.

The country began mandatory quarantines for all visitors on March 15, one of the strictest policies in the world at the time, even though there were just six cases nationwide. Just 10 days later, it instituted a complete, countrywide lockdown, including a moratorium on domestic travel. The Level 4 restrictions meant grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and petrol stations were the only commerce allowed; vehicle travel was restricted; and social interaction was limited to within households.

“We must fight by going hard and going early,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement to the nation on March 14.

My wife and I tumbled into these restrictions unwittingly. She, an editorial photographer, and I, a travel writer, flew to New Zealand for assignments on assurances from the U.S., Kiwi, and Australian governments that no controls were afoot. But between the time we left home and the time we landed, New Zealand enacted quarantines for visitors. Before we could get new tickets home, the country halted all travel completely. Like an estimated 100,000-plus international visitors, we were stuck.

The sudden austerity could have been a cause for panic. But each day, the 39-year-old Ardern, or “Jaz” as she’s popularly known, made clear, concise statements about the situation to the nation, bolstered by a team of scientists and health professionals. A few days after the lockdown, she announced that instead of just slowing the transmission of the virus, New Zealand had set a course of eradicating COVID-19 from its shores, by cutting off the arrival of new cases and choking out existing ones with the restrictions. “We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” said Ardern at one of her daily briefings.

From an outsider’s perspective, the interesting thing about New Zealand is that the country simply got on board. On day one of the lockdown, the streets and highways were empty, the shops were closed, and everyone stayed home. “I think it’s easier for us Kiwis to fall in line because we trust our leaders,” Sue Webster, the owner of the Airbnb where my wife and I holed up for almost four weeks, told me.

The plan seems to have worked. The daily infection rate in the island nation of 4.9 million steadily dropped from a maximum of 146 in late March to just a few cases a day by mid-April. All told, New Zealand reported a high of 1,476 cases and 19 deaths. On April 26, the country experienced a watershed moment when no new COVID-19 cases and no community transmissions were reported for the first time in over six weeks, though seven new cases cropped up by April 30.

Still, the low number of new cases gave the government the confidence to ease its social distancing restrictions to Level 3. On April 28, Ardern pronounced the virus eliminated, later clarifying that “elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping COVID out until there’s a vaccine.”

Collective action. Social discipline. No armed men storming the government offices.

It worked.