New Zealand’s Prime Minister triumphantly declared that New Zealand was “readly to welcome the world back” as a “safe place” despite a devastating increase in COVID cases that threatens to completely overwhelm healthcare facilities.
As of just a month ago, New Zealand had experienced a total of 56 COVID-related deaths, one of the lowest in the world. Now, and case numbers in the dozens or hundreds. Since the softening of their policies, they are now facing around 20,000 new cases a day with 22 deaths reported just in the last 24 hours.
Compared to the United States, whose own delayed numbers report 1,399 deaths on March 14th, those numbers may appear small. Yet those 22 deaths represent nearly a fifth of all the COVID deaths recorded in New Zealand so far over the past three years, occurring in a single day.
Reports are emerging that as even medical staff become infected, already overloaded facilities are forcing infected staff to keep working, with well over 10% of the more than 400,000 New Zealanders infected in the past months requiring hospitalization.
Rather than shutting down, Ardern seems to be content with the outcome of her opening, suggesting that the economic benefit of allowing tourists in without quarantines outweighs the social and human costs of overburdened healthcare facilities and mass deaths.