The United States government has issued a warning to its citizens to “exercise increased caution in New Zealand due to Covid-19”, despite the fact New Zealand has been lauded globally for its response to the pandemic.
The US has recorded almost five million coronavirus cases and more than 160,000 deaths from Covid-19.
By contrast, New Zealand currently has only 23 cases, all of which are in managed isolation. On June 8, Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, declared the pandemic over as community transmission has been eliminated.
The warning on the US government travel advice website does not mention this fact or that each active case involves a returned traveller who went directly into quarantine on arrival. Until Thursday, the warning also did not mention that anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand cannot enter the country.
The US government has four travel advisory levels for travel abroad: Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions; Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution; Level 3: Reconsider Travel; and Level 4: Do Not Travel. It classified New Zealand as Level 2.
New Zealand’s own government has urged residents to not travel overseas at all at present, and the official advice specifically warns against certain countries, including the United States.
Eight days ago, Donald Trump, the US president, said Australia had “tremendous problems” with its response to Covid-19.
“They thought they’d really done great… So when you think somebody is doing well, sometimes you have to hold your decision on that. You have to hold your statements,” he said.
At the time, 152,000 people in the US had died of coronavirus and the country had reported almost 4.5 million cases. As of Friday, Australia had 277 Covid-19 deaths from just over 20,200 cases.
While New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries in the world in its response to Covid-19, at least one expert has warned that there is a “very high” chance that community transmission will happen again at some point.
University of Otago Medical School epidemiologist Sir David Skegg told Newstalk ZB on Friday that there is a realistic prospect that people working in border services, such as airport and customs workers, hotel staff and bus drivers, could contract Covid-19 from people returning to the country.