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New Zealand has success containing COVID-19; could it work in Florida?

The U.S. passed 5 million coronavirus cases over the weekend. Just 17 days ago, the country reported 4 million recorded COVID-19 cases.

On the other side of the world, New Zealand has now gone just over 100 days without a new case, and its social lives have returned to normal.

We looked at what New Zealand has been doing successfully and if it can be applied in Florida.

Dr. Larry Antonucci, the president and CEO of Lee Health, said there has been some success in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Right now, we have 180 patients in the hospital, which is the lowest it’s been for a while,” Antonucci said.

There is more hope and new proof that more can be done to continue to slow the spread. New Zealand has gone 101 days without community spread of the coronavirus, but it wasn’t easy.

“Instead of slowly increasing the response based on what the virus was doing, they were going to throw everything at it from the beginning,” said Bindu Mayi, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at Nova Southeastern University.

New Zealand closed borders and beaches and imposed a strict lockdown that even banned driving outside of neighborhoods. That lasted more than a month.

“It is a very difficult thing to manage, and we need to be vigilant,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand.

But comparing Florida to New Zealand is like comparing oranges to kiwis. The island has no land borders and its population is not even a quarter of Florida’s. But that’s not to say we can’t learn lessons from its success.

“What helped them also is having a cohesive message, a very strong leadership from the top down,” Mayi said.

Mayi said New Zealand also looked to other countries as examples of what to do or what not to do.

While Southwest Florida’s numbers have improved, health leaders such as Antonucci remind us the pandemic has not ended.

“What we don’t want to do is get complacent,” Antonucci said.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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