New Zealand's Leader Set Big Virus Goal. Now She's Close

Nation of 5M aims to eliminate COVID-19
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2020 4:16 PM CDT
New Zealand's Leader Winning High Praise Amid Pandemic
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, April 20, 2020.   (Mark Mitchell/Pool photo via AP)

It's quite a headline: "New Zealand’s Prime Minister May Be the Most Effective Leader on the Planet" declares the Atlantic. The headline is above an analysis by Uri Friedman on how Jacinda Ardern has led her country of 5 million people amid the pandemic. In Friedman's view, the 39-year-old is masterfully balancing decisive action with empathy, as embodied in the prime minister's frequent Facebook Live chats to residents that somehow "manage to be both informal and informative." None of that would matter much, however, if not for this: Arden's approach and policies "have produced real, world-leading results," writes Friedman. The AP has details on that, starting with a few impressive stats: The nation reported just five new cases Tuesday, down from 90 per day in early April. And only 13 people in the country have died so far.

"We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus," Ardern said last week. "But it will continue to need a team of 5 million behind it.” Arden put the country in lockdown in late March, much earlier than other world leaders did and at a time only 100 New Zealanders had tested positive. The AP notes that New Zealand's relatively small population and the fact that it's an island nation were big helps. Still, "New Zealand got everything right," says Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine expert at the University of Auckland. "Decisive action, with strong leadership and very clear communications to everybody." A story at the Washington Post agrees, including her on a list of several female world leaders who have "won recognition as voices of reason" amid the outbreak. (Ardern also won praise for her handling of last year's mosque shootings.)

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