WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The two-island nation southeast of Australia made headlines this week as one of the first countries to have completely eradicated the coronavirus – at least for now.
According to the Associated Press, the announcement was made Monday, June 8th, by health officials and the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern that the last known infected person had recovered.
It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported, during which an additional 40,000 people have been tested, bringing the total number tested to about 300,000. Monday marked the first time since late February there have been no active cases. Just over 1,500 people contracted the virus, including 22 who died.
Former Joplin, Missouri resident, Josiah Liston, says those numbers, in a country with five million people, are low because everyone cooperated with the government issued levels of lockdowns.
“The moment that COVID hit the country, Jacinda announced level four essentially, it was within a week of us getting our first case. The big difference was that everyone stayed home,” says Liston.
He says those in New Zealand trusted the government enough to follow the four levels of lockdown, level four being the most restrictive. Liston goes on to give the lockdown in simple terms, but according to the New Zealand government, each level had an extensive list of measures.
Liston, an audio engineer for events in Wellington, was able to work from home during level four even though events were not being canceled left and right.
“I was doing logistical stuff for the company, like handbooks and manuals and stuff,” says Liston.
As the country progressed toward level one, Liston says locals called level three “Level four but with KFC,” meaning that restaurants with drive-throughs were open.
Liston moved to New Zealand almost four years ago this November; he says he left the United States on election day in 2016. Since then, he has traveled around the country and settled in Wellington, where he lives in a house with four other roommates because rent prices are compared to Los Angeles or New York City.
During the past few months, Liston has been trying to become a permanent resident in New Zealand, but with COVID-19 and other setbacks, the process is taking a year longer than planned.
He says it’s going to be weird but nice going back to normal because he knows the virus still impacts friends and family back in America.
“You almost forget that COVID is happening. Like if I didn’t open the news, I would not think about COVID. I’m messaging my mom (who still lives in Missouri), and she wants to go see a friend who’s sick, and she can’t because my mom’s got the antibody test and she doesn’t have antibodies, and she has Asthma, she can’t travel, she can’t get it,” says Liston.
Liston is excited to get back to normal with running audio at events that are slowly being booked and to see friends.
“In New Zealand, everyone really came together, got on board and just stayed home. Did that for a month and a half essentially, that’s why we’re at where we’re at today, and that’s why I get to go dancing tonight and see all of my friends. I’m very grateful that everyone came together,” says Liston.