Border closure advice predicted economic carnage without ‘exit plan’ to end New Zealand’s isolation

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures as she departs following a gathering for congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch on March 22, 2019. Thousands of New Zealanders gathered in Christchurch on March 22 to honour the 50 Muslim worshippers killed one week ago by a white supremacist, with a call to prayer broadcast around the country and a two-minute silence. Marty MELVILLE (AFP/Marty Melville). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

WELLINGTON, May 10, 2020, NZ Herald. On the day a global pandemic was declared our government mulled advice that closing borders long-term would hurt the economy far worse than containing clusters of Covid-19 cases as they arose, NZ Herald reported.

Officials presented a lengthy “keep it out” approach, which New Zealand and many other countries ultimately opted for, as the most economically damaging.

The March 12 all-of-government advice has been released along with hundreds of other documents, and shows how the Covid-19 strategy evolved rapidly amid huge uncertainty about what path to choose, and the costs of those fateful decisions.

The World Health Organisation had that day declared the global coronavirus crisis a pandemic. New Zealand had five confirmed cases and two probable, a total that hadn’t increased for five days.

When the advice was received, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had just announced extended travel restrictions that required travellers to self-isolate for 14 days from northern to all of Italy. Restrictions were in place for South Korean travellers and travel bans for those coming from China and Iran, unless they were New Zealand citizens.

All New Zealand’s cases were from overseas travel and ministers were thinking about requiring travellers coming from Europe and the United States to self-isolate on arrival.

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