As New Zealand enters the uncharted waters of a national lockdown, the Government can feel cautiously confident of being on the right course.
The staggered move to a month of self-isolation as a nation may seem an over-reaction on the back of a hundred cases and no deaths. But it has become clearer in recent weeks that quickly introduced and enforced lockdowns and quarantines are far more effective than relying on people to do what's best.
Moving quickly to give the country its best chance of limiting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is the right approach.
Leaders face a difficult job juggling different concerns in such an all-consuming crisis.
In New Zealand we have advantages in our geographical isolation and small population. For the past few weeks our case numbers have jumped but are still mostly linked to overseas travel rather than community spread.
We have had time to prepare for a worsening situation as winter approaches and to learn from other countries. How well we have done so will become apparent. For now, we are far behind other countries on the dreaded coronavirus curve.
The lessons from overseas hold promise but are also ominous.
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They tell us the initial wave of the coronavirus can be flattened. China is in a more stable situation now, and South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan contained their outbreaks, although dealing with a second wave of infections from people entering their countries. The WHO says intensive testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment works and speed of implementation is crucial.
Any dithering over hard decisions and preparation can be costly. Once a country gets to where the number of deaths from the coronavirus is rapidly multiplying, its hospital system can be quickly overwhelmed.
According to a Financial Times analysis, China began its city quarantines after about 30 deaths. Italy waited until about 800 had died before enforcing a nationwide lockdown. Now Italy's death total of more than 5476 has surpassed China's 3261. Spain and France were among countries that tried to learn from Italy, locking down after 200 and 175 deaths respectively.
Figures from the OurWorldinData and Worldometre websites show Covid-19 fatalities in Spain (1756), France (674), the United States (414), Britain (281) and are surging – doubling at least every three days. In contrast, Italy's doubling has slowed to every five days – suggesting its lockdown is starting to work. Monday's toll of 651 fatalities in Italy was lower than the day before.
In the US, the Trump Administration has been accused of being too slow to test and prepare, and still not doing enough. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who closed pubs and restaurants last week, warns of tougher measures if people don't halt gatherings and non-essential travel.
Our Government has tried to ease us into the restrictions. With time running out, a harder crackdown was inevitable.