The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for New Zealand this week, warning Americans to exercise “increased caution” because the country poses a “health risk” due to the covid-19 pandemic. In reality, New Zealand hasn’t had community spread of the coronavirus in months and has just 23 active cases of the disease, all in New Zealanders returning from overseas who are currently in quarantine. Meanwhile, the U.S. has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world.
The travel warning, first reported by the New Zealand Herald, is the U.S. State Department’s Level 2 health advisory which warns that “health risks are present, including current disease outbreaks or crises that disrupt a country’s medical infrastructure.” There was no health warning for New Zealand listed on the State Department website as recently as August 1.
If you’ve followed international news at all, you know this new advisory from the Trump regime makes absolutely no sense. New Zealand has identified just 1,569 cases and 22 deaths since the pandemic began. The U.S. has seen more than 4.8 million cases and over 160,000 deaths, with a completely uncontrolled pandemic still raging in much of the country. The U.S. saw over 2,000 new deaths on Thursday alone and some models predict 300,000 Americans could be dead from the coronavirus by December.
By contrast, New Zealand life has been returning to normal after it successfully stopped the spread of the disease with a robust testing plan, extensive contact tracing, a real lockdown that restricted movement within the country, and a shutdown of travel into the country for anyone who wasn’t a citizen or resident of New Zealand.
Putting aside the State Department’s new health warnings, Americans aren’t even allowed to visit New Zealand right now. In fact, very few countries are permitting Americans to enter, with Mexico, Turkey, and Croatia being three of just a handful of places where U.S. passport holders can travel freely. Even Canada has banned Americans from entering their country, a restriction that will be in place until at least August 31.
New Zealand has been the envy of the world, as a result of the country’s aggressive response and expert handling of the health crisis. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern even pushed out a top health official after he bungled just two cases of the disease in travellers from the UK. But New Zealand’s success doesn’t mean that it’s being complacent.
The country is still conducting pop-up covid-19 tests to ensure that the disease doesn’t reappear randomly in the country, as health experts believe it could see a resurgence at any time. They’re calling it an “insurance policy.”
The U.S. consulate in Auckland, New Zealand did not immediately respond to questions from Gizmodo on Friday morning U.S. east coast time. It is, after all, nighttime in New Zealand and staff at the consulate are probably out having some fun sitting in a stadium packed full of people or going out for a nice meal at a restaurant without the fear of contracting a deadly virus.