In more and more parts of the world, people are staying home to try to limit the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in their communities.
How social distancing works
But the goal of practicing social distancing on a large scale is not the complete eradication of coronavirus from the population. Instead, the goal is to try to slow the spread enough so that hospitals and medical professionals won’t become so overwhelmed by the number of people needing care for the illness that they won’t have enough resources to adequately treat everyone.
Frequent handwashing and mask wearing, closure of nonessential businesses, and limiting contact with anyone outside of the immediate household is working, but at least one country is taking social distancing to an extreme measure in order to protect its population from the coronavirus.
How "crushing the curve" is different from "flattening the curve"
You’ve heard the phrase “flatten the curve,” or to lower the number of infections occurring at once, but some experts say that in order to limit the number of deaths caused by COVID-19, flattening the curve is not enough, and that people should strive to crush the curve, or wait until the infection rate is nearly zero before lifting restrictions.
Instead of returning to the old ways of life once the curve is flattened, public health experts recommend continuing with mitigation methods like social distancing and stay-at-home orders for a bit longer to ensure that case numbers don’t rise again, reports The Washington Post.
Once this has been accomplished, the second part of the equation involves a period of high alert. Officials would need to be prepared to reimpose the previous restrictions if there are new outbreaks of the illness, either en masse or to select pockets where the illness is spiking again.
How New Zealand is approaching the COVID-19 crisis
In New Zealand, where the population of over 5 million is currently in the middle of a month of social distancing, the game plan is to eliminate COVID-19 from the country entirely, instead of just trying to contain it.
On Thursday, new measures were put in place so that people coming into the country would have to go into an approved facility to quarantine, reports CNN. Foreign nationals have not been able to enter New Zealand since March 20. These measures are decidedly easier for the island country to uphold than for others, since all entries by air or sea can be monitored, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is still holding fast to the more is more mentality for mitigation.
The other big success that New Zealand has on its side is the number of people that have been tested for COVID-19. Over 50,000 people have been tested, giving health officials a better understanding of how the illness spread among the population. With the possibility of stay-at-home orders being extended for more than a month, that would give New Zealand’s authorities more time to track the illness and contain it to the point of eradication.
Despite these drastic measures, Ardern has said that until a solution to COVID-19 is found via vaccines and antiviral treatments, the country will remain “in the same boat” as the rest of the world.