New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said she has offered former Vice President Joe Biden “access” to her country’s health officials so that they may share their experience managing the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Ardern reportedly called Biden on Monday to congratulate him for his presumed victory in the U.S. presidential election on November 3. She told reporters in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, that she extended an invitation for Biden to speak with the country’s top health officials.
“I offered to him and his team access to New Zealand health officials in order to share their experience on things we’ve learnt on our Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] journey,” Ardern said.
She said her phone call with Biden lasted about 20 minutes and that he “spoke very favorably about how New Zealand was handling the pandemic,” according to Fox News.
“What has been really at the center of our response has been some fundamentals around testing, contact tracing, isolation,” Ardern explained to reporters. “That’s over and above what we’ve done at our borders.”
An island nation in Oceania, New Zealand has had significant advantages over most countries in defending itself from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic due to its small size and natural isolation. The country has a relatively small population of about 4.8 million people living in an area roughly the size of Colorado (about 103,483 square miles). In contrast, the U.S. has a population of 328.2 million people living across nearly 4 million square miles.
New Zealand has recorded just over 2,000 infections and 25 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus so far.
Ardern said that she would “make no apologies” for New Zealand’s travel restrictions in mid-March, considered the strictest in the world at the time as they closed off the island to foreign nationals and forced New Zealand citizens re-entering the country into mandatory quarantine. The island passed 102 days without documenting a new coronavirus case from May 1 through August 11. In response to the virus relapse, reportedly due to an outbreak at the time in Auckland, Ardern locked down the city and, on August 17, postponed New Zealand’s presidential election by four weeks. Originally scheduled for September 19, Ardern pushed the election to October 17. She later won re-election through the delayed vote.
New Zealand in late June recorded two new cases of coronavirus.
“[U[ntil that point, New Zealand had gone 24 days without a single case, so these [two cases] — linked to quarantine breaches — were enough to lead to the resignation of the health minister,” the BBC reported in July.
The country currently has just 58 active coronavirus cases documented on the island, “all in managed isolation facilities,” according to Reuters on Monday.
Ardern said Biden on Monday expressed eagerness during their phone call to further discuss New Zealand’s coronavirus response in the future.
“While New Zealand has a number of natural advantages that have assisted us in managing the virus, I do absolutely believe that international cooperation continues to be key to getting the virus under control,” Ardern told reporters. “We are happy to work with any country to share our knowledge and data if it’s helpful.”
Ardern said she and Biden also discussed the theory of climate change and trade issues during their phone call.