Bloomberg has named New Zealand as the nation that has handled the covid-19 pandemic most effectively, ahead of 52 other economies.

The country tops Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking which scores economies on 10 key metrics such as mortality rate, testing capabilities, impact on the economy and freedom of movement.

By these measures, Aotearoa scores higher than other exemplars like Taiwan and Japan, which Bloomberg writers said was due to “decisive, swift action.” 

“The small island nation locked down on March 26 before a single covid-related death had occurred, shutting its borders despite the economy’s heavy reliance on tourism,” wrote Rachel Chang, Jinshan Hong and Kevin Varley.

The success of the elimination strategy meant “New Zealanders are basically living in a world without covid,” they wrote.

You get what you pay for

However, elimination comes with a price tag attached and NZ is in the bottom half of the ranking on the GDP forecast measure. The International Monetary Fund has forecast a 6.1 percent contraction, while third place Taiwan has a flat GDP forecast and fourth place South Korea's GDP will fall only 2 percent.

Professor of macroeconomics at Massey University Martin Berka said the price paid for elimination was a choice rather than a mistake although he would’ve have done things “slightly differently”.

“The health outcomes in New Zealand are undoubtedly much better than in most countries, but in terms of GDP numbers we are worse,” he said.

“In hindsight, we are all very happy to be living in New Zealand. I’d rather be taking a pay cut than be sick in the hospital.”

Seven of the top ten rankings were given to countries in the Asia/Pacific region, with the remaining three coming from Nordic countries.

Kotahitanga the key

University of Melbourne professor Alan Lopez told Bloomberg social cohesion has been a major differentiating factor during the pandemic.

High levels of social trust and compliance meant citizens proactively wore masks and avoided crowded places, helping some Asian nations avoid full lockdowns.  

Psychologist Dougal Sutherland told BusinessDesk cohesiveness and unity across the country had been a major factor in the success of the elimination strategy.

“It is easy to compare us to countries that are less cohesive at the moment, the USA is an obvious example, that can lead to distrust in the government which leads to lower levels of compliance,” he said.

Sutherland said having epidemiologists become household names helped to build Kiwis' confidence that the response was based on science rather than politics.

Taking advantage

University of Canterbury professor of epidemiology Arindam Basu agreed that the public uptake of government’s science-led public health response was critical.

“New Zealand had a geographical and population advantage compared to other countries, we had some kind of insulation which helped,” he said.

“The second thing that worked was that people listened to, and trusted, the government to do what needed to be done. The two things worked hand in glove.”  

Bloomberg’s ranking may be uncomfortable for those nations who considered themselves the most advanced in the world. Major European countries like the UK and France rank in the bottom half of the list and the United States only climbs to number 18 because of its unrivalled access to vaccines.

There are other surprises as well. Sweden scored relatively highly on nearly all of Bloomberg’s metrics, ranking 16th overall despite once being a cautionary tale of what could happen without a lockdown.