The World Health Organization (WHO) praised New Zealand’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, hailing the "unique" approach that involved rapid COVID-19 genome sequencing and targeted modeling.
New Zealand’s use of whole genome sequencing "may not be unique but combining it with their recently developed modeling data system is, and it appears at this stage to be part of an effective approach to helping reduce and control community transmission," the WHO said in a statement to Axios.
“It is encouraging to see such technologies and approaches being brought together, and this may be a stimulus for the development and implementation of more effective contact tracing methods to control COVID-19,” it continued.
The recent wave of coronavirus cases has significantly affected both nations that imposed minimal restrictions and those that instituted full lockdowns, particularly in the United States and Western Europe.
However, New Zealand’s community cases remain at just four infections, and the nation has not re-entered lockdown in the second wave despite neighboring Australia imposing a strict, "circuit breaker" lockdown, according to the outlet.
New Zealand Public Health Director Caroline McElnay said the targeted modeling enabled health officials to pinpoint the trajectory of outbreaks down to individual neighborhoods, which helps them "prioritize areas for focus in the public health response to cases and clusters," she told the website.
The sequencing has enabled officials to link nearly the country’s entire current caseload to a single Auckland hotel used to lodge residents who have recently returned from international trips.
Sixty of 64 cases are such travelers.
New Zealand has tested more than 1.2 million of its 5 million residents since June, and has made masks mandatory on public transportation in Auckland and for all air travel.