When historians assess how countries approached the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand is sure to stand out.
The South Pacific nation is alone among its western peers in explicitly attempting to eradicate the virus. It adopted one of the strictest lockdowns in the world before a single death was reported, and has isolated infections to keep the disease from spreading out of control.
The early signs are promising. The rate of new infections has dwindled to the lowest in weeks, and the death toll — at 11 — is one of the lowest among developed nations. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, will decide on Monday whether to start easing a quarantine that requires everyone but essential workers to stay at home.
“We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved — elimination of the virus,” Ardern told reporters Thursday in Wellington, as she cautioned against relaxing restrictions too quickly.
The island nation’s lofty goal of elimination is not without critics, who say it’s unrealistic and comes at a devastating economic cost. Even if New Zealand succeeds, its borders will have to remain closed to much of the world for a considerable period to keep the virus …