Milestones in the COVID-19 pandemic

Our most significant Expert Reactions around the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here for the full list of COVID-19 Expert Reactions.

COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand: A timeline

COVID-19 case confirmed in NZ (28 February 2020)

After spreading across the globe for months, New Zealand reported its first case of COVID-19 on 28 February 2020.

NZ coronavirus lockdown (23 March 2020)

In a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in New Zealand, the Government declared the entire country would close its schools and non-essential businesses, and that air travel and public transport would only be for those who work in essential services for at least four weeks’ time. We asked public health experts, psychologists, and epidemiologists to respond.

State of National Emergency Declared (25 March 2020)

Some twelve hours before entering lockdown, a State of National Emergency was declared, making it the second time this had ever happened in New Zealand’s history. We asked legal and public health experts to comment on the legal implications of this news.

First COVID-19 death in NZ (29 March 2020)

At the end of March, a woman in her seventies living on the West Coast has become the first person in New Zealand to die from COVID-19. New Zealand psychologists responded to this sad development.

No active COVID-19 cases in New Zealand (8 June 2020)

The country breathed a sigh of relief as the last active case of COVID-19 recovered in early June.

New COVID-19 cases in NZ community (11 August 2020)

Community transmission returned to Auckland, which was swiftly put back in lockdown.

Auckland’s level three extension (14 August 2020)

Auckland will stay in Alert Level 3 for another 12 days.

COVID-19 border testing strategy (19 August 2020)

The government has today announced a new team will support the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 testing strategy, nationally and at the borders.

COVID-19 death in Auckland (4 September 2020)

A man in his 50s has died, bringing New Zealand’s total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 23.

Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 (5 October 2020)

Auckland will rejoin the rest of New Zealand at Alert Level 1, nearly two weeks since the last evidence of community transmission.

New community case of COVID-19 (18 October 2020)

A person who works on ships that have been at the Ports of Auckland and Port Taranaki has tested positive for Covid-19.

Community transmission from isolation facility (3 November 2020)

A member of the health team working at the Sudima Christchurch Airport has tested positive for Covid-19.

November quarantine cluster (9 November 2020)

The new cluster started when a quarantine worker at Auckland’s Jet Park facility tested positive for COVID-19.

Mystery COVID-19 case in Auckland (12 November 2020) 

The case in Auckland is under investigation, with no known link to the border or any managed isolation facility.

Mandatory masking on flights and Auckland’s public transport (16 November 2020)

Cabinet has decided to make mask-wearing mandatory on Auckland’s public transport, while travelling in and out of the city, and on all domestic flights.

Probable Covid-19 case in Northland (24 January 2021)

A Covid case is detected in Northland, in a person recently released from managed isolation.

Medsafe approves NZ’s first Covid vaccine (3 February 2021)

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty) has been provisionally approved for use by New Zealand’s medicines regulator.


What do we know about the virus?

Image credit: NIAID

COVID-19 testing – SMC Expert Briefing (8 April 2020)

Testing for COVID-19: what’s the most effective method? What do we still need to learn? Do we have enough supplies? The SMC held an online media briefing with University of Otago, Christchurch Professor David Murdoch on the ins and outs of testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Video and text available.

Tracking COVID-19 with genome sequencing – SMC Expert Briefing (30 April 2020)

The Science Media Centre hosted an online media briefing with Dr Jemma Geoghegan and Dr Joep de Ligt about sequencing the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and surveillance. Video and text available.

The latest on potential COVID-19 treatments (30 April 2020)

The SMC asked experts to comment on some potential COVID-19 treatments that made the headlines, and what the general public can expect as scientists continue to study them.

Modelling COVID-19 in New Zealand (16 April 2020)

Mathematical models are being used by governments around the world to predict and respond to the spread of COVID-19. We asked experts in the field to explain key data and the assumptions that inform how a COVID-19 model is developed.

Understanding the evidence behind quarantine (1 April 2020)

Alongside the rest of the world, the New Zealand Government has been making unprecedented policy decisions in the face of the pandemic. We asked public health and modelling experts to comment on the evidence behind taking strict quarantine measures to curb the spread of the virus, and how researchers should cope with the breakneck speed of research being published on the topic.

The path to a COVID-19 vaccine – SMC Expert Briefing (13 May 2020)

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris and Professor Peter McIntyre discuss the speed, safety, and cost of developing a vaccine.

Spotting COVID-19 symptoms (13 August 2020)

As more is understood about what a case of COVID-19 looks like, governments have been updating their official case definitions.

Genomic sequencing update on Auckland Covid-19 cases (18 August 2020)

Genome testing has been able to identify which cases are connected to which clusters.

First confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection (25 August 2020)

A man in Hong Kong is the first confirmed case to have been infected with SARS-Co-V2 for a second time.

Cross-country review highlights NZ’s COVID-19 strategy (25 September 2020)

A policy review in The Lancet says more countries should consider taking a ‘zero-COVID’ approach to tackling the pandemic.

International advice on managing COVID-19 (13 October 2020)

New messaging on lockdowns from a World Health Organisation special envoy has caused some confusion.

Covid-19 vaccine promising results (10 November 2020)

Results from a trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine suggest it could protect over 90% of people from Covid-19 infection.

Moderna vaccine trial results (17 November 2020)

US company Moderna has announced that their leading vaccine against COVID-19 is 95 percent effective.

Catching COVID-19 from surfaces (18 November 2020)

A number of cases of COVID-19 transmission suggest that contaminated surfaces may play a role in spreading the disease.

COVID-19 emerging variants (14 January 2021)

The global community is rushing to respond to new variants of the novel coronavirus, which appear to spread faster than their earlier counterparts.


The impact of lockdown on New Zealanders

Otago Business School senior lecturer Dr Paula O’Kane offers some tips for coping with lockdown.

How NZ moved during lockdown – SMC Expert Briefing (24 April 2020)

Freelance geographer Chris McDowall has created videos of population movements in New Zealand’s three main centres, which shows how we moved around in the first few weeks of lockdown. Chris’ work has been funded through the SMC’s COVID-19 response and the videos are available for re-use under creative commons.

Estimating COVID-19’s impact on Māori and Pasifika – SMC Expert Briefing (17 April 2020)

New research from Te Pūnaha Matatini estimated Māori and Pasifika populations could be impacted by COVID-19 at a rate more than twice that of Pākehā. The Science Media Centre held an online briefing with Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Andrew Sporle, some of which has been excerpted into a Q&A. Video and text available.

Valuing and caring for older adults (15 April 2020)

As New Zealand’s COVID-19 death toll rises, it’s been obvious the older members of our community have so far been hit hardest. Psychologists and expert researchers provided comment about older members of our communities and the impact of COVID-19 on aged care.

Mentally preparing for leaving lockdown (7 April 2020)

Two weeks’ into lockdown, the Government began releasing mental health resources to help New Zealanders cope with the internal strain of lockdown. The SMC asked experts to comment on how New Zealanders can mentally prepare for the uncertainty of what their daily lives might look like in the weeks ahead, and how the lockdown has had an impact on mental health services.

Challenging child behaviour during quarantine (2 April 2020)

Child psychologists and paediatricians weighed in on what abnormal or challenging behaviour parents and caregivers might face from their children under the stressful conditions of lockdown, and the best way to handle them.

Mental health impacts of NZ’s lockdown revealed (5 November 2020)

New Zealand’s lockdown reduced wellbeing – particularly among young adults – according to a survey of 2,000 Kiwis taken in April 2020.


Looking ahead: how will the virus shape our future?

COVID-19 and Climate Change (22 April 2020)

While reduced emissions from transport may have environmental benefits, the economic impact of lockdown could also hinder climate change mitigation strategies. On Earth Day, the SMC asked experts to comment on the relationship between COVID-19 and climate change.

Early career researchers made vulnerable by COVID-19 (11 August 2020)

A report warns that if researchers lose their positions as a result of the pandemic, New Zealand’s research capacity will take years of investment to restore.

The future of NZ borders (7 July 2020)

The SMC asked experts about when and how we might see international travel or tourism resume.

Racism in healthcare and COVID-19 (4 September 2020)

Two studies have documented the effects of inequity and racism in our healthcare system.