How Five Countries Were Able to Reopen

Social distancing measures and widespread testing are among the reasons why some countries have been able to reopen

Andrea González-Ramírez
GEN
Published in
6 min readApr 29, 2020

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Photo illustration. Photo source: Tony Savino/Getty Images

A little more than three months after the coronavirus pandemic came to the U.S., some states are ready to get back to work.

Despite a mounting death toll and evidence that our testing capacity still leaves a lot to be desired, a number of states are opting to reopen their economies. States like Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Hawaii, and Alaska have already eased restrictions; others including Alabama and Colorado are set to follow suit. The Trump administration has deferred to governors on the issue, suggesting — but not mandating — that states remain in lockdown until they have a downward trajectory of documented cases or positive tests in a 14-day period.

While there is no consensus on when to reopen, other nations who’ve successfully slowed down the virus can offer a roadmap for the U.S. Below, a look at how five different countries dealt with the pandemic, and whether their efforts were successful.

New Zealand

In late March, though New Zealand had seen just 102 Covid-19 cases and no deaths, the government issued stay-at-home orders, banned international travelers from entering the nation, shut down nonessential businesses, canceled all gatherings, and reserved public transportation for essential workers.

Now, with new Covid-19 cases remaining in the single digits since April 20, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this week that the virus has officially been contained.“There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” she said. “We have won that battle.”

As a result, businesses can reopen starting on Tuesday as long as they don’t require physical interactions with customers; schools will open again as well for some children. People will also be allowed to go outside to participate in recreational activities as long as they are low-risk (such as hiking and surfing, and as long as they keep social distancing), and gatherings such as weddings and funerals can resume with up to 10 people in attendance. However, people are still encouraged to work from home when possible, and public…

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Andrea González-Ramírez
GEN
Writer for

Award-winning Puerto Rican journalist. Senior Writer at New York Magazine’s The Cut. Formerly GEN, Refinery29, and more. Read my work: https://www.thecut.com/