In comparing the spread of Covid-19 between the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand, a University of Auckland academic highlighted the reduced numbers of community transmissions and the closing of its borders as reasons why New Zealand has achieved much in stemming the virus.

Given the similarity in the population size of the two countries, Eamon O'Brien, a Professor of Mathematics, said the number of community transmissions was key in explaining some contrasting stats.

There have been 17 deaths in New Zealand compared to almost 800 here. He referenced the number of confirmed cases in New Zealand - 1,500, versus 17,607 in the Republic of Ireland.

He also pointed out that the dispersion of people, due to a greater land mass may be one factor which contributes to the difference between community transmission rates of the two countries, which he said is 4% in New Zealand, compared to 50% in Ireland. 

Professor O'Brien said the crucial factor that reduced New Zealand's transmission rate was the closure of the country's borders on 19 March, when all non-residents were banned from admission.

He added that since then anyone coming into the country is being quarantined at the airport for two weeks courtesy of the government.

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"People are being picked up at one of the country's three airports that are open and are being brought to a, in most cases, very nice hotel where they stay for two weeks, paid for by the government. People do not go back to their community and have contact with others."

The Irish figures are worrying, he said, but added that New Zealand is now reporting just two or three new cases per day on the back of 100,000 tests, compared to 120,000 conducted in the Republic. 

"Here the lockdown is serious and it is strictly enforced. People get upset and angry if they see others not complying"

Prof O'Brien mentioned that random testing of customers is being carried out at supermarkets, "to get some idea about the amount of virus in the community, and the reproductive rate is zero."

He also referenced the term "dobbing in" when people report others who are not observing Covid-19 restrictions.  

"Here the lockdown is serious and it is strictly enforced. People get upset and angry if they see others not complying. They report, or dob people in to the police if they're not observing it."

He said New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, "is not the epicentre by any means, there is not much difference between the rates of virus there than the rest of the country", which is not the case in Ireland.

"Auckland and Dublin have roughly the same population, the land mass occupied stretches a little further, the housing density but it does not explain the 44-fold difference in the number of cases."

Another stark difference, according to Prof O'Brien, is that all restaurant and cafes have closed completely, where they have not been allowed to run takeaway services.

"Restaurant takeaways have been completely banned. The argument was that its not just people going there to pick up but there are people working there. 

"They wanted to remove as many people as possible from workplaces to reduce the risk of infection. It's all very well to be making contactless payments but there will be people working in the kitchen to provide the food. This ban will cease here next week."