More than 110,000 Americans visited New Zealand’s immigration website last month to learn if they qualify to move there amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tens of thousands of foreigners from other countries have also inquired about living in New Zealand and applied for residency as the country emerged as the gold standard for dealing with the health crisis.
New Zealand on Thursday had just 24 active cases, all placed into isolation, and reported only 22 deaths in total. The country had 1,560 cases total and 1,514 recoveries.
On the other hand, the United States continued to lead the world in coronavirus cases and deaths, with more than four million confirmed infections and 150,717 fatalities.
Under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand implemented a lockdown so severe that reclaiming a lost ball from a neighbor’s yard was prohibited.
But the measures were successful at halting the virus’ spread, and the country lifted its lockdown restrictions and declared itself virus-free on June 8.
Citizens there are now not required to social distance, and can visit bars, restaurants and public spaces freely again
Meanwhile many states of the US are having to slow or halt their reopening amid a second surge of cases.
A New Zealand demographics expert told the New Zealand Herald that the surge in interest about moving to the Pacific country showed a failure of the American public health and political system – which has become all the more contentious in recent weeks.
The uptick also indicates a dissatisfaction with President Trump and his administration’s handling of the global pandemic that inundated the country.
More than 250,000 Americans in total have logged on to check their status since the pandemic hit six months ago.
Massey University’s Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley told the publication that the pattern will likely increase as the situation in the United States worsens.
‘Middle class, professional America is saying, “Well, where do we go for our own safety and the safety of our families?”‘
Such sentiments from America’s middle class would be a blow to Trump’s 2020 election campaign after the Commander-and-Chief tried to appeal to suburban residents in a controversial tweet this week.
‘I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood,’ wrote Trump on Twitter, adding ‘crime will do down.’
Many called Trump’s message ‘blatant racism’ that targeted families who rely on low income housing to survive
Last month, 112,800 more Americans visited the Immigration New Zealand website compared to the same time in 2019 – a 160 per cent spike.
That’s also the equivalent of on American clicking on the website every 30 seconds.
But it’s not just Americans who are floating the idea of moving to New Zealand.
46,000 British citizens looked at Immigration New Zealand’s website last month, which is up 27,100 from 2019.
Internationally, there was a unexpected upswing in Google searches in June with the key words ‘move to New Zealand.’
Figures shared by Immigration New Zealand showed that almost 10,000 people were granted application to move to the country in the past two months.
June saw the largest number of approved residency applications, many of which came from India and South Africa. 7,085 people were given the ‘OK’ to move.
India has recorded more than 1.5million confirmed coronavirus cases and around 35,000 deaths. South Africa had 470,000 cases and nearly 8,000 deaths.
But for the time being, New Zealand’s borders remain closed to most travelers, and those who do gain entry must quarantine for 14 days.
Immigration New Zealand said the surge in inquiries picked up in April, just as news of lockdown guidelines in the country successfully curbing infections gained international attention.
Ardern has been praised for her communication skills and presenting public health guidelines as a vital key beating the virus.
In a video posted to her Facebook just before the beginning of New Zealand’s lockdown on March 25, Ardern urged residents to stay indoors.
‘Stay at home, break the chain and you’ll save lives,’ she said.
And Ardern continued to encourage New Zealanders with a number of personalized, social media videos that helped her resonate with her citizens.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of clicks on Immigration New Zealand happened just as Americans were hit with a resurgence of cases after states eager to restart their economies relaxed restrictions too early.
The infection curve rose in 40 of the 50 states, and places like California have been forced to take a step back in their plans.
According to Professor Spoonley, the number of Americans looking to move to New Zealand tripled after Trump was elected in 2016.
‘Push factors are the [US Government’s] inability to handle a public health challenge like Covid-19, combined with civil unrest,’ said Spooley.
‘And then the pull factor is that New Zealand is seen as a calm, well-ordered, environmentally attractive country that has dealt with Covid-19 incredibly well.’
Civil unrest in the US came in the form of anti-racism and police brutality protests that sparked nationwide in May with the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old father-of-five, was unarmed when former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
Floyd pleaded ‘I can’t breathe’ several times before becoming unresponsive and later dying at a local hospital.
Since, scores of Americans have taken to the streets to demand an end to police brutality and racial inequality.
Spooley said the boost of interest in making New Zealand home will extend beyond the United States.
‘I absolutely anticipate more interest from places like the UK, Germany and Singapore looking to New Zealand as a migrant destination,’ said Spooley.
American forensic pathologist Dr Judy Melinek told New Zealand Herald that she felt so unsafe at her job in San Francisco, California that she moved New Zealand this month.
Melinek, who led the coronavirus response for the sheriff-coroner office in Oakland, said she became frustrated by both state officials and the Trump administration.
‘I was frustrated and disappointed by the American response to the pandemic and personally I didn’t feel safe at work,’ she said.
Melinek called Trump’s response a ‘disaster’ and said American politicians needed to follow Ardern’s model to tackling the virus.
‘You guys are the role model … she and her response to Covid-19 is the reason why we’re in New Zealand and why we relocated,’ she said.
A spokesperson from Immigration New Zealand told New Zealand Herald that the country was a ‘great place to be right now.’
‘But the borders are still closed. And it’s important for context that it doesn’t necessarily translate to more visa applications.’
Overseas, Trump continued to struggle with his response six months into the pandemic.
Just this week, social media giants Facebook, Twitter and YouTube removed a video shared by Trump that promotes unproven claims that the drug hydroxychloroquine can treat or cure the virus.
There is no current medically-proven cure for the virus.
The clip, which was originally posted by the right-wing news site Breitbart, featured four people who identified themselves as doctors speaking in front of the Supreme Court building.
One was Stella Immanuel, who claims to be a physician in Houston, and said hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug often touted by Trump, was a cure for COVID-19.
The Breitbart video was viewed at least 14 million times by Monday afternoon.
It had become one of the top performing posts on Facebook, with nearly 600,000 shares before it was taken down for promoting misinformation, according to Crowdtangle, a data-analytics firm owned by Facebook.
A Facebook spokesperson told CNN: ‘We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.’
Immanuel blasted ‘fake doctors’ who doubt the efficacy of the drug, and claimed it’s a ‘cure’, adding ‘you don’t need a mask.’
‘If some fake science comes out and says we’ve done studies and they found out that it doesn’t work, I can tell you categorically it’s fake science,’ she said.
‘I want to know who’s conducted that study and who’s behind it. Because there is no way I have treat 350 patients and counting and nobody is dead.’
She said she has treated patients with hydroxychloroquine along with zinc, and the antibiotic zithromax.
Hydroxychloroquine was first introduced to the public as a potential ‘game-changer’ by Trump in March – just as the virus overtook the country with quickly rising cases and deaths.
Trump reportedly felt so strongly about the unproven drug that he began taking it himself and was set to finish his prescription in May.
‘I’m taking it – hydroxychloroquine. Right now yeah. A couple of weeks ago, started taking it,’ he told reporters at the White House at the time.
In addition touting the drug while it was still unproven, Trump faced backlash over a series of incorrect statements he made in reference to it.
Trump on at least one occasion declared the FDA ‘feels good about it’ and claimed they approved the drug.
‘I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense,’ said Trump in April.
‘The FDA feels good about it. As you know, they’ve approved it, they gave it a rapid approval, and the reason [is] because it’s been out there for a long time, and they know the side effects and they also know the potential.’
Although the agency did permit emergency authorization at the beginning of the crisis, they have since rescinded the authorization and have yet to approve of it.
Trump has also tried to boost hydroxychloroquine’s popularity by saying it was a popular choice among medical staff and responders on the front lines.
‘You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers, he said.
The next day he claimed the drug ‘is used by thousands and thousands of frontline workers.’
Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the University of California, San Francisco’s department of medicine, told Factcheck.org that he didn’t know ‘any clinician’ taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent the coronavirus.
States like California and Florida emerged as new coronavirus hot spots in recent weeks.
Trump on Wednesday defended the drug and claimed that ‘many doctors think it is extremely successful.’
‘The hydroxychloroquine coupled with the z-pack. And some some people think it’s become political. I took it for a 14-day period. And I’m here. I think it works in the early stages. I think front line medical people believe that too. Some. Many. So we’ll take a look at it,’ he added
On Wednesday, there were 8,755 new cases and 197 new deaths across California.
Nearly 7,000 patients infected with coronavirus were hospitalized and 2,012 were admitted into the intensive care unit.
An additional 1,500 suspected cases are hospitalized and 197 are possible in intensive care units.
The majority of cases have affected residents aged 18 to 49, despite the virus’ negative risks for elderly citizens.
In Florida, there were 9,943 new cases and 18 new deaths on Wednesday.
More than 26,000 residents have been hospitalized with the virus across the state. Residents aged 25 to 34 appeared to have the highest number of confirmed cases.