While accepting an award for her leadership today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked to offer some advice to the US about how to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a virtual event as the recipient of the Harvard Kennedy School Centre for Public Leadership's 2020 Gleitsman International Activist Award, Ardern said a focus on people was central to New Zealand’s response.
She said while other countries looked at flattening the curve, "when we sat down with the modelling and the curve, even when flattened for New Zealand, very clearly [it] was still going to lead to people losing their lives, flattening the curve wasn’t sufficient for us".
"Because we put people first, and because our view was that the best chance of our economy thriving was our people thriving, we immediately pivoted our strategy," she said.
“We said we need to move to elimination."
She said putting people first was a “New Zealand value” rather than an ideological one.
Ardern also urged a science-based approach to handling the pandemic.
On a phone call with US President-elect Joe Biden last week, Ardern invited Biden to New Zealand and offered Covid-19 expertise, if requested.
She said Biden spoke positively around New Zealand's response to Covid-19, and that responding to the virus was his "number one priority".
"I do absolutely believe international cooperation continues to be key to get the virus under control," Ardern said.
In a statement from Biden last week, he said he “praised the Prime Minister's extraordinary leadership after the 2019 Christchurch massacre, on Covid-19 and as a working mother and role model”.
In November, Ardern joined names like Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela as a recipient of the Centre for Public Leadership's 2020 Gleitsman International Activist Award.
Ardern attended a virtual ceremony for the award this morning.
The award came with a US$150,000 (NZ$215,000) prize, which Ardern had passed on to Kiwis studying at Harvard Kennedy School, the public policy school of Harvard University.
As of today, more than 270,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, and more than 13 million have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.