Thousands of miles from President Trump’s combative news briefings, a conservative leader in Australia and a progressive prime minister in New Zealand are steadily guiding their countries toward a rapid suppression of the coronavirus outbreak.
Australia reported its first case on Jan. 25, New Zealand on Feb. 28. But compared with Mr. Trump and leaders in Europe, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand responded with more alacrity and with starker warnings.
Both nations are now reporting just a handful of new infections each day, down from hundreds in March, and they are converging toward an extraordinary goal: completely eliminating the virus from their island nations.
Whether they get to zero or not, what Australia and New Zealand have already accomplished is a remarkable cause for hope. Mr. Morrison, a conservative Christian, and Ms. Ardern, New Zealand’s darling of the left, are both succeeding with throwback democracy — in which partisanship recedes, experts lead, and quiet coordination matters more than firing up the base.
“It’s a case of politicians just not being in the way,” said Ian Mackay, an immunologist at the University of Queensland who has been involved in response planning for the pandemic. “It’s a mix of things, but I think it comes down to taking advice based on expertise.”
The prospect of a return to near normalcy in these two countries may end up being a mirage or temporary triumph: Other nations that had seemingly kept the virus at bay, like Singapore, have seen rebounds.
And yet, if there are any two countries that could pull off a clear if hermetically sealed victory — offering a model of recovery that elevates competence over ego and restores some confidence in democratic government — it may be these two Pacific neighbors with their sparsely populated islands and history of pragmatism.
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