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Has NSW weathered the impacts of COVID-19 better than NZ?

2020-09-21 17:34:23

AAP FactCheck Investigation: Does NSW have fewer COVID-19 deaths than New Zealand, as well as a booming economy and fans attending rugby matches? 

The Statement

“(Australia) have dealt with the COVID situation so much better (than NZ). In every state other than Victoria, if you look at New South Wales, what, they’ve had six or nine deaths, Western Australia, about six….”

“… New South Wales actually (has a) bigger population than us, fewer deaths. I mean what does that tell you? I mean for goodness sake, and their economy is booming and you can go to the rugby.”

Judith Collins, NZ National Party leader,  September 16, 2020. 

The Analysis

With New Zealand tentatively emerging from COVID-19 restrictions and feeling the impacts of negative economic growth figures, National Party leader Judith Collins slammed the Labour-led government’s response to the pandemic, contrasting it with the Australian state of New South Wales.

Speaking to The AM Show on September 16,  Ms Collins pointed to the Australian experience of COVID-19, singling out the performance of NSW during an interview critical of pandemic management in New Zealand.

“(Australia) have dealt with the COVID situation so much better (than NZ) in every state other than Victoria, if I look at NSW, what they’ve had about six (or) nine deaths, Western Australia, about six…,” Ms Collins said (mark 2min 4sec).

“… NSW actually (has a) bigger population than us, fewer deaths. I mean what does that tell you? I mean for goodness sake, and their economy is booming and you can go to the rugby.” (3min 29sec)

AAP FactCheck examined Ms Collins’ claim every Australian state bar Victoria had fewer COVID-19 deaths than NZ, and also looked at the economic situations of both NSW and NZ.

Latest figures from the World Health Organisation and the NZ Ministry of Health put New Zealand’s death toll from COVID-19 at 25.

As of 9pm (AEST) on September 20, figures from the Australian government’s Department of Health confirmed the COVID-19 death toll as 761 in Victoria, 53 in NSW, 13 in Tasmania, nine in Western Australia, six in Queensland, four in South Australia, three in the Australian Capital Territory, with none in the Northern Territory.

While Ms Collins correctly stated the COVID-19 death toll for WA was nine, the figures above confirm NSW has recorded more than twice the number of COVID-19 deaths in NZ (as at September 21), refuting Ms Collins’ assertion NSW had fewer fatalities than her entire nation.

Ms Collins’ claim the NSW “economy is booming” is also not supported, with analysts from Deloitte confirming NSW is in a technical recession along with the rest of Australia.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on September 2, 2020 show Australia’s Gross Domestic Product fell 7.0 per cent in the June quarter, the largest quarterly fall on record. That followed a fall of 0.3 per cent in the March quarter 2020.

New Zealand too is in a recession. Figures from Stats NZ on September 17, 2020 show the economy shrunk by 12.2 per cent in the June 2020 quarter. That followed a 1.4 per cent fall in the first quarter.

She was correct to state NSW’s population is higher than that of New Zealand, with figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing NSW had 8.129 million residents at December 31, 2019, compared to New Zealand’s estimated population of 5,025,000 at June 30, 2020, according to Stats NZ.

Furthermore, Ms Collins was right to say rugby fans can attend games in NSW, with a Rugby Australia spokesperson stating limits on crowd numbers varied “venue to venue” depending on their size, and restrictions by state and other governing bodies.

A NSW government COVID-19 website says major recreation facilities are permitted to have up to 25 per cent of normal capacity of the venue or 10,000 persons (whichever is lesser) when admission is by way of a ticket and each person assigned to a seating area.

The Super Rugby match between Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs
 Fans attend the Super Rugby match between the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds. 

The Verdict

AAP FactCheck found the statement that every Australian state bar Victoria has had fewer COVID-19 deaths than New Zealand to be false.

NZ Ministry of Health figures at the time of publication showed the NZ death toll from COVID-19 to be 25, while 53 people had died in NSW over the same period.

Ms Collins also misrepresented the state’s economic situation, with NSW in a technical recession along with the rest of Australia.

Mostly False – The claim is mostly false with a minor element of truth.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/