On July 26 2020, a post to Reddit’s r/Damnthatsinteresting purportedly showed images from a rugby game in New Zealand on the same day, in a stadium full of fans — because the country has successfully suppressed COVID-19:
Iterations and the Original Poster [OP]
On r/pics, a similar thread was shared on the same day:
The image originated on r/NewZealand, and it was initially shared by a Redditor apparently present at the match:
On a different thread featuring the image, u/mistyillusions commented:
Thanks for reposting without permission lol
Hey! i recognise this photo–because i took it last night! lol
We spotted the image with one of the Reddit titles as a caption on Facebook:
On July 26 2020, the YouTube channel “SUPER RUGBY” published highlights in a video titled “Super Rugby Aotearoa | Blues v Chiefs – Rd 7 Highlights,” with the following description:
Super Rugby Aotearoa | Blues v Chiefs – Rd 7 Highlights
The Blues snapped their two-game losing streak on Sunday [July 26 2020], but not without a serious challenge from the still-winless Chiefs in Auckland.
Although it was difficult to specifically verify the image shared to Reddit by an attendee, footage from the event showed even larger portions of a crowded stadium.
New Zealand ‘Has No COVID Cases’
After u/mistyillusion’s photograph was crossposted (and apparently without their knowledge or permission) to other threads, titles often claimed that “New Zealand has no COVID cases,” and therefore were able to attend sporting events without masks or anxieties.
According to Google’s COVID-19 dashboard, as of July 30 2020, the statement “New Zealand has no COVID cases” wasn’t precisely accurate. In fact, New Zealand appeared to have exactly one new reported case on that date:
We moved the ticker back to July 26 2020, and for that date, there were zero new cases of coronavirus:
Attempting to derive a percentage change from the zero new cases on July 26 2020 to the one new case on July 30 2020 yielded an interesting (and completely real) figure:
We changed the metric from “new cases” to “deaths,” showing that on the deadliest day during the COVID-19 pandemic, four people in New Zealand died. The last COVID-19 death in New Zealand occurred on May 28 2020:
We narrowed the results to the seven-day period up to and including July 30 2020:
In that week, New Zealand hovered between zero and two new cases. Back on June 8 2020, the BBC reported that New Zealand “lifted almost all of its coronavirus restrictions after reporting no active cases in the country”:
At midnight local time (12:00 GMT), all of New Zealand moved to level one, the lowest of a four-tier alert system.
Under new rules, social distancing is not required and there are no limits on public gatherings, but borders remain closed to foreigners.
New Zealand has reported no new Covid-19 cases for more than two weeks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters she did “a little dance” when she was told the country no longer had any active virus cases.
“While we’re in a safer, stronger position, there’s still no easy path back to pre-Covid life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild,” Ms Ardern said.
“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple, ‘Thank you, New Zealand’.”
Where New Zealand’s One or Two Cases Originate
New Zealand reported between zero and two new cases the week of the rugby match — so how have they kept their numbers of new cases so low?
On July 30 2020, a news outlet in New Zealand explained the source of the infections, and provided important context about the country’s management of the pandemic and case count:
There is one new case of COVID-19 in New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced on [July 30 2020].
[July 30 2020]’s case is a woman in her 20s, who arrived in New Zealand from Ireland, via Dubai, on July 24 . She returned her positive result due to routine testing across the country’s managed isolation facilities. The woman, who was tested at around day three of her mandatory 14-day stay, had been completing her isolation period at the Rydges Hotel in Rotorua. She has since been transferred to Auckland’s quarantine facility.
It brings New Zealand’s active case total to 24 and confirmed case total to 1210, the number reported to the World Health Organization. As of [July 30 2020] there have been no additional recoveries, although none of the current cases require hospital-level care.
It has been 90 days since the last COVID-19 case was acquired locally from an unknown source, indicating there is no evidence of community transmission.
On July 30 2020, New Zealand had few cases, not none. On that date, there were 24 active cases in New Zealand, and the most recent case of community transmission in New Zealand was on May 1 2020.
New Zealand’s ‘First Rugby Match’ Since Effectively Eradicating the Novel Coronavirus
The rugby match in the photograph on Reddit was taken and shared on June 26 2020, and in one popular iteration was described as New Zealand’s “first” rugby match since the COVID-19 pandemic caused restrictions on events.
That was inaccurate, as New Zealand’s first rugby match was reported by CBS News on June 14 2020:
New Zealand welcomes back rugby with packed stadiums after country eradicates coronavirus
New Zealand became one of the first countries to welcome back fans to sporting events [on June 13 and 14 2020]. New Zealand was able to do so because of its success in eradicating the coronavirus.
This past weekend [of June 13 and 14 2020], rugby made its return in New Zealand, with full crowds allowed to cheer on their favorite clubs in person. Going forward, fans will be allowed to attend games in an unrestricted fashion in New Zealand.
A pair of viral Reddit posts — “New Zealand rugby game today as we have no COVID cases” and “New Zealand enjoying their rugby game with no Covid- 19 cases :)” — featured a photograph from an attendee at a June 26 2020 rugby match in Auckland, New Zealand. Overall, the claim is true with some very minor caveats — video highlights demonstrated that the match on that date involved massive crowds. Although New Zealand had at most two new cases the week of the match, the last instance of community transmission occurred in the country on or around May 1 2020. Although it was not true the image was New Zealand’s “first rugby game” (that was on the weekend of June 13 2020), the claim was accurate, and supported by myriad independent sources covering the match.