New Zealand’s early decision to ban travel from China and then Iran is why the country has been able to dramatically curb the spread of coronavirus, said the country’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

New Zealand instituted the measure despite the World Health Organization advising against travel bans.

“I think the WHO’s position is that it doesn’t endorse or advocate travel bans,” Clark told BBC radio. “And that’s got quite a lot to do with the murky geopolitical realm within which it operates. And also because it fears that if it were to support it, it might not get full cooperation from countries.

“But I have no hesitation in saying that New Zealand, banning travel from China at the very beginning of February and later from Iran, and then in March moving to stricter and stricter controls with only New Zealand citizens… coming in – this worked for us.

“And I think New Zealanders will be pretty hesitant to see people just flying back in again.”

Over the past few days, newly diagnosed infections have been in the single digits. And on Monday, New Zealand reported just one new case.

Clark was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008. She later headed the UN’s Development Programme for eight years.