COVID-19 Nation Dates

COVID-19 Nation Dates is an initiative of the McGuinness Institutea non-partisan think tank working towards a sustainable future for New Zealand.

This book aims to provide insights over the length of the recent pandemic. It was an intense time with many different policy solutions often occurring in a fast and furious manner. The pandemic impacted all New Zealanders in many different ways, often very negatively. This book aims to record the history of those three years through the lens of public policy.

When undertaking future studies, there are three sights that shape the dialogue: hindsight, insight and foresight. The cone of plausibility illustrates the relationship between hindsight, insight and foresight and distinguishes between possible, probable and preferred futures. See diagram below.

The Institute is currently in the process of preparing a second edition of COVID-19 Nation Dates. The second edition will build on the existing events as well as new events from 23 January 2020 to 31 March 2024. Thank you to those of you who have provided feedback on the first edition. We are working really hard to represent the breadth of events that have occurred over this time. As this work progresses we will provide a draft document of our work-to-date [found here]. 


The cone of plausibility

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the inspiration for COVID-19 Nation Dates?

COVID-19 Nation Dates aims to record an important time in our recent history. There will be future pandemics and the Institute felt it was useful to provide either those preparing for a possible pandemic or those dealing with an actual pandemic a comprehensive public policy record, illustrating how the COVID-19 pandemic was dealt with in New Zealand.

How were dates for the timeline selected?

Selecting the dates for inclusion was not always an easy task. Sometimes a significant date was determined by the establishment of a committee, a royal commission, a publication, a national tragedy or triumph, and sometimes just a moment of interest. There are also events that have a ripple effect, and at times we have noted both prior and subsequent related dates within a single entry in order to be concise. 

How are events in the timelines grouped?

Each of the 430 entries are grouped thematically, under one of ten domains and 30 threads.

Who will this book appeal to?

The book will appeal to anyone with an interest in New Zealand’s rich history. The book is data heavy, but is designed to be easy to digest and dip in and out of, highlighting linkages and patterns.

What have people said about the book?

‘For many people, time felt warped in the two years that followed March 2020. It would be all too easy to dismiss that period as an aberration and forget the key lessons. However, it is vital that key events during this tumultuous period are recorded for posterity. Only by learning from the past, will we be better equipped for the inevitable volatility ahead.’

— Roger Dennis, consultant in foresight, innovation and large-scale change

‘Pandemics have been part of history since the 1900s; many Māori lives were lost due to wave upon wave of pandemics. The speed and global spread of COVID-19 was unprecedented and our ability to respond variable, and regrettably the outcome for Māori was no different. We must learn and prepare for the future now, where lives and decisions are not determined by politics, power and resources that privilege some and not others. Not until we have researched and analysed critically our response, will we know how to prepare our health workforce and communities for the future to protect themselves and our mokopuna.’

— Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere, New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO)

‘Looking back, it is hard to believe now how almost every day threw up new challenges to our COVID-19 response. This thorough and comprehensive timeline documents those challenges and will be a hugely valuable reminder of those difficult times for years to come.’

— Shaun Hendy, COVID-19 modeller, University of Auckland

‘With the COVID-19 pandemic now in its fourth year, I’ve started to see more and more misleading statements about Aotearoa New Zealand’s early pandemic response. There’s a revisioning of our history going on, particularly by those at home and abroad who believe we shouldn’t have pursued an elimination strategy to deal with what was a new and very dangerous virus. While our response was far from perfect, that strategy saved lives and livelihoods. As time passes, and our own memories fade and become more unreliable, this book stands as an important record of what happened and when.’

— Siouxsie Wiles, MNZM, microbiologist and science communicator

What sources are used in Nation Dates?

As a general rule the Institute aims to apply ‘the three references rule’ in order to have confidence that we have reflected an event correctly. Although this was relatively easy to apply in our signature book Nation Dates, this was not possible with COVID-19 Nation Dates. Given the fast pace of change over the length of the pandemic, events were often recorded in the press, rather than in more authoritative sources (such as the Parliamentary website or the Ministry of Health).

What are proceeds from the book used for?

The Institute is a not-for-profit organisation and money from the sale of the books goes toward covering the research and printing costs. There are other costs associated with the production of the book that we will not recover but these are absorbed by the Institute. We believe this is an important reference for New Zealanders and our priority is to make it as widely available as possible.

Will there be more editions?

Yes. We will publish a second edition in 2024. In the meantime, we are hoping to hear from members of the public and others on what entries are missing and how we might improve the second edition.

How can I give feedback about
COVID-19 Nation Dates?

We welcome your feedback, including suggestions of dates to add to future editions; please email us at With past editions of Nation Dates the feedback has been critically important. Thank you to all those who have contributed to making every edition of the book better, stronger and more dynamic.