Daily US Times: New Zealand claimed it has effectively eliminated coronavirus and stopped community transmission of Covid-19.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was “currently” eliminated, as new cases in single figures for several days – one on Sunday.
But officials have warned against complacency, saying it does not mean a total end to new coronavirus cases.
The decision comes hours before the country is set to move out of its toughest level of social restrictions.
Some non-essential business, education, and healthcare activity will be able to resume from Tuesday, but most people will still be required to remain at home to avoid all social interactions.
Prime Minister Ardern said at daily government briefing: “We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives.”
New Zealand has reported 19 deaths due to coronavirus and confirmed fewer than 1,500 cases.
The country’s Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the low number of new cases in recent days “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination”.
“Elimination” did not mean there would be no new cases, he warned, “but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from”.
There was “no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand”, Mr Ardern says, adding: “We have won that battle.”
But the country “must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way”, se said.
How did New Zealand respond to the virus?
The country brought in some of the toughest restrictions in the world on activity and travel when it only had a few dozen cases.
It started enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, closed its borders, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.
Waterfronts, beaches, and playgrounds were shut on 26 March, as were schools and offices. Restaurants and Bars were also closed, including for takeaway and delivery.
The prime minister said modelling indicated that New Zealand could have had more than 1,000 cases a day if it had not brought in the lockdown so early.
The country’s easily sealable borders and remote location played in its favour when the virus broke out, experts say, but the government has also been praised for the clarity of its messaging throughout the crisis.
New Zealand will move from Level Four lockdown to Level Three at midnight local time (12:00 GMT on Monday). That means most businesses will be able to reopen – including restaurants for takeaways – but not those involving face-to-face contact.
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