WELLINGTON: New Zealand health authorities on Monday announced that the country had no active cases of COVID-19 cases after the country´s final patient was given the all-clear and released from isolation.
The milestone was “really good news” and an achievement the whole of New Zealand could take heart from, health department director-general Ashley Bloomfield said.
“Having no active cases for the first time since February 28 is certainly a significant mark in our journey but, as we´ve previously said, ongoing vigilance against COVID-19 will continue to be essential,” he said in a statement.
The country also lifted all coronavirus restrictions today with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealing she danced around her living room when told about the milestone.
Ardern said restrictions such as social distancing and limits on public gatherings were no longer needed, however, strict border controls will remain in place.
“We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now,” she said in a televised address, saying Kiwis had “united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus”.
When asked about her reaction upon hearing the news, she responded, “I did a little dance” with her baby daughter.
“She was caught a little by surprise but she joined in, having absolutely no idea why I was dancing around the lounge.”
The country of five million has won praise for its handling of the pandemic, which involved a strict seven-week lockdown that ended last month after the virus was contained.
The South Pacific nation has had 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.
There have been no new infections for 17 days and, until Monday, just one active case for more than a week.
New Zealand’s move down to Level 1, the lowest rating on its four-tier virus response system, means nightclubs can operate without dance floor restrictions and theatres will reopen.
It also means sporting events can proceed with crowds in the stands, a change New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said offered its Super Rugby Aotearoa competition the opportunity to achieve a world first when it kicks off this weekend.
“We’re incredibly proud, and grateful, to be the first professional sports competition in the world to be in a position to have our teams play in front of their fans again,” NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said.
While many other sporting competitions around the globe have announced plans to restart, the vast majority will be played either with no crowds or with numbers severely restricted.
On a broader level, Ardern said easing restrictions would help New Zealand’s economy.
“We now have a head start on economic recovery because at level one we become one of the most open, if not the most open, economies in the world,” she said.
The prime minister said modelling showed the economy would operate at just 3.8% below normal at Level 1, compared with a 37% impairment at Level 4 lockdown.