New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that the country has “eliminated” the new virus. On Monday, the official announcement said that the nation hasn’t reported a single new case for more than two weeks.
The New Zealand health ministry has reported no new cases of coronavirus in the country. Such a stable epidemiological situation allows public and private events, the retail and hospitality industries and all public transportation. In other words, most restrictions will resume without social distancing requirements.
The South Pacific nation of five million was placed under a stringent lockdown for several months, while the coronavirus was spreading fast across the globe. Now, New Zealand now has zero coronavirus hospitalizations.
Marking the special day on Monday, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern thanked each and every citizen for understanding the situation and obeying the rules. “While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone,” Ardern told reporters. “Thank you, New Zealand.”
“We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort,” PM added, according to The New York Post.
Ardern said she did a “little dance” when she heard the news, surprising her 2-year-old daughter, Neve.
New Zeland recovered from coronavirus
In total, New Zealand has reported 1,154 coronavirus infections and 22 deaths — but it hasn’t seen a single new case over the past two weeks, for the first time since the virus emerged in the country in February.
Border controls will remain in effect in the country, and everyone entering New Zealand will be tested for the coronavirus, according to Ardern.
Ardern would not commit to a timeline for a proposed “travel bubble” to open with Australia, although the tourism industries in the neighbouring countries have called for it.
“We will need to move cautiously here,” Ardern said. “No one wants to jeopardize the gains New Zealand has made.”
Ardern has been lauded across the world for her leadership during the pandemic and her popularity has skyrocketed, but her government’s task will now be to revive the economy, which is expected to sink into a recession.
Opposition parties have criticized her decision to keep restrictions in place even though the country has been virus-free for two weeks.
But the Asia Pacific nation has vowed to not only contain the novel pathogen — but to eliminate it. That means transmission must be stopped for an extended period after the last known case is cleared, and NZ must quickly detect and isolate any new cases, including those imported from abroad.