New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus.
With new single-digit cases for several days – including one Sunday – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country has “won this battle” so far.
The news comes hours before New Zealand breaks out of its strictest level of social restrictions.
Starting Tuesday, some non-essential business, health and education activities may resume.
But the authorities have warned against complacency. Most people should always stay at home at all times and avoid all social interactions.
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“We open the economy, but we do not open the social life of people,” said Ardern during the daily government briefing.
New Zealand has reported less than 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.
“Avoided the worst”
New Zealand chief health officer Ashley Bloomfield said the low number of new cases in recent days “gives us confidence that we have achieved our elimination goal.”
He and Mrs. Ardern warned that by declaring the virus eliminated, it did not mean that there would be no new cases, but that the number would be small and easily manageable.
“There is no large-scale undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won this battle, ”said Ardern. “But we have to be vigilant if we want this to continue. “
New Zealand placed very strict travel and activity restrictions at the start of the pandemic, when it had only a few dozen cases.
It closed its borders, began imposing the quarantine of all arrivals in the country, set up a strict lock and organized a vast operation of testing and searching for contacts.
Ardern said the modeling indicated that New Zealand could have had more than 1,000 cases a day if it hadn’t triggered the lockout so soon.
She said the country could never know how bad it would have been, but that “thanks to our cumulative actions, we have avoided the worst.”
At midnight local time (12:00 p.m. GMT Monday), New Zealand will move from level four to level three lockout. This means that most businesses will be able to reopen – including take-out restaurants – but not those that involve face-to-face contact.
New Zealanders are asked to stick to their “bubble” – a small group of close friends or family – and to stay 2 meters (6 feet) from people.
Mass gatherings are still prohibited, shopping malls remain closed and most children will stay away from school. The New Zealand border will remain closed.