WELLINGTON: New Zealand will remove social distancing requirements after reporting zero active cases of Covid-19, indicating that it has achieved its goal of eliminating the virus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that all remaining restrictions on people and businesses, other than strict border controls to prevent the virus from being eliminated, will be lifted at midnight tonight, paving the way for a return to normal life. The South Pacific Nation reported earlier that the last of its coronavirus patients has recovered, making it one of the few countries in the world to have successfully eradicated the pathogen.
“We have united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said at a press conference in Wellington. “Our goal was to get out the other side as quickly and safely as possible.”
New Zealand pursued an explicit elimination strategy rather than simply seeking to suppress transmission of the virus. He imposed one of the strictest locks in the world, asking everyone to stay at home and allowing only essential services to operate. While this has almost certainly triggered a deep recession, the government says eliminating the virus should allow the economy to recover faster than many of its peers.
The seven-week lock ended on May 14 and cabinet decided today that it was safe to lower the nation’s alert level to 1, allowing the removal of the remaining remaining restrictions. People will only be asked to keep track of who they met and where they have been to facilitate contact tracing if future cases arise.
Moving to Level 1 “is a declaration that we have achieved the goal of eliminating the Covid-19 virus from this country,” said Michael Baker, professor of public health at the University of Otago. “This is, however, only the first battle in what will be a long-term war against this virus. The threat of Covid-19, of course, remains as this pandemic continues around the world.
New Zealand recorded a total of 1,504 confirmed and probable cases of covid-19 and 22 deaths. He has not had a new case in 17 days.