New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (Jun 8) that all COVID-19 measures in the country will be lifted from Tuesday, barring border closure restrictions, as the coronavirus had been eliminated from the country.
The country would move to national alert level 1 from midnight on Monday, Ardern said in a news conference.
She said public and private events can go on without restrictions, retail and hospitality sectors can operate normally, and all public transport can resume.
“While we’re in a safer, stronger position there’s still no easy path back to pre-COVID life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild,” Ardern said.
“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple ‘Thank you, New Zealand’.”
The South Pacific nation of about 5 million people is emerging from the pandemic while big economies such as Brazil, Britain, India and the United States grapple with the spreading virus.
“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,” Ardern added.
Health authorities announced on Monday that the nation no longer had active 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 Feb 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.
New Zealand 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 country has reported 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from the disease.
There have been no new infections for 17 days and, until Monday, just one active case for more than a week.
Details of the final patient were not released for privacy reasons but it is believed to be a woman aged in her 50s who was linked to a cluster at an Auckland nursing home.
“(The) remaining case has been symptom-free for 48 hours and is regarded as recovered. The person has now been released from isolation,” the health department said.