Yes, you read it right! New Zealand has no active coronavirus cases as the country has eliminated the transmission of the Covid pandemic. New Zealand's final patient was given the all-clear and released from isolation, health authorities confirmed on Monday, June 8.
The country is set to lift all containment measures except for border curbs, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told today, making the South Pacific nation one of the first countries to do so.
New Zealand health department director-general Ashley Bloomfield said that the milestone was "really good news" and this was an achievement, the whole of the country could take heart from.
Issuing a statement, he stated: "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."
Social distancing restrictions to be dropped
The New Zealand government will now drop social distancing restrictions form midnight on Monday as it moves to a level 1 national alert from Level 2, Ardern said addressing a press conference.
Public and private events, the retail and hospitality industries and all public transport could resume without social distancing norms still in place worldwide.
"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," PM 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 with about 5 million people has won praise for its handling of the pandemic. It has emerged 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.
'No active cases'
No active cases were reported in the country for the first time since the virus arrived in New Zealand in late February, the health ministry said. New Zealand has reported 1,154 infections and 22 deaths from the infection.
"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," Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, said in the statement.
New Zealand has vowed to eliminate, not just contain, the virus, but the health ministry has been cautious about declaring victory.
It said elimination did not mean eradicating the virus permanently, but stopping "chains of transmission" for a period after the last infected person left isolation.
It also required New Zealand to "effectively prevent or contain any future imported cases from overseas", it added in an emailed statement.
(With Reuters inputs)