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Coronavirus: New Zealand now Covid-19-free after last known patient recovers

Social distancing to be lifted from midnight on Monday 

Rory Sullivan
Monday 08 June 2020 15:10 BST
New Zealand reports no active cases of Covid-19

New Zealand no longer has any active coronavirus cases after the last known patient recovered from the disease, the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said.

As a result, social distancing restrictions will be lifted from midnight on Monday, as the country downgrades its national alert from level two to level one.

However, border controls will remain in place and everyone entering New Zealand will still be tested.

Ms Ardern told reporters on Monday: “While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone ... 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,” she added.

The prime minister’s announcement came after 75 days of restrictions, including a strict seven-week lockdown during which everyone except essential workers was told to stay at home.

This is the first time that there have been no active Covid-19 cases since the virus reached New Zealand in late February. The country’s health ministry has recorded 1,154 infections and 22 deaths from the disease during that period.

The last coronavirus case was reported 17 days ago and 40,000 tests have been carried out since then.

New Zealanders celebrated the prime minister’s announcement, with her message trending on Twitter.

Ms Ardern admitted she did a “little dance” when she heard that the last patient had recovered, surprising her two-year-old daughter, Neve.

“She was caught a little by surprise and she joined in, having absolutely no idea why I was dancing around the lounge. She enjoyed it nevertheless,” the prime minister said.

As well as celebrating the milestone, Ms Ardern also struck a note of caution on Monday by saying that New Zealand will “almost certainly” see more cases in the future.

Referring to the proposed “travel bubble” with Australia, which would allow quarantine-free journeys between the two countries, the prime minister emphasised that caution was the best approach and did not commit to a timeline on the topic.

“We will need to move cautiously here. No one wants to jeopardise the gains New Zealand has made,” she said.

According to recent opinion polls, Ms Ardern’s popularity has increased during the coronavirus crisis, putting her in a good position ahead of September’s elections.

She has also won global praise for her handling of the pandemic.

Last month, medical journal The Lancet praised New Zealand’s “aggressive approach”, which helped to stop community transmission of the virus.

Agencies contributed to this report

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