New Zealand down to just one active coronavirus case

‘The worst thing of all would be to move backwards again’

Kate Ng
Friday 29 May 2020 14:22
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New Zealand set to ease lockdown measures

With just one active case of coronavirus left in the country, New Zealand has all but eradicated the highly-contagious virus in the country.

The Ministry of Health announced that the last active Covid-19 case is a patient in their fifties from the Auckland region.

There have been no other new cases of coronavirus reported in the country for seven consecutive days. The total number of confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak there remains at 1,154.

The last case will be classified as recovered once the patient has not exhibited any symptoms for two full days.

It comes as the country gradually relaxes its lockdown restrictions to allow people to return to life as normal. On Friday, the government increased the limit on gatherings to 100 people, which means events like religious services, parties, weddings, and funerals can now take place.

However, the Health Ministry said the person in charge of any gatherings “must ensure records are kept for contact tracing purposes, except in cases where every person in a gathering knows each other”.

Restaurants and other hospitality businesses can now take group bookings for more then 10 people.

The finance minister, Grant Robertson, told reporters on Friday that New Zealand had done “incredibly well” in the fight against the virus, but cautioned against moving the country into the last phase of easing lockdown earlier than 22 June.

“The worst thing of all would be for New Zealand to move backwards again,” he said.

The nation’s borders remain closed and there is still no timeline for when international students will be allowed to return.

The Health Ministry also reiterated that the use of face masks is not required for healthy people, but masks are recommended “in situations where people are more likely to be exposed to Covid-19, such as health care settings and those involved in border management”.

Earlier this month, medical journal The Lancet praised New Zealand for its “aggressive approach” to dealing with the pandemic and said it allowed the country to end community transmission of the virus.

It pursued an “elimination approach”, in which a strict national lockdown was imposed early on when the country had just 102 cases and no deaths due to Covid-19.

Professor Michael Baker of the University of Otago’s department of public health, who advised the New Zealand government on its response, said: “The two biggest benefits of pursuing an elimination strategy is that you have few cases and few deaths and you can get business back up and running.

“The alternative was that we are stuck with the virus and stuck between mitigation and suppression. Suppression is pretty grim.”

New Zealand’s success stands in stark contrast to grim global figures. India has reported another record increase in cases, while the death toll in the US has surpassed 100,000, the highest in the world.

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