June 8, 2020 - New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday there were no active coronavirus cases in the Pacific island nation and that restrictions imposed on its population of 5 million people will be lifted, though international travel restrictions remain in place.
“New Zealand did something remarkable in our fight to beat COVID-19. We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“Everyone can return without restriction to work, school, sports and domestic travel and you can get together with as many people as you want,” the government said on its COVID-19 webpage.
Ardern said the focus is now on rebuilding the nation’s economy.
“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.
Ardern acted aggressively after the nation’s first coronavirus case was discovered Feb. 28.
“In New Zealand we went hard and early with a single plan that had a dual purpose: to protect lives and to protect livelihoods,” she said.
Even before any deaths had been reported, she imposed phases of restrictions. Schools and non-essential businesses closed, civic and social events were canceled, and non-essential public transit stopped. People were urged to work from home if possible and international travel was banned.
New Zealand had about 1,500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In announcing the lifting of restrictions, Ardern said there hasn’t been a positive case in 17 days.
In a news release, the New Zealand Ministry of Health said the last remaining case had been symptom free for 48 hours and was released from isolation.
“This is really good news for the person concerned, and it’s also something the rest of New Zealand can take heart from,” says Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
“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."
International travel restrictions remain. People entering the country must quarantine or go into isolation for 14 days.
The government still urges people to keep “basic hygiene measures,” such as regular hand washing and coughing and sneezing into the elbow. Citizens should also keep track of where they’ve been and who they’ve been with to help in case contact tracing is required.