Wellington, April 27 (IANS) The New Zealand government on Monday announced that it has stopped the community transmission of the novel coronavirus, effectively eliminating the deadly disease.
With new cases in single figures for several days, one on Sunday, the BBC quoted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as saying that the virus was “currently” eliminated.
“We are opening up the economy, but we're not opening up people's social lives,” Ardern said at the daily government briefing.
She said there was “no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand”, adding: “We have won that battle.”
But she said the country “must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way”.
From Tuesday, some non-essential business, healthcare and education activity will be able to resume, but most people will still be required to remain at home at all times and avoid all social interactions.
New Zealand brought in very tough restrictions on travel and activity early on in the pandemic, when it only had a few dozen cases, said the BBC report.
It closed its borders, started enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.
In Monday's briefing, Ardern said modelling indicated New Zealand could have had more than 1,000 cases a day if it had not brought in the lockdown so early.
She said the country could never know how bad it would have been, but that “through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst”.
On Monday midnight, New Zealand will move from Level Four lockdown to Level Three which means most businesses will be able to reopen – including restaurants for takeaways – but not those in involving face-to-face contact.
Mass gatherings will remain banned, shopping centres remain closed and most children will remain away from school.
The country's borders will will also stay closed.
New Zealand has reported 1,469 coronavirus cases, with 19 deaths.