WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- New Zealand has joyfully announced that it is now a “COVID-19 free” country after the last confirmed case had already recovered, according to health officials on Monday.
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Cabinet members have agreed to lift all restrictive measures in the country except their border restrictions.
- According to experts, New Zealand’s geographical location and Arden’s quick response to the virus outbreak have paved the way to the halting of the pandemic.
New Zealanders were greeted with a good news that the country successfully eliminated the coronavirus nationwide after health experts said on Monday that the last COVID-19 patient had already recovered.
The last new case was confirmed 17 days ago, the same time in which about 40,000 people have been tested. In total, around 300,000 tests were done in the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident that the country had curbed the virus outbreak but emphasized that they should not be complacent.
“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 said at a news conference.
“We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say that again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs we have to make sure — and we are — that we are prepared.”
Ardern said that Cabinet officials are okay with lifting all restrictive measures except border restrictions.
“We can hold public events without limitations. Private events such as weddings, functions and funerals without limitations. Retail is back without limitations. Hospitality is back without limitations. Public transport and travel across the country is fully opened,” she said.
The Prime Minister said that the government will focus on the country’s borders, where mitigation efforts are still put in place.
According to experts, there were several factors that helped New Zealand in wiping out the virus. Its geographical location which is isolated in the South Pacific served as an advantage to assess the virus outbreak that occurred in other countries. Arden also acted swiftly by imposing a strict shutdown during the early period.
Just like any other country, New Zealand’s efforts of eradicating the virus brought economic turmoil as thousands of people have been unemployed. The tourism industry, which contributes about 10% of the economy, took a hard hit from the lockdown.
Despite the economic fall, the good news on Monday gave the country a reason to celebrate. Ardern said that when she found out that there were no more active cases, she did a little dance in her living room alongside her baby daughter Neve, who will turn two this June.
New Zealand has recorded over 1,500 positive COVID-19 cases and 22 fatalities.