New Zealand clears its last COVID-19 case and will lift all coronavirus restrictions

New Zealand clears its last COVID-19 case and will lift all coronavirus restrictions

New Zealand street Wellington
People walk on a street in Wellington's Central Business District on May 14, 2020. (File photo: AFP/Marty Melville) 

WELLINGTON: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (Jun 8) that all COVID-19 measures in the country will be lifted from Tuesday, barring border closure restrictions, as the coronavirus had been eliminated from the country.

The country would move to national alert level 1 from midnight on Monday, Ardern said in a news conference.

She said public and private events can go on without restrictions, retail and hospitality sectors can operate normally, and all public transport can resume.

"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.

"While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple 'Thank you, New Zealand'."

READ: 'We have won that battle': New Zealand PM on COVID-19 transmission

READ: Crewcuts and catch-ups as New Zealand COVID-19 lockdown ends

The South Pacific nation of about 5 million people is emerging from the pandemic while big economies such as Brazil, Britain, India and the United States grapple with the spreading virus.

"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 added.

Health authorities announced on Monday that the nation no longer had active COVID-19 cases after the country's final patient was given the all-clear and released from isolation.

The milestone was "really good news" and an achievement the whole of New Zealand could take heart from, health department director-general Ashley Bloomfield said.

"Having no active cases for the first time since Feb 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," he said in a statement.

New Zealand has won praise for its handling of the pandemic, which involved a strict seven-week lockdown that ended last month after the virus was contained.

The country has reported 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from the disease.

READ: Commentary: Contact tracing holds key to eliminating COVID-19 in post-lockdown New Zealand

There have been no new infections for 17 days and, until Monday, just one active case for more than a week.

Details of the final patient were not released for privacy reasons but it is believed to be a woman aged in her 50s who was linked to a cluster at an Auckland nursing home.

"(The) remaining case has been symptom-free for 48 hours and is regarded as recovered. The person has now been released from isolation," the health department said.

SUPER RUGBY RESTARTS WITH CROWDS

Fans will be allowed in unrestricted numbers when Super Rugby resumes in New Zealand this weekend, organisers said on Monday, hailing the move as a world first after professional sports' coronavirus shutdowns.

"We're incredibly proud, and grateful, to be the first professional sports competition in the world to be in a position to have our teams play in front of their fans again," New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson said.

"It's going to be a very special and unique competition and it's fitting that New Zealanders now have a chance to be part of it."

READ: Burgers, fries and coffee: New Zealanders rush for fast food as COVID-19 lockdown eases

Super Rugby Aotearoa involves New Zealand's five teams and has been established as a temporary domestic replacement for the southern hemisphere club tournament, which is suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many other sporting competitions around the globe have announced plans to restart, the vast majority will be played either with no crowds or with numbers severely restricted.

It was initially slated to start without spectators but the New Zealand government on Monday announced it was lifting all domestic restrictions due to the country's success in containing the virus.

Otago Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the club was "buzzing" at the prospect of hosting Waikato Chiefs in front of packed stands for the competition opener on Saturday.

"The world will be watching and we will be ready to put on a show," he said.

"Our players, coaches and staff have been working overtime to get Super Rugby Aotearoa ready and to now be able to share the competition with our members and our fans will be a very special occasion."

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Source: Agencies/ad/zl(mi)

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