(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday she was confident New Zealand has halted the spread of the coronavirus after the last known infected person in the country recovered.
It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported, while 40,000 have been tested in that time. And Monday also marked the first time since late February that there have been no active cases.
Ardern also announced the Cabinet had agreed to another phase of the country’s reopening, to take place at midnight.
“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,” she said at a news conference. “We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say 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.”
She said her government’s focus will be on the country’s borders, where isolation and quarantine will continue.
Experts say a number of factors have helped the nation of 5 million wipe out the disease. Its isolated location in the South Pacific gave it vital time to see how outbreaks spread in other countries, and Ardern acted decisively by imposing a strict lockdown early in the outbreak.
Just over 1,500 people contracted the virus in New Zealand, including 22 who died.
The Coronavirus Brief. Everything you need to know about the global spread of COVID-19
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