New Zealand will lift all coronavirus restrictions except its international border control from midnight tonight.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement that the country would return to “alert level 1” two hours after health officials confirmed the country was now coronavirus-free.
Ms Ardern revealed she “did a little dance” in front of her daughter Neve when she heard the news.
Kiwi health authorities announced today the country’s final case, a woman in her 50s from Auckland, was now virus-free.
New Zealand hasn’t had a single new coronavirus case for 17 straight days.
Alert level 1 will come into force in New Zealand from midnight tonight, Ms Ardern revealed following a Cabinet meeting during which the decision to go to the lowest level of restrictions was made, the New Zealand Herald reports.
“At level 1, we expect the continuation of recovery,” the Prime Minister told reporters.
“We will almost certainly see cases here again. That is not a sign we have failed.”
The decision means that events such as funerals, hospitality and public transport can all resume without any restrictions from midnight.
This freedom on restrictions will depend heavily on our border measures.
“We have eliminated transmission of the virus for now,” she said.
“The last thing we want to do is move back up the level system again.”
New Zealanders can do and go wherever they like, but Ms Ardern asked they keep a diary to track their movements
She also encouraged businesses to display QR codes at their doors so customers could continue to keep a “digital diary”, as manually signing in would no longer be required.
Every public sector worker is being asked to return to their place of work, but with allowances for flexibility to allow CBDs to thrive again, said Ardern.
She encouraged every Kiwi to go out to “buy and play” and experience New Zealand for themselves.
“While we’re in a safer stronger position there’s still no easy path back to Covid-free life,” said Ardern.
The milestone positions Australia’s trans-Tasman neighbour at the forefront of the fight against the disease.
“This is really good news for the person concerned, and it’s also something the rest of New Zealand can take heart from,” NZ’s Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.
“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.”
New Zealand recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 28. Since then, 1504 Kiwis have contracted the virus and 22 have died.
New Zealand processed 800 tests yesterday, bringing the country’s total number of tests to 294,848.
More than 522,000 Kiwis have also downloaded the COVID-Tracer app, a tracing app similar to Australia’s COVID-Safe app.
Professor Michael Baker told the New Zealand Herald the no active cases was an important milestone for the country.
“These active cases are not themselves a major concern as we know about them and can ensure they are safely isolated. The worry has always been about the undetected cases that can cause outbreaks if we come out of lock down too swiftly,” he said.
“As long as we are still at Level 2, we need to continue to follow physical distancing and other rules designed to minimise our risk of spreading COVID-19 and having another outbreak.”
Prof Baker said New Zealand would be a world leader when it moves to level one.
“This event, when it happens, is a statement that we have achieved the goal of eliminating the COVID-19 virus from this country.
“This is, however, only the first battle in what will be a long-term war against this virus. The threat from COVID-19 obviously remains while this pandemic continues across the globe. This risk will rise again in New Zealand as we gradually increase the numbers of incoming travellers. It will also rise during the coming winter when coronaviruses are more transmissible.”