Victory! New Zealand DEFEATS coronavirus as no new cases found and lockdown eased

The revelation – which follows several days in which the number of new cases has dropped to single figures – represents a major boost to the five-million population country, as well as a huge vindication of the tough, early measures imposed when just a few dozen cases had been reported. Speaking today, Ms Ardern said the virus was “currently” eliminated. She said there had been “no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand”, adding: “We have won that battle.”

Through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst

Jacinda Ardern

However, she stressed the country needed to “remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way”.

New Zealand shut its borders on March 19, enforced quarantine of all arrivals, imposed lockdown measures, and begun a wide-ranging testing and contact tracing operation.

Ms Ardern said experts have suggested failure to act could have seen her country hit with more than a thousand cases a day, stressing: “Through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst.”

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As it is, New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, and 19 deaths.

She added: “We must make sure that we do not let the virus run away on us again and cause a new wave of cases and deaths.

“To succeed we need to hunt down the last few cases of the virus.”

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The news precedes the easing of lockdown restrictions, with some non-essential businesses, healthcare and education activity permitted to resume from tomorrow.

Nevertheless, most people will still be required to stay stay at home at all times and avoid all social interactions, with the nation’s borders remaining closed.

New Zealanders must stick to their “bubble” – a small group of close friends or family – and remain two metres apart.

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Mass gatherings are still banned, shopping centres remain closed and most children will remain away from school.

Ms Ardern warned: “It can’t be return to pre COVID-19 life. That day will come, but its not here yet.”

New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the low number of new cases “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination”.

“Elimination” did not mean there would be no new cases, he warned.

However, said: “It does mean we know where our cases are coming from”.

Treasury forecasts envisage New Zealand’s GDP falling by up to a third and the number of unemployed to hit 13 percent, even with quantitative easing measures by the central bank.

Trust in governments in both Australia and New Zealand has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, opinion polls indicate.

In Australia, where the rate of new daily cases has slowed to less than one percent, two states with small numbers of cases will ease restrictions this week.

Western Australia is permitting indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people to resume from Monday, while Queensland will later this week allow picnics, retail shopping and drives of up to 31 miles (50 kms) from home.

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