health

New Zealand is COVID-free, Jacinda Ardern confirms; Social distancing still encouraged

There have been no new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases reported in New Zealand since May 22, 2020. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared the country as COVID-19-free on June 8, 2020.

“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,” BBC News quoted Ardern as saying during a press conference. “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.'”

The freedom from restrictions relies heavily on the ongoing role that New Zealand’s border controls will play in keeping COVID-19 out, Arden noted. For her, the news that the country was finally free from the virus was “very exciting information to hear” so she did “some semi-coordinated movement around the lounge.”

 

On March 25, 2020, New Zealand went into lockdown and a new four-stage alert system was set up. The country started with Level 4, which closed schools and most businesses and people were told to stay at home.

The country moved to Level 3 in April 2020 and takeaway food shops were allowed and some non-essential businesses reopened. In May 2020, it moved to Level 2.

Originally, the government of New Zealand planned to move to Level 1 on June 22, 2020 but after not having new cases for 17 days, the move came much earlier. New Zealanders are no longer required to practice social distancing but it is still recommended and employers are encouraged to allow working from home where possible.

Under Level 1, foreign travelers are still prohibited from entering New Zealand while New Zealanders arriving from abroad are still required to go through isolation or quarantine for 14 days. All schools and workplaces can open and there will be no more restrictions on public transport, weddings and funerals.

COVID-19 arrived in New Zealand on February 28, 2020. Since then, the country has recorded 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from the virus.

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