April 27, 2020 | 11:21am | Updated April 27, 2020 | 11:24am
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New Zealand has “won the battle” against the community spread of coronavirus, the country’s prime minister declared Monday.
The country, recently lauded for its stringent approach to fighting the virus — with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern enforcing a four-week lockdown early — now will have most of those restrictions lifted, NPR reported.
“There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle,” Ardern said Monday, according to the report. “But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”
Asked if the country had eliminated the virus, the prime minister replied: “currently.”
In total, 1,469 coronavirus cases have been reported in New Zealand, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The country has seen a rather low coronavirus death toll compared to many other parts of the world, with 19 total fatalities.
And on Sunday, the country reached a milestone with no new cases announced for the first time in weeks, but another five were reported Monday, according to NPR.
The small number of new cases “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination,” said Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s director-general of health, according to the report.
That victory doesn’t mean that there will be no new cases, but that the numbers will be manageable through rigorous contact tracing, the officials said.
New Zealand is set to downgrade from a Level 4 to a Level 3 lockdown — meaning that most, but not all, businesses are allowed to reopen, according to the report.
“Your business must be contact-less,” Ardern said. “Your customers can pay online, over the phone or in a contact-less way. “Delivery or pick-up must also be contact-less.”
One million New Zealanders are expected to return to work Tuesday, and schools are set to reopen Wednesday for students up to 10th grade who cannot study from home, or whose parents need to get back to work, The Guardian reported.
But it’s not yet time for large gatherings, Ardern cautioned.
“We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives,” the prime minister said.
The country will remain at the Level 3 phase for two weeks before its cabinet decides whether to move to Level 2, according to The Guardian.
“We can only do this if we continue to pull together,” Ardern said. “If we need to stay at level 3 [for longer] we will.”
Meanwhile, some of Silicon Valley’s mega-rich have fled to New Zealand for refuge as the virus continues to take hold on the US.