New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that the country has eliminated transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Ardern’s proclamation came hours after Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield issued a statement saying New Zealand had no new active COVID-19 cases after the last person being treated for the disease had recovered. Bloomfield said it had been 17 days since the last new case had been reported, and the first time since late February there have been no active cases.
Bloomfield called the milestone “a significant mark in our journey” but said “ongoing vigilance against COVID-19 will continue to be essential.”
Based on the news from the health ministry, Ardern told reporters Monday that she was lowering the four-tiered lockdown system first imposed in March to its lowest tier, Level 1, removing limits on public gatherings and mandatory social distancing, while keeping New Zealand’s borders closed to international travel.
Ardern initially imposed the nationwide lockdown when the coronavirus outbreak first reached New Zealand’s shores, shutting down all economic activity except for essential services.
She has gradually eased restrictions beginning in May, lifting bans on construction work and domestic travel, eventually allowing shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants and schools to reopen.
New Zealand has had a total of 1,154 confirmed coronavirus infections with 22 deaths out of five million citizens.
Shortly after the final restrictions were lifted, New Zealand Rugby announced it will allow fans into stadiums in unrestricted numbers later this week for the opening games of the new season.