Clive Bull 1am - 4am
New Zealand eliminates coronavirus after last case recovers
8 June 2020, 10:13
New Zealand has lifted all restrictions on public events and social distancing guidelines after it was confirmed the country had eliminated coronavirus.
Health officials in the South Pacific nation said on Monday that the only person known to still have COVID-19 on its shores had now recovered - meaning the country has eradicated the disease.
It comes 17 days since the final case was recorded in New Zealand, and is the first time since February where there have been no cases of the virus at all.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was "confident" that transmission of the virus had been eliminated "for now", but warned that it would be a continued effort to keep it away from NZ soil.
Speaking at a press conference, she said: "We almost certainly will see cases here again... and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus.
"But if and when that occurs, we have to make sure - and we are - that we are prepared."
In total, a little over 1,500 people have been infected with COVID-19 in New Zealand, while 22 people have lost their lives.
The nation with a population of five million people has been regularly looked to as a good example of how the disease is brought under control.
Experts have pointed to a number of factors that may have helped, including New Zealand's remote location in the South Pacific, giving it time to analyse how outbreaks affected other countries.
Mrs Ardern also acted fast in her response by imposing strict lockdown measures early on as the first infections reached the country.
She then closed the borders to all travellers except for citizens, residents, and a few exceptions.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the milestone was a pleasing one, but warned that vigilance would be needed in the weeks and months ahead.
He 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."