- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the last active case of COVID-19 in the country has recovered, ending the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
- New Zealand has now dropped to COVID-19 Alert Level 1, which means large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events can take place once again.
- New Zealand reached this milestone with one of the fastest and strictest lockdowns in the world.
Last week, New York City reported zero confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 for the first time since March 12th – just one day after the novel coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. It was certainly a notable milestone, but a quick peek at the daily COVID-19 case reports from the CDC shows that the US is nowhere close to out of the woods yet. On Saturday alone, 29,214 cases were reported nationwide, and some of the states that reopened too quickly are starting to see huge spikes in infections.
The news is various shades of grim around the world, but one country has done what might have seemed impossible just a few months ago. Over the weekend, the last active case of COVID-19 in New Zealand recovered, and there are now zero people with the novel coronavirus disease in the entire country.
There are a few important caveats when it comes to New Zealand’s miraculous triumph over the coronavirus. First of all, New Zealand is an island nation, and therefore had a much easier time closing its borders and cutting off all travel until the country could get the situation under control. Furthermore, just 5 million people live in New Zealand, and the country doesn’t rank very high in terms of population density. But without a solid plan of action executed soon after the pandemic declaration, New Zealand could never have accomplished this lofty goal.
In total, New Zealand has reported 1,504 cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths.
Here’s what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had to say about the accomplishment (via Newsroom):
Our team of five million has both sacrificed and achieved a huge amount in just under 11 weeks as the world reckoned with, and continues to reckon with, a virus that went from obscurity at the start of the year to a global pandemic that will linger, with second waves a constant reality.
It’s been 40 days since the last case of community transmission, 22 days since that person finished their self-isolation. And so today I can announce that Cabinet has agreed we will now move to Level 1 – to get our economy fully open again – and we will start almost immediately. We move down to Covid-19 Alert Level 1 from midnight tonight.
Level 1 is the lowest alert level (down from the complete lockdown of Level 4 in late March), allowing large gatherings like concerts and sports to come back online. Restaurants and public transportation will be able to resume operations as well, and while New Zealanders are being cautioned to remain smart and safe, for all intents and purposes, New Zealand has (at least for now) defeated the virus and can return to business as usual.