New Zealand claims to have won the war against COVID-19
New Zealand Prime Minister; Jacinda Ardern says her country has, for now, won the battle against the new coronavirus. Announcing the lifting of most of the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
"There is no widespread undetected community broadcast in New Zealand. We have won that battle," the prime minister said Monday. "But we must remain vigilant if we want to keep it that way."
When asked if New Zealand had removed COVID-19, Ardern replied, "For now."
The new coronavirus has been on the decline in New Zealand since April 5, when 89 confirmed cases were announced. On Sunday, there were no new cases announced for the first time in weeks, however, another five were reported on Monday. A total of 19 people have died in New Zealand from COVID-19.
The country's chief health officer, Ashley Bloomfield, said the small number of new cases in recent days "gives us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination."
Both said declaring the virus was removed did not mean that there would be no new cases, but that the numbers would be manageable with the help of aggressive contact tracking, which they indicated had been "significantly" expanded with the ability to make up to 10,000 calls per day.
Ardern's comments came when New Zealand, a country of just 5 million people, downgraded its COVID-19 alert to Level 3, meaning that most companies can reopen.
Businesses and professions that require face-to-face contact, such as hairdressers, vendors, massage therapists, and public gyms, will remain closed until the alert level drops another rung.
"Your business must be contactless. Your customers can pay online, by phone, or contactless," he said. "Delivery or collection must also be contactless."
For those returning to the physical workplace, they must maintain 1 meter of social distance, Ardern said.
Exceptions include supermarkets, dairies, gas stations, pharmacies, or other permitted health services, according to the New Zealand Herald.
"COVID-19 has spread in workplaces, so the quid pro quo of being able to open it is doing it in a way that does not spread the virus," he said.
It was also advised that if people can work from home, they should continue to do so.
As NPR's Julie McCarthy reports, Ardern, 39, the mother of a 21-month-old boy, "regularly appears on Facebook Live chats, dresses in a sweatshirt, sympathizes with families who endure isolation in their bubble" , as she calls her place of refuge and assures the children that the tooth fairy is still at work. When he imposed strict rules on staying home in late March, he urged people to "be strong and kind."
Speaking on Sunday, Australia's internal affairs minister Peter Dutton suggested that New Zealand and Australia could reopen travel between them, although restrictions on incoming air passengers from other countries remained.
"You could see an agreement with New Zealand given that they are at a stage comparable to ours in the fight against this virus," Dutton told Sky News, as reported by Radio New Zealand.