New Zealand has declared itself Covid-19 free as PM lifts lockdown - here’s how it kept cases so low

Monday, 8th June 2020, 3:05 pm
Updated Monday, 8th June 2020, 3:05 pm
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delcared New Zealand Covid-19 free (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delcared New Zealand Covid-19 free (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand is preparing to lift all of its lockdown restrictions after reporting it has no active cases of coronavirus.

But how has the country been able to declare itself Covid-19 free? This is how New Zealand managed the coronavirus pandemic - and why cases stayed so low.

Is New Zealand lifting all of its lockdown restrictions?

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On Monday 8 June, the New Zealand government announced that the country will move into Alert Level One on Tuesday 9 June. This is the lowest of the four-tier alert system.

The New Zealand government said: “At Alert Level One, everyone can return without restriction to work, school, sports and domestic travel, and you can get together with as many people as you want.”

Things like weddings, funerals, public transport, events and sport and more will all be able to resume again.

Controls at the border will remain in place for those entering New Zealand, including measures like health screening and testing for all arrivals, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine or isolation.

There has been no indication of when these restrictions might be lifted, as Prime Minister Jacinda Arden explained that they were the country’s best line of defence.

It was announced that the last remaining case has been symptom free for 48 hours and had been deemed as recovered.

Arden told reporters that she “did a little dance” when she was informed that there were no longer any active cases in the country.

She said: “While we’re in a safer, stronger position, there’s still no easy path back to pre-Covid life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild.

“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple, ‘Thank you, New Zealand’.”

How did New Zealand implement lockdown?

New Zealand first went into a strict lockdown on 25 March. A four-stage alert system was put in place, with the country going in at level four, the highest alert stage.

In level four, most businesses were shut, schools were closed and people were instructed to stay at home, with their movements sharply limited.

The country began mandatory quarantines for all visitors from March 15, making it one of the strictest policies in the world at the time, despite there only being six cases nationwide. The countrywide lockdown followed ten days later.

New Zealand remained at level four for five weeks, before moving into level three, which allowed for takeaway food shops and some non-essential businesses to re-open.

As case numbers continued to decline, New Zealand progressed into level two in mid-May.

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, 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.”

How many cases of Covid-19 did New Zealand have?

New Zealand has seen 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from Covid-19 since the virus arrived in the country in late February.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health said that the “combined total of confirmed and probable cases remains at 1,504” and that the number of recovered cases is now 1,482.

A statement from the Ministry of Health said: “Yesterday our laboratories completed 800 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 294,848.”

Could New Zealand see more cases in the future?

The Prime Minister said that New Zealand will “almost certainly” see more cases in the future, adding “elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort”.

She said: “That is not a sign that we have failed; it is a reality of this virus.”

The government announcement also said: “As we unite to recover from the effects of Covid-19, it’s still important that we keep the basic hygiene measures, including washing your hands and coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

“We should all continue to keep track of where we’ve been and who we’ve seen to assist with rapid contact tracing if it is required.”