Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she was confident New Zealand has halted the spread of the coronavirus after the last known infected person in the country recovered.
It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported in New Zealand, and Monday also marked the first time since late February that there have been no active cases.
New Zealand has tested almost 40,000 people in the past 17 days and no one has been in a hospital with Covid-19 for 12 days, Ardern said at a news conference.
She also announced the Cabinet agreed to another phase of the country's reopening at midnight.
"We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort," she said. "We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say again, we will almost certainly 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."
The government will drop social distancing restrictions form midnight on Monday as it moves to a level 1 national alert from Level 2, Ardern told a news conference.
Public and private events, the retail and hospitality industries and all public transport could resume without social distancing norms still in place across much of the world.
Experts say a number of factors have helped the nation of 5 million wipe out the disease. Its isolated location in the South Pacific gave it vital time to see how outbreaks spread in other countries, and Ardern acted decisively by imposing a strict lockdown early in the outbreak, including closing its borders.
Just over 1,500 people contracted the virus in New Zealand, including 22 who died.
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