Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has announced that the country has won the battle’ against Coronavirus as she prepares to ease strict lockdown rules put in place to limit the spread of the disease.
“There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” she said at the Government’s daily press briefing on Monday.
“We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”
At 11.59pm on Monday, New Zealand will lift its level-4 lockdown which has been in place for more than four weeks and move to Level Three.
With the new development, retailers, restaurants, and schools will be allowed to reopen on a smaller scale. Schools will reopen on Wednesday for children up to Year 10 who cannot study from home, or whose parents need to return to work.
About one million New Zealanders are expected to return to work, provided they have a Covid-19 control plan in place, with appropriate health and safety and physical distancing measures.
Ms. Ardern told citizens to keep to their “bubble,” meaning a small collection of relatives, or close friends and to ensure they remain 2m apart from all people outside of those groups.
“We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives,” Ms Ardern said.
The prime minister added that New Zealand would remain on a level-3 lockdown for a fortnight before officials decided on whether to transition to level 2.
“We can only do this if we continue to pull together,” she said. “If we need to stay at level 3 [for longer] we will.”
“To succeed we must hunt down the last few cases of the virus,” Ms Ardern added. “This is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
However, Ardern warned there was no certainty about when all transmission can be eliminated, allowing a return to normal life.
Everyone wants to “bring back the social contact that we all miss”, she said, “but to do it confidently we need to move slowly and we need to move cautiously.”
“I will not risk the gains we’ve made in the health of New Zealanders. So if we need to remain at Level Three, we will.”
The easing of restrictions came as New Zealand reported only one new case of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,122 with 19 deaths.