New Zealand has won a “battle” against coronavirus (COVID-19), says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as the nation prepares to wind down its strictest lockdown protocols.
Speaking at a press conference in Wellington today, Ardern said there is no “widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” signalling a turning point against the pandemic.
“We have won that battle,” she said. “But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”
That doesn’t mean there are zero cases in New Zealand, even if Ardern says the virus’ undetected spread has “currently” been defeated.
As it stands, New Zealand has recorded fewer than ten new infections each day for the past eight days.
But Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said that New Zealand now knows where every new case of COVID-19 is coming from.
Being able to trace all new infections to previously confirmed case gives authorities “confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination,” Dr Bloomfield said.
Ardern added that it “does not mean we have failed” if the nation isn’t quite at zero confirmed cases, as the nation has been chasing ‘elimination’ before ‘eradication’.
It’s a huge milestone for the nation, which has tallied 1469 confirmed cases and 19 deaths.
At midnight tonight, New Zealand will step down from Level 4 lockdown protocols to Level 3.
This means self-isolation rules will relax to allow contact with close family members, as long as those individuals remain in an exclusive contact “bubble.”
Retailers will be permitted to open if staff avoid close contact with customers. Schools will also kick back into gear, with students still encouraged to study from home where possible.
Kiwis have been asked to maintain social distancing and proactive hygiene measures, to make sure Level 4 isn’t needed again.
The Level 3 guidelines sit closely with Australia’s current lockdown protocols, and Ardern also referenced another interesting tidbit for her trans-Tasman neighbours: the idea of a collective “bubble” between the two nations.
Ardern said she had discussed the idea of restricted travel between New Zealand and Australia with our PM Scott Morrison, but added we’re not quite there yet.
Still, promising signs from our neighbours across the ditch.