New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she “did a little dance” with her daughter when she heard the news that there were no longer any active COVID-19 cases in the country.
“She [Neve] was caught a little by surprise but she joined in, having absolutely no idea why I was dancing around the lounge,” Ardern said on Monday after announcing the news.
New Zealand has since lifted all COVID-19 restrictions except for international border closures, meaning New Zealanders’ lives can return to normal, or “as normal as we can in the time of a global pandemic.”
“We have tested almost 40,000 people for COVID-19 in the past 17 days and none have tested positive,” Ardern said at a press conference.
“It’s been 40 days since the last case of community transmission. 22 days since that person finished their self-isolation.”
It’s a big milestone for New Zealand and Ardern says moving to Level 1 restrictions is “the dividend of everyone’s hard work.”
“Our collective results I think speak for ourselves,” she said. “This was what the sacrifice our team of five million was for – to keep one another safe and to keep one another well.
“We will move to level 1 to get our economy fully open again and we will start almost immediately.”
Twenty-two people have died of Covid-19 in New Zealand, a miniscule number that could have reached the tens of thousands, as predicted by scientific modelling, without restrictions.
According to Ardern, being Covid free means New Zealand has a head start in their economic recovery.
“Unlike the rest of the world, not only have we protected New Zealanders’ health, we now have a head start on our economic recovery,” she said.
“That’s because at level one, we become if not the most open then one of the most open economies in the world.”
Ardern has made headlines around the world for her response to the pandemic and leadership style, especially as she moved to implement one of the strictest lockdowns in modern history.
Her systematic response to controlling the spread of Covid has also been praised by the World Health Organisation.
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Going through a pile of letters this evening and this one felt perfectly timed. We have a long road to travel yet, but for now, thank you New Zealand. Everyone sacrificed a huge amount so that we could be in the position to lift restrictions today, and announce that we have no active cases of COVID 19 for the first time since February. We aren’t finished, and while COVID is in the world we’ll have to continue our battle against it, but today was a milestone worth marking.
While there are no active cases for now, Ardern warned of the possibility of seeing more cases in New Zealand in the future.
“We almost certainly see cases here again,” she said. “That is not a sign that we have failed; it is a reality of this virus.”