While Australia has embarked on an ambitious contact-tracing endeavor in its fight against COVID-19, its Down Under neighbor has some big news of its own. New Zealand has announced it's now able to downgrade its coronavirus alert to "Level 3," per the New Zealand Herald, meaning many businesses will be able to reopen, because the island nation has "won that battle" against the virus, per Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand," Ardern said Monday, per NPR, adding that the country had "currently" eliminated the virus. Reports of new virus cases in New Zealand are now in the single digits, with a total of 19 dead overall since the pandemic struck.
The BBC attributes this to Ardern's rigid restrictions when there were only a few dozen cases, including closing the nation's borders, heading into strict lockdown, and doing large-scale testing. Ardern and New Zealand's director-general of health note elimination doesn't mean there'll be no new cases of COVID-19, just that going full force with contact tracing should keep everything under control. It also means that although businesses that don't require face-to-face contact will be able to open—as will such venues as supermarkets, gas stations, and pharmacies—Ardern still wants New Zealanders to be "vigilant" and stay home unless it's absolutely necessary: Mass gatherings are still a no-go, most schools and shopping centers will stay closed, and the country's borders remain shut down. "Through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst," she said. (Read more New Zealand stories.)