New Zealand appears to have completely eradicated the coronavirus—at least for now—after health officials said Monday the last known infected person had recovered. The announcement was greeted with joy around the country and means the nation of 5 million will be among the first to welcome throngs of fans back into sports stadiums, embrace crowded concerts, and remove seating restrictions from flights. It's been 17 days since the last new case was reported, during which time an additional 40,000 people have been tested, bringing the total number tested to about 300,000. “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,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “We almost certainly will see cases here again" because that "is a reality of this virus."
More cases are likely to be imported as people enter the country. For now, the border remains shut to all but citizens and residents, with some limited exceptions. Everybody who does enter has to go into quarantine, reports the AP. Ardern announced that the Cabinet had agreed to remove almost all remaining virus restrictions at midnight, with the exception of the border strictures. “We can hold public events without limitations. Private events such as weddings, functions, and funerals without limitations,” Ardern said. “Retail is back without limitations. Hospitality is back without limitations. Public transport and travel across the country is fully opened.” Experts say a number of factors helped New Zealand wipe out the disease, including its isolated location in the South Pacific. Ardern also acted decisively by imposing a strict lockdown early.
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