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This Country Beat the Virus. Now, the Reward.

Sports fans fill a rowdy sports stadium in New Zealand
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 13, 2020 3:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – They call one section of the stadium The Zoo, and it's easy to see why: thousands of university students in team colors standing on their seats, steadying trays of beer, swaying to music and erupting with joy when their team scores. "Craziness," is how 20-year-old student Charlotte Power described the scene. "Dancing, partying. Hopefully no fights." New Zealand on Saturday became one of the first nations in the world to welcome hordes of fans back into a packed sports stadium, thanks to the country's remarkable success in eliminating the coronavirus, the AP reports. As countries try to reopen after lockdowns, the evening rugby match marked a milestone of sorts, and its importance wasn’t lost on fans.

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After instituting a strict lockdown in March, New Zealand has not reported any new cases of the coronavirus for more than three weeks, and says all those who contracted the disease have now recovered. Earlier in the week, the country removed just about every remaining virus restriction, with the notable exception of keeping the border closed. That meant there were no masks or social distancing required when more than 20,000 fans poured into the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to watch Saturday's match between the local Highlanders and the Chiefs, who had traveled from Hamilton. "It's massive," the country's sports minister, Grant Robertson, said on the sidelines. "It's a world first and it's a payoff for all the hard work of 5 million New Zealanders."

(Read more New Zealand stories.)

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