New Zealand says it has won 'battle' against Covid-19

New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus.

Today (Monday 27 April), the island nation announced the easing of restrictions from "level four" to "level three," with new cases in single figures.

With new cases in single figures for several days now - one on Sunday - New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was "currently" eliminated.

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But officials have warned against complacency, saying it does not mean a total end to new coronavirus cases.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The news arrived just hours before New Zealand was to move out of its toughest level of social restrictions.

New Zealand brought in some of the strictest restrictions anywhere in the world on travel and activity early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, when it only had a few dozen cases.

The country closed its borders, began enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.

From tomorrow, some non-essential business, healthcare and education activity will resume in New Zealand - although most citizens will still be required to stay at home and avoid all social interactions.

"We are opening up the economy, but we're not opening up people's social lives," Ms Ardern said at the daily government briefing.

New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.

New Zealand's Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the low number of new cases in recent days gives "confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination".

However, Mr Bloomfield stressed that "elimination" did not mean there would be no new cases, "but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from".

Ms Ardern said there was "no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand", adding: "We have won that battle."

But she said the country "must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way".

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