New Zealand claims ‘elimination’ of coronavirus with new cases in single digits

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at Parliament on April 27, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

(CNN) — New Zealand claimed Monday it had “eliminated” the coronavirus as the country announced the easing of restrictions from “level four” to “level three,” with new cases in single figures.

At a news conference, New Zealand reported one new case, four “probable cases” and one new death.

Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director General of Health, said the low number “does give us confidence that we’ve achieved our goal of elimination, which — that never meant zero but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from.”

He added: “Our goal is elimination. And again, that doesn’t mean eradication but it means we get down to a small number of cases so that we are able to stamp out any cases and any outbreak that might come out.”

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus was “currently” eliminated but that the country needed to remain alert and could still expect to continue to see new cases.

“So as we have said elimination means we may well reach zero but we may well then have small numbers of cases coming up again, that doesn’t mean we have failed, it just means that we are in the position to have that zero tolerance approach to have a very aggressive management of those cases and keep those numbers low and fading out again,” she said.

Ardern said that in the past few days, cases had been in the single digits, calling the numbers “incredible” while sending her sympathies to those who had lost loved-ones during the pandemic.

She praised the efforts of New Zealanders, saying: “It’s been nearly 5 weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have been impossible. But we did. And we have done it together.”

New Zealand currently restricts most travelers from coming into the country, except its citizens and permanent residents.

The “level three” alert that goes into effect at the start of Tuesday will allow businesses to partially reopen with some restrictions, including requiring physical distancing of two meters outside of home.

Schools are to reopen with limited capacity, people are encouraged to work from home unless that is not possible and low-risk local recreation activities are allowed. Public venues such as libraries, museums, gyms are still going to remain closed. The measures will be reassessed in two weeks on May 11.

According to Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand has a total of 1,469 confirmed novel coronavirus cases and 19 deaths.

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