New Zealand appears to have completely eradicated the coronavirus — at least for now — after health officials said the last known infected person had recovered.
The announcement was greeted with joy around the country and means the nation of 5 million people will be among the first to welcome throngs of fans back into sports stadiums, embrace crowded concerts and remove seating restrictions from flights.
It has 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. Monday marked the first time since late February there have been no active cases.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident New Zealand had halted the spread of the virus but it still must be prepared for more.
“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,” she said at a news conference. “We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say that again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs we have to make sure — and we are — that we are prepared.”