NEW Zealand has recorded zero daily coronavirus cases for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, while its death toll remains at just 20.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Kiwis that containment measures had put the country "at the front of the pack" but warned that the risk posed by the virus is not yet passed.
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New Zealand has seen a total of just 1,487 cases of coronavirus so far, with daily cases peaking more than a month ago at just 146.
A combination of its remote location, strict lockdown measures, and comparatively low levels of international connections has helped the country successfully limit the pandemic's spread.
The country confirmed its first coronavirus cases on February 26 – weeks later than most Western countries – but shut its borders on March 19 and went into level 4 lockdown – the highest level – just a week later.
The number of cases confirmed in the country each day has been consistently below 15 since mid-April, and last week the lockdown was eased to level 3.
Up to half a million people unable to do their jobs remotely – like factory and construction workers – have been allowed to return to work, and gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted.
Prime minister Ardern, who has won plaudits around the world for her handling of the crisis, is set to decide whether the lockdown can be downgraded to level 2, under which gatherings of up to 500 people would be allowed.
The majority of businesses would also be allowed to reopen their doors.
'TRANS-TASMAN' BUBBLE PROPOSED
Neighbouring Australia has also been successful in containing the crisis, having seen only 6,825 cases in total, and the two countries are now in talks about the possibility of a "trans-Tasman" travel bubble.
The arrangement would allow people to move between Australia and New Zealand without having to undergo a two-weeks quarantine period on arrival, though Ardern warned people shouldn't "expect this to happen in a couple of weeks time".
"We need to… make sure we have health precautions in place to make sure we do this safely," she said.
Speaking today at a press conference, New Zealand's director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the absence of new cases was a "cause for celebration" but called for "continuing vigilance".
"Clearly, these are encouraging figures today, but it is just one moment in time," he said.
"The real test is later this week when we factor in the incubation period for the virus and the time it takes for people to display symptoms, which is generally five to six days after exposure."
"So that is when we will have an indication if there are any new cases coming through that might be emerging in the community as a result of our shift from level four to level three.
"We cannot afford to squander all the hard work and effort of the past weeks."
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