The New Zealand government proclaimed on Monday that the country has reached its goal of eliminating the coronavirus after reporting just four new "probable cases" of COVID-19 and one death over the weekend.
"There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference, according to reports. "We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way."
Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's director general of health, said that the small number of cases gave health officials "confidence that we've achieved our goal of elimination." She added that elimination never meant complete "eradication" of the disease, but rather a point where health care workers felt confident about where infections were emerging.
"Our goal is elimination," Bloomfield said. "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 Ministry of Health has reported 1,122 confirmed total cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 19 deaths from it. The agency said Monday that it had reported just one confirmed COVID-19 case in the previous 24 hours.
Ardern announced that the government would gradually lift restrictions on travel and businesses. New Zealand moved from a "level four" to "level three" alert on Monday, which allowed businesses to partially reopen with some restrictions. The advisory still requires people to socially distance while outside of their home.
The advisory also allows schools to reopen under modified conditions. Public venues, such as gyms and libraries, will remain closed. Ardern said that the government would reassess the restrictions on May 11.
"It's been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have been impossible. But we did. And we have done it together," Ardern added.