New Zealand expected to lift coronavirus restrictions next week after 11 days without new cases

New Zealand expected to lift coronavirus restrictions next week after 11 days without new cases
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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday that nearly all of the restrictions intended to slow the spread of coronavirus in the country could be lifted as soon as next week. 

Ardern told reporters that the country may move to alert level one next week. That means that all social-distancing measures and bans on mass gatherings would be lifted. However, the country’s borders will remain closed, Reuters reported.

“Our strategy of go hard, go early has paid off ... and in some cases, beyond expectations,” Ardern said, according to the news service.

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“We will be one of the first countries in the world to return to this level of normality so quickly,” she added. 

New Zealand residents and their families returning to the country would still have to spend two weeks in isolation, according to the Guardian.

The country’s cabinet will decide on lifting the measures on June 8, two weeks earlier than the previous planned date of June 22. Tuesday marked the 11th consecutive day that the country did not report any new cases of coronavirus, according to Reuters. It currently has one active confirmed case in the country.

New Zealand has confirmed just over 1,500 cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths since the pandemic began. The country has been lauded for its response to the outbreak, with Ardern placing the country under a strict lockdown in March.

Thousands of protesters also gathered in New Zealand on Monday demonstrating over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died last week after an officer was seen on video kneeling on his neck during an arrest.

Ardern told reporters she was “horrified” by Floyd’s death, but she said protesters broke coronavirus rules in the country as thousands gathered. 

“I don’t want to stop peaceful protests ... but rules are there to protect people,” she told state broadcaster TVNZ, Reuters reported.