New Zealand has no active cases of coronavirus: 'This is a milestone'

New Zealand has no active cases of coronavirus: 'This is a milestone'
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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lifted the majority of the country's economic and social restrictions after announcing that it no longer has any active cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Ardern announced the milestone during a press conference on Monday, saying that the government is confident that community transmission of the virus has been eliminated. 

"We almost certainly will see cases here again," she added. "That is not a sign that we have failed. That is a reality of this virus."

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Ardern said that New Zealand health officials tested nearly 40,000 people for COVID-19 over the last 17 days and none tested positive. She noted that the country's last case of community transmission came 40 days ago. 

Ardern added that the last person to contract the virus via community spread completed a self-isolation period 22 days ago. 

"So today, I can announce that the Cabinet has agreed we will now move to level 1 to get our economy fully open again," Ardern said, referring to a directive that will remove restrictions from mass gatherings and the way businesses can operate. Sporting events and concerts will be allowed to take place without any limitations. 

However, the border will remain closed to all except New Zealand citizens and residents, The Associated Press noted. People who enter the country will still be required to quarantine. 

“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. ... Thank you, New Zealand,” Ardern said. 

As of Monday, New Zealand's Ministry of Health had reported just more than 1,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths caused by it. Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s director-general of health, announced late last month that there were no COVID-19 patients in its hospitals. Ardern said Monday that it had been 12 days since an individual was in a hospital with a confirmed case. 

The country will enter a near-total reopening as many nations around the world continue to see case counts and deaths rise. The U.S. surpassed 110,000 deaths caused by the virus on Sunday, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.