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New Zealand Begins Lifting Bans After Prime Minister Says No Active Cases of COVID-19

06-08-2020
Neighbors chat across a stream as they practice social distancing in a suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand, April 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Neighbors chat across a stream as they practice social distancing in a suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand, April 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand marked a major milestone on Monday, reporting that there are no active cases of COVID-19.

Health officials say it has been 17 days since the last new case was reported, while 40,000 people have been tested during that time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident the country has completely halted the spread of the virus after the last known infected person recovered.

"Today, I can announce that the Cabinet has agreed, that we will now move to Level 1 to get our economy back to normal again. And we will start almost immediately," Ardern said.

"Our collective results I think speak for ourselves. This was what the sacrifice of our team of five million was for – to keep one another safe and to keep one another well," she added.

The prime minister has referred to New Zealanders as a "team of five million" as a way to unify locals and encourage them to abide by the government's rules.

James Shaw, New Zealand's climate change minister, tweeted his excitement over the announcement and used the expression, "Ka pai, Aotearoa," which means, "Good job, New Zealand."

Schools and businesses will reopen under the new Level 1 rules, with no limitations on gatherings or domestic travel.

Social distancing is still encouraged and Ardern said New Zealand's international borders will remain closed to non-residents in an effort to avoid new outbreaks. Residents returning to New Zealand must self-quarantine for two weeks. 

Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has seen a low number of 1,500  positive cases and 22 deaths. 

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