İrem UZUN -TDO- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that the country has eliminated transmission of the novel coronavirus. Based on the news from the health ministry, Ardern told reporters Monday that she was lowering the four-tiered lockdown system first imposed in March to its lowest tier, Level 1, removing limits on public gatherings and mandatory social distancing. "While we're in a safer, stronger position, there's still no easy path back to pre-COVID life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild," Ardern said.

Ardern’s proclamation came hours after a statement from the Ministry of Health said the last remaining case has now been symptom-free for 48 hours and is regarded as recovered. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the patient was now able to leave isolation and that having no active cases for the first time since February was "a significant mark in our journey." It's been 17 days since New Zealand's last new case was reported, while 40,000 people have been tested in that time.

New Zealand had reported just over 200 confirmed cases when the government shut down the country, and the total number of diagnosed instances of the virus never topped 1,500. Twenty-two people died of COVID-19 in New Zealand, in contrast to the tens of thousands of deaths that modelling by scientists had predicted if restrictions were not imposed. Strict border controls will remain in place for New Zealand. Only New Zealanders and their immediate families can enter the country currently and must spend 14 days in government-run quarantine.

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