Scott Neuman reports for NPR (abridged):
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country has officially eradicated COVID-19 and will return to normal after the last-known infected person recovered.
Isolation and quarantine for those arriving from abroad will continue.
The announcement comes weeks after Ardern’s government began easing up on restrictions after New Zealand all but eliminated community transmission of the new coronavirus.
The latest announcement, which brings the country of 5 million to its lowest alert level, means that large public gatherings, such as concerts and sports events, will be allowed for the first time since March 23, when Ardern announced a nationwide lockdown amid a rising number of daily cases. Restaurants and public transport will also be allowed to resume normal operations.
New Zealand, which responded quickly to the threat of the disease, is often cited as a model for how other countries might handle the crisis. In March, it imposed a two-week quarantine on anyone arriving from abroad and quickly followed that with a monthlong stay-at-home order for all New Zealanders. Cases peaked in early April and then quickly fell off over the next few weeks. By late May, New Zealand had just one active COVID-19 case.
All told, New Zealand has seen just over 1,500 infections and 22 deaths from the disease