New Zealand eliminates COVID-19 for a second time

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Oct. 7 (UPI) — New Zealand on Wednesday announced it has eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus for a second time.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said there were no more active community cases of COVID-19 in the country after the last patients had recovered from a recent outbreak of the virus.

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“This is a big milestone,” he said. “New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced in early June that the archipelago Oceania nation had eliminated the virus, lifting the country from weeks of strict lockdown measures in doing so.

But after going more than 100 days without reporting local transmission of the virus, the country was placed back under lockdown in August as four new cases were confirmed among a single Auckland family with no known source of transmission.

In total, 186 community cases of COVID-19 — 179 of which were connected to the Auckland cluster — were diagnosed, but all of them have since been discharged from hospitals. The so-called Auckland cluster will be officially considered “closed” after two incubation periods have elapsed.

“While having stamped out COVID-19 in our community for the second time is a real achievement that New Zealanders should be proud of, there is an ongoing risk that further community cases will emerge in the future,” he said. “I urge New Zealanders to remain vigilant and to not let complacency creep in.”

New Zealand has been internally lauded for its suppression of the coronavirus, having reported only 25 deaths and fewer than 1,600 confirmed cases of the virus that was first diagnosed in the country in late February.

On Wednesday, health officials reported three new imported cases in New Zealand, and they have been isolated in quarantine, lifting its total number of confirmed cases to 1,505 and 1,861 confirmed and probable cases.

Auckland, which has been under Alert Level 2 lockdown since August, will move to the less restrictive Alert Level 1 at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

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