This article is republished with permission under Kaniva News partnerships with RNZ
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is giving an update on Cabinet’s decision whether to move to alert level 1.
Watch the announcement here:
After praising New Zealand’s response to the virus, she revealed the country would be moving to alert level 1 from midnight tonight.
“At level 1 we expect the continuation of recovery.”
She said the country was ready, now 40 days since the last recorded case of community transmission, 26 days after entering alert level 2, 17 days since a new case, and less than 24 hours since having zero active cases recorded.
Ardern said New Zealanders did something “remarkable” by uniting in the fight against Covid-19, and had achieved one of the lowest rates per capita in the world.
“Now under level 1 you can if you want go back to your place of work.”
Ardern revealed last week that under level 1 there would be effectively no restrictions on day to day life and business, but New Zealand’s borders would remain closed.
Today she again highlighted that the measures at the border were critical to allowing the move to the looser restrictions.
“They will continue to be critical and that means applying a really critical analysis if and when we come to a position we believe another country is in a similar position to us and therefore we can safely travel between.”
Starting this week, everyone arriving in New Zealand will be tested twice during their 14 day isolation period.
The economic impact of restrictions over the last months had also been less than expected, and economic recovery was believed to be quicker than expected, Ardern said.
“We are not immune to what is happening in the rest of the world, but unlike the rest of the world not only have protected New Zealanders’ health, we now have a head-start on our economic recovery.”
She warned however that there was still a risk of further infection of Covid-19, and that it would continue to be seen overseas.
She asked all New Zealanders to keep a record of where they had been during level 1, either by using the tracing app or keeping their own record.
“If we get one or two cases in the future – which will remain possible for some time to come due to the global situation and nature of the virus – we need to shut down those cases fast. The last thing … we want to do is move up the alert level system again.”
Ardern said businesses and organisations would continue to be encouraged to display QR codes so New Zealanders using the tracing app could use it to keep a record for themselves of where they had been and when, but manual sign-in would be no longer required.
She said the QR codes would remain voluntary for now, but the government was also looking into how it could supply them to businesses rather than having to wait for them to apply.
She said the government was keen to take advantage of flexible working but maintain strong and vibrant central business districts, so had asked the State Services Commission to release new guidance about how best to do that.
“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone, so let me finish with just a simple thank you, New Zealand.”
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the announcement followed the news today that New Zealand had no active cases.
“Yes we have been cautious but we have not been overcautious.”
He said the ministry had not been “saving that up”.
Ardern said she did “a little dance” when she found out there are no active cases in New Zealand, and Dr Bloomfield said he allowed himself a broad smile.
He said the ministry was confident it had eliminated community transmission in New Zealand.
Cabinet’s deliberations on level 1 were brought forward a fortnight, following better-than-expected case numbers and calls from Labour’s coalition partner New Zealand First.
The National Party has said that given the government’s own criteria of 28 days without community transmission there was no justification for staying at level 2.
There would be contact tracing measures and testing and workplaces would have to keep up certain health and safety requirements.
Watch the Prime Minister’s announcement from last week revealing level 1 rules: