Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received both praise and criticism for her immediate move to lockdown the country. But over the weekend, the South Pacific nation announced it had eliminated the transmission of the virus reporting no active cases, making it one of the first countries to do so.
On June 8, health authorities reported the recovery of the last confirmed case, as well as no new cases for the 17th straight day. Almost 300,000 tests have been carried out in New Zealand, where 1504 have contracted the virus and 22 have died, per SBS.
"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.
"While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple 'Thank you, New Zealand.'"
Ardern added she did a "little dance" when she found out the news. "I showed [my daughter] Neve. She was caught a little by surprise but she joined in, having absolutely no idea why I was dancing around the lounge," she told reporters.
The Prime Minister added that she will not "rush" a trans-Tasman travel bubble, with the country maintaining strict border controls and contact tracing to ensure it can contain any future waves.
"We are not immune to what is happening in the rest of the world," Ardern said. "But unlike the rest of the world, not only have we protected New Zealanders' health, we now have a head start on our economic recovery."