New Zealand to SCRAP social distancing in coronavirus triumph

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The country has been regarded worldwide as handling the pandemic incredibly well. New Zealand has seen only a total of 1,504 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of that number, only 22 have died after infection.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had previously said June 22 was the latest a decision to loosen remaining social distancing restrictions would come.

On June 8 the Government would reconsider the “settings” of alert level 2.

But after speaking with director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield this week, Ardern said the country could be in level 1 as early as June 10, “as long as we keep seeing the results we’re seeing now”.

She said: “We are exceeding our expectations in terms of our progress, which is a fantastic position to be in.

“Our strategy of go hard, go early has paid off.”

Under New Zealand’s plans, level one would see social distancing measures and mass gatherings limits lifted.

Borders would still remain closed to neighbouring countries, with a view to lift them when they begin to see similar successes against the virus.

New Zealand had enforced their strict lockdown measures on March 25 for nearly seven weeks.

This was despite there being no indication that a full epidemic within the country was occurring.

Ms Ardern said of the news: “We will be one of the first countries in the world to return to this level of normality so quickly.”

The country has not seen any new cases of coronavirus for the last 12 days.

It also only has one active case of COVID-19, who is being isolated.

The country has also said it has one of the highest testing capacities in the world.

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Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the 12 days of no cases was “very encouraging”.

He will provide advice to Cabinet for ministers to consider next week, but stressed that alert level 2 rules continue to apply, including limits on gatherings.

On Tuesday, 1262 tests were processed, taking the grand total to 283,525 tests. 

He said tests were primarily on symptomatic people and their close contacts, but as New Zealand moved to alert level 2, asymptomatic people were included to identify any “hidden pockets of infection”.

Meanwhile in the UK, daily coronavirus cases are falling to some of the lowest rates since the outbreak with the latest daily cases standing at 1,613 and the overnight death toll of 324, with nearly 40,000 dead so far.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the coronavirus outbreak has had a “very significant impact” on Britain.

He said: “It is undoubtedly true that we have had a very significant impact from this virus – there is no doubt about that.

“We have been learning all the way through it how best to deal with that.

“The test and trace system that we have built over the past few weeks is one of the lessons that comes out of it – the absolute vital importance of having a system that is big enough to be able to trace as many of those who tested positive as possible.”

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