Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks on during a press conference at Parliament on April 07, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.
  • New Zealand is beginning to ease its strict lockdown, saying it has eliminated community transmission of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a public briefing.
  • New cases have slowed almost to a standstill, and the country's top health official Ashley Bloomfield said this "does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination," the BBC reported.
  • Bloomfield says that any new cases in New Zealand would now be immediately traceable.
  • Most lockdown restrictions, including border closures, will stay in place but non-essential businesses can reopen if they ensure no direct contact with customers.
  • "We are opening up the economy, but we're not opening up people's social lives," said Ardern, according to the BBC.
  • The country has recorded a total of 1,122 confirmed cases and 19 deaths from the disease, Bloomfield said at the briefing.
  • For mores stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

New Zealand is easing its strict lockdown after new coronavirus cases slowed almost to a standstill, prompting the country's top health official to claim the country has "achieved our goal of elimination."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a Monday public briefing that the country will begin at midnight Tuesday to de-escalate its stringent lockdown by allowing some non-essential businesses to reopen.

"We're now 11 hours away from the lifting of Level 4, and of the strictest constraints placed on New Zealanders in modern history," Ardern said.

"It's been nearly five weeks of living and working in ways that just two months ago would have seemed impossible. But we did, and we have done it together."

Ashley Bloomfield, the country's Director-General of Health, reported that there was just one new confirmed case of the virus to report that day, and four probable cases, all of which are traceable.

This brings the country's cumulative total to 1,122 confirmed cases, but Bloomfield added that "probable" cases - where testing has not yet confirmed a likely infection - would bring that total to 1,469. Nineteen people have died of the virus in New Zealand so far.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand has been in decline since April 9, according to Worldometer. It now stands at 309, down from a peak of 929.

Ardern added that according to modelling from her advisers, the country could have seen up to 1,000 new cases per day if the country had not enacted its lockdown.

This reduction in new cases, said Bloomfield, "does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination," according to the BBC. He clarified that this means any new cases would be immediately traceable.

But, said Ardern, the country "must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way," the BBC reported.

The country has responded to the crisis with some of the strictest measures worldwide, developing a four-tier alert system and entering a full "Level 4" lockdown on March 25.

The country had completely closed its border, banned mass gatherings, closed schools and shopping centers, and restricted socialising to "bubbles" of close relatives.

Under Level 3, these restrictions will continue, but non-essential businesses will be allowed to trade as long as they have no face-to-face contact.

"We are opening up the economy, but we're not opening up people's social lives," said Ardern, according to the BBC.

She said that the government will meet on May 11 to discuss the possibility of moving to Level 2.

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