New Zealand Has Eradicated COVID-19 – ‘Crushing’ the Virus to End Social Distancing

Things have gone so well in New Zealand concerning COVID-19 that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her cabinet have decided that almost all restrictions can now be removed.

After 40,000 people tested, 12 days with no one entering hospitals, 40 days since the last community transmission, and 22 days since that person finished their self-isolation, New Zealand is looking to restart its economy by lowering preventative measures to the lowest level.

Maintaining strict border controls to keep people from bringing the virus into the country, all restrictions on people and businesses within the country were lifted June 7. Officials only ask that citizens keep track of where they’ve been and who they have been in contact with for contact tracing purposes should another outbreak occur.

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“We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said at a press conference in Wellington. “Our goal was to move out the other side as quickly and as safely as we could. We now have a head-start on our economic recovery.”

Furthermore, while some domestic sports leagues have resumed around the world, like the German Bundesliga—albeit without crowds, the rugby-obsessed Pacific nation will be the first country that has dealt with its burden of infection to welcome spectators back into professional sports stadiums.

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With a small and often localized population, New Zealand was able to enforce even stricter lockdown measures than in other parts of the world—stalling the disease after 1,500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths. They’ve achieved eradication of the virus and are the first country to do so.

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Employer Welcomes Back 14 Workers With Surprise $1,000 Bonuses – to Spend on Local Businesses

When New Zealanders were given the all-clear and Kiwis began returning to work after the Covid-19 lockdown, some employees were nervous about the state of businesses.

Jenny Beck, an attorney who runs a law office in Dunedin, had heard many small businesses were in dire straits because they depended on tourism—and she got an idea.

At the first staff meeting with everyone back from lockdown, “the mood was anxious,” according to the Otago Daily Times, New Zealand’s oldest daily newspaper.

But, instead of pink slips or salary cuts, the law firm owner gave each of her 14 employees $1000 in cash.

“I told them, and just about everyone cried—and I felt like crying myself,” she told reporter John Lewis.

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The shocked workers were also given a caveat regarding what they could do with the money—paying it forward.

Jenny gave them “stern words” to spend the cash on small businesses, suggesting they take a long weekend, paying for accommodation, food at local restaurants, and tourist attractions, to help get the local economies rolling again.

‘‘I also thought it would be fun, in that my staff would be able to report back on their breaks, and give everyone a boost.’’

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The office really got into the spirit, and began planning trips to a National Park, their favorite restaurants, and kayak rental places.

‘‘I’m really pleased that they’ve picked it up and run with it,” said Jenny. “It’s given a real boost to team morale.’’

WATCH the interviews below… (Video screen grab courtesy of Otago Daily Times)

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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From Hong Kong to New Zealand, Hawaii and Montana, Officials Celebrate No New Cases of COVID-19

Across the world, many countries are seeing the number of new cases of COVID-19 wind down into single digits over the last week. Four places—including a huge city like Hong Kong that was hit hard by the pandemic—are even celebrating zero new cases.

One of the most densely populated cities on earth, Hong Kong has now gone 22 days as of Monday without re-circulation of the virus within the country. The last new case was reported April 20th.

Medical experts have warned that people should keep their guard up, as hiking trails, restaurants, beaches, and parks open with fewer restrictions.

After easing restrictions in February, Hong Kong experienced a surge in new cases, suffering from the often-warned of  “second wave” but has contained the virus very well since then.

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Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam is in talks about freeing citizens from quarantine and travel restrictions between Macau and the Chinese Province of Guangdong according to South China Morning Post.

No COVID for Kiwis

Another nation that will likely soon declare mission accomplished against COVID-19 is New Zealand, which has ended stringent lockdown procedures less than a week ago after Monday passed without any new cases of the virus.

Arriving in mid-March, the coronavirus was responsible for 20 deaths in the Pacific island nation, and although lockdown restrictions are eased, many restaurants remain closed and social distancing is still encouraged.

However the director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield says the milestone of no new cases is a cause for celebration and is “symbolic of the effort everyone has put in.”

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New Zealand currently has a little over 1,000 cases confirmed in the country, and her westerly neighbor Australia is likewise carrying a light viral burden of 6,800 cases and 94 deaths according to Al Jazeera. Talks between the two nations may result soon, according to the New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters in a trans-Tasman travel arrangement, whereby visitors of one country can visit the other freely, saying such an arrangement could work “seriously well.”

No New Cases in Montana or Hawaii

The islands of Hawai’i as recently as May 8th reported no new cases of the novel coronavirus. It’s the first time in two months the spread has halted completely.

Beginning May 18, governors will allow residents to seek reimbursement for expenses if people were impacted by official shutdown measures, which include rent and child care. These orders are beginning to be lifted, with low-risk business reopening.

Honolulu’s Director of Community Services Pamela Witty-Oakland says the capital is working with nonprofit groups like Aloha United Way, Helping Hands Hawaiʻi, and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to provide financial support to the most vulnerable communities.

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“These organizations will work with the families, and those affected. [They] will collect receipts and provide reimbursement of eligible household expenses of up to $1,000 a month, and eligible child care expenses of up to $500 a month,” she said.

Also free of new cases is Montana. The Big Sky State reports no new reports of patients with the virus. COVID-19’s effect in Montana has been so limited, that on May 7th schools were given the option of resuming normal operations.

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This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19 Are Starting to Lift Social Restrictions After Encouraging New Recovery Rates

As the world continues its fight to curb the novel coronavirus outbreaks, several countries have announced significant recoveries this week.

France, Italy, and Spain—the countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases outside of the US—outlined their plans for slowly lifting their various social restrictions as rates of infection and fatality continue to fall.

In light of Italy recording their lowest number of new cases since March 10th, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says that the country will begin reopening the economy on May 4th. Although schools will not reopen until September, small businesses and restaurants will soon be allowed to reopen so long as customers are limited to takeout options and social distancing guidelines. Factories will also be reopened for manufacturing and people will be allowed to visit their relatives in small numbers.

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Meanwhile, Spain celebrated a significant decline in coronavirus-related deaths, with daily counts falling below 300 for the first time since March 20th. Government officials say that they will be slow to reopen the economy; however, they will start to lift social restrictions by allowing children to play outside for one hour per day—a first for the nation’s youth after spending six weeks in isolation.

Al Jazeera reports that France also hailed their largest single-day drop in COVID-19 deaths after it fell by more than 33% in just 24 hours. The country also recorded their lowest number of in-hospital deaths in 5 weeks.

New Zealand was quick to enact some of the world’s strictest social restrictions after confirming just a few cases of the virus back in March. Now, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that the nation’s pre-emptive shutdowns has succeeded in eliminating community transmission of COVID-19 this week. This means that while there will still most likely be new cases of the virus, healthcare officials will know where it is being transmitted.

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Although New Zealand has had 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of novel coronavirus over the course of the last two months, government officials report that they will still be cautious in gradually lifting social restrictions, starting with some non-essential businesses.

South Australia also announced that they are considering easing travel restrictions after the nation made it 7 days without a new recorded case. This accomplishment is largely credited to the province testing more than 15,000 people within a two-week period. There are now currently only 14 active cases.

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Taiwan has been celebrating its own milestone of 17 straight days without any new local cases as well as its first 4-day streak without any new domestic or imported COVID-19 cases.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

Representative photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez

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