Australian capital is free of all known coronavirus cases, as infections continue to dwindle

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The territory surrounding Australia’s capital city of Canberra has become the first of the country’s eight states and territories to declare itself free of all known coronavirus cases.

Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman told reporters Thursday that the Australian Capital Territory was free of any recorded infection for the first time in seven weeks.

The territory has a population of only 420,000 – the second-smallest state in the country – and it has had 106 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canberra, with three deaths. All other patients have recovered.

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Overall, however, Australia has had at least 6,754 total coronavirus cases — most of which were seen in New South Wales and in Victoria. Figures show that 5,694 people have recovered and 92 have died.

There were 10 new cases recorded nationally in the past 24 hours.

A sign indicates the beach is closed as a surfers arrives for the 7A.M. opening of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, as coranavirus pandemic restrictions are eased. The beach is open to swimmers and surfers to exercise only.

A sign indicates the beach is closed as a surfers arrives for the 7A.M. opening of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, as coranavirus pandemic restrictions are eased. The beach is open to swimmers and surfers to exercise only. (AP)

Australia, and its neighbor New Zealand, have been praised in recent days for successful efforts to squash the spread of the virus.

Early on, both countries issued movement restrictions, closed borders and ordered residents to their homes, except for essential workers and shopping.

“There are no guarantees, I want to stress,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in early April. “This virus writes its own rules. And we have to seek to try and understand them as best we can, and respond as best we can to the pressures that we face.”

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Many Australians have now begun to reclaim minor social freedoms as some states carefully relax the coronavirus lockdown.

In Western Australia, groups of 10 people are now allowed to gather to exercise, and for weddings and funerals, while the state is forcing its hospitality workers to complete a COVID-19 hygiene course as it prepares to reopen bars and eateries, 7news.com.au reported Thursday.

Surfers wait for officials to open Bondi Beach in Sydney, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, as coronavirus pandemic restrictions are eased. The beach is open to swimmers and surfers to exercise only. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Surfers wait for officials to open Bondi Beach in Sydney, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, as coronavirus pandemic restrictions are eased. The beach is open to swimmers and surfers to exercise only. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach reopened to swimmers and surfers on Tuesday, despite the area having Australia’s highest concentration of COVID-19 cases. People can only enter during daylight hours, cannot linger on the sand, and are counted to ensure social distancing.

A virus testing tent was set up nearby due to the high rate of infections, particularly among backpackers who often live in crowded conditions.

Meanwhile, the Northern Territory will ease restrictions on Friday, allowing people to go to playgrounds, pools, water parks and skate parks, and to play non-contact outdoor sports. Residents will also be allowed to visit national parks as long as physical distancing is maintained.

The government is expected to announce on Friday the future of the country’s lockdown measures, considering the risks of a second wave of infections if those measures are lifted too quickly.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd reassured Australians on Thursday that the nation wouldn’t “be caught out all of a sudden,” if the virus begins to spread again.

“If things do start to rise, we’ll see that happening over a period of time and appropriate measures will be recommended and taken when that happens.”

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A man prepares to putt on a green at a golf course as level four COVID-19 restrictions are eased in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. New Zealand eased its strict lockdown restrictions to level three at midnight to open up certain sections of the economy but social distancing rules will still apply. 

A man prepares to putt on a green at a golf course as level four COVID-19 restrictions are eased in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. New Zealand eased its strict lockdown restrictions to level three at midnight to open up certain sections of the economy but social distancing rules will still apply.  (AP)

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters earlier this week the coronavirus was “currently” eliminated.

The island nation has only recorded seven new coronavirus cases this week and no additional deaths. As of Thursday morning, New Zealand had 1,476 coronavirus cases and 19 deaths.

On Monday, Ardern announced the nation will ease its strict lockdown rules from Level Four to Level Three, which will allow some businesses like construction and restaurant takeout service to reopen. Social distancing rules will remain in effect.

Ardern said the nation was reopening the economy, not people’s social lives.

“There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” she said Monday. “We have won that battle, but we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”

Fox News' Stephen Sorace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.