New Zealand records no new coronavirus cases for first time in more than a month

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New Zealand on Monday reported no new coronavirus cases for the first time since entering a strict lockdown more than a month ago to slow the spread of the infectious disease.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the figures were clearly encouraging and a cause for celebration but urged caution and vigilance since it won’t be known until later this week if new cases continue to pop up in the community.

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“Clearly these are encouraging figures today, but it is just one moment in time,” Bloomfield said, according to Reuters. “The real test is later this week when we factor in the incubation period for the virus and the time it takes for people to display symptoms, which is generally five to six days after exposure.”

The last time the country reported no new cases was on March 16 before imposing a lockdown. As of Monday, the total number of confirmed infections stands at nearly 1,500, with a death toll of 20.

Surfers prepare to enter the water for a sunrise surf at Sumner Beach after level four COVID-19 restrictions were eased in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 28. New Zealand reported no new coronavirus cases Monday and will announce next week whether measures will be further eased. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Surfers prepare to enter the water for a sunrise surf at Sumner Beach after level four COVID-19 restrictions were eased in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 28. New Zealand reported no new coronavirus cases Monday and will announce next week whether measures will be further eased. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Under the nationwide lockdown that went into effect on March 25, New Zealand closed its borders, shuttered businesses and schools, and imposed strict social distancing measures.

The government began easing the rules last week to help reopen the economy after seeing the virus cases fall to the single digits, remaining in that range over a period of days.

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However, many businesses —including most retail stores and sit-down restaurants — remain closed. Most school children are learning from home, and citizens must maintain social distancing.

Since claiming to have “won” the battle against community spread infections last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged citizens to stay vigilant to maintain their success.

“We cannot afford to squander the good work to date when our end goal is so close and within reach,” Ardern said Monday.

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She said a decision would be made next Monday on whether to ease the rules further.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.