New Zealand reported two new cases of the coronavirus infection said on Tuesday, more than a week after the country declared itself coronavirus-free. New Zealand said both the new cases are related to recent travel from the UK. The new cases were reported after a 24-day streak of no new infections in the country.
New Zealand had lifted all social and economic restrictions except border controls last week, after declaring it had no new or active cases of the coronavirus, one of the first countries in the world to return to pre-pandemic normality.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned that new cases may come up in the future as New Zealanders return home, and some others were allowed in under special conditions.
The health ministry said the new cases were related to the border as a result of recent travel from the UK. Both cases are connected, it said in a statement.
Further details were expected in a news conference later on Tuesday. New Zealand has so far had 22 deaths from the virus.
Lifting all social and economic restrictions
New Zealand lifted all social and economic restrictions except border controls after declaring on June 8 it was free of the coronavirus, one of the first countries in the world to return to pre-pandemic normality.
Public and private events, the retail and hospitality industries and all public transport were allowed to resume without the distancing rules still in place across much of the world.
"While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone ... Thank you, New Zealand," Ardern told a news conference, saying she had danced for joy at the news.
"We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort."
New Zealand's 5 million people are emerging from the pandemic while big economies such as Brazil, Britain, India and the United States continue to grapple with spread of the virus.
Its 75 days of restrictions included about seven weeks of a strict lockdown in which most businesses were shut and everyone except essential workers had to stay home.
"Today, 75 days later, we are ready," Ardern said, announcing that social distancing restrictions would end at midnight.
(With Reuters inputs)