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New Zealand succeeds in eradicating coronavirus

Last Updated Jun 7, 2020 at 7:54 pm PDT

A man walks across the frost covered fairways of a golf course in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, June 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has eradicated the coronavirus from its shores after health officials reported Monday that the final person known to have been infected has recovered.

It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported in New Zealand, and Monday also marked the first time since late February that there have been no active cases.

Health officials caution that new cases could be imported into the country, which has closed its borders to everybody but citizens and residents, with some exceptions.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said it was a pleasing development. “Having no active cases for the first time since February 28 is certainly a significant mark in our journey but as we’ve previously said, ongoing vigilance against COVID-19 will continue to be essential,” Bloomfield said.

Experts say a number of factors have helped the nation of 5 million wipe out the disease. Its isolated location in the South Pacific gave it vital time to see how outbreaks spread in other countries, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acted decisively by imposing a strict lockdown early in New Zealand’s outbreak.

Just over 1,500 people contracted the virus in New Zealand, including 22 who died.