Oct. 7 (UPI) — New Zealand on Wednesday announced it has eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus for a second time as cases surge in Europe.
New Zealand’s Health Minister Chris Hipkins said there were no more active community cases of COVID-19 in the country after the last patients had recovered from a recent outbreak of the virus.
“This is a big milestone,” he said. “New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced in early June that the archipelago Oceania nation had eliminated the virus, lifting the country from weeks of strict lockdown measures in doing so.
But after going more than 100 days without reporting local transmission of the virus, the country was placed back under lockdown in August as four new cases were confirmed among a single Auckland family with no known source of transmission.
In total, 186 community cases of COVID-19 — 179 of which were connected to the Auckland cluster — were diagnosed, but all of them have since been discharged from hospitals. The so-called Auckland cluster will be officially considered “closed” after two incubation periods have elapsed.
“While having stamped out COVID-19 in our community for the second time is a real achievement that New Zealanders should be proud of, there is an ongoing risk that further community cases will emerge in the future,” he said. “I urge New Zealanders to remain vigilant and to not let complacency creep in.”
New Zealand has been internationally lauded for its suppression of the coronavirus, having reported only 25 deaths and fewer than 1,600 confirmed cases of the virus that was first diagnosed in the country in late February.
On Wednesday, health officials reported three new imported cases in New Zealand, and they have been isolated in quarantine, lifting its total number of confirmed cases to 1,505 and 1,861 confirmed and probable cases.
Auckland, which has been under Alert Level 2 lockdown since August, will move to the less restrictive Alert Level 1 at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
In Europe, however, cases have been surging since Septemeber.
On Wednesday, health officials in the Czech Republic announced a record high 4,457 cases, trumping its previous high of 3,796 infections diagnosed late last week.
The central European country has been battling skyrocketing cases since late August, lifting its total number of infections to 90,022, nearly half of which were still active by Wednesday morning.
The Czech Republic also recorded a record high of 36 deaths in the last 24 hours for a total of 794.
A state of emergency went into effect on Monday that will last at least 30 days, enforcing strict social distancing, closing secondary schools where clusters are reported and banning spectators from sporting events, among other actions.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 27 European nations, including the Czech Republic, have experienced high levels or sustained increases in 14-day COVID-19 case rates compared to the previous week.
Europe over Tuesday added more than 82,000 infections, more than any other continent aside from Asia where India accounted for the majority of its 108,000 cases with some 72,000, according to statistics by Worldometer.info.
As of early Wednesday, there were more than 35.8 million cases worldwide, including 1.05 million deaths, according to a live tally of the pandemic by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States has held the top spot with more than 7.5 million cases for months, but India is catching up as it has struggled to contain skyrocketing infections.
On Wednesday, health officials in New Delhi reported 72,049 cases, lifting its total to 6.7 million infections.