NZ quietly achieves COVID-19 elimination

Ben McKay

With little fanfare and a very confused health department, New Zealand has achieved its goal of eliminating COVID-19.

On Monday, New Zealand notched its 24th straight day without unearthing a new case of the virus, which locally has infected 1504 people and killed 22.

More significantly, it also achieved four weeks since the return to health of the last person to be infected through community transmission; achieving its own definition of elimination.

However, the health department is not celebrating or even acknowledging the achievement.

There was no mention of the milestone in its daily COVID-19 briefing, which instead focused on the closure of a cluster centred on Auckland's Marist College, and encouraged Kiwis to download the NZ COVID Tracer app.

That's because the department's commitment to public health messaging is so absolute, it doesn't want to note the milestone even as New Zealand walks away from all coronavirus-related restrictions.

"Elimination is not a point in time, there will not be a date on which New Zealand has eliminated COVID-19," a statement provided to AAP reads.

The statement then goes on to specify the point in time and date in which New Zealand has eliminated COVID-19.

"(Elimination) is being confident that we have eliminated chains of transmission in our community for at least 28 days and can effectively prevent or contain any future imported cases from overseas.

"From our definition of elimination, that count starts at the point at which the last locally acquired source-unknown case of COVID-19 finishes their self-isolation.

"(That was) a person who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 29, and they were in self-isolation until May 18."

New Zealand's lockdown and action against the virus allowed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to relax all restrictions except for border controls as of last week.

Work is underway with Australia to return regular trans-Tasman travel between the two countries.