Dubai: New Zealand has discharged its last remaining coronavirus patient from hospital and has seen no new cases, a doctor leading the country’s COVID-19 response said on Wednesday.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, told reporters at the COVID-19 press briefing he believed it was the first time in months no patients with the disease were being treated at hospitals.
He said: “Currently there is nobody in hospital with COVID-19 following the discharge of a person from Middlemore Hospital (in Auckland).”
New Zealand’s first recorded case of coronavirus was on February 28, according to Ministry of Health figures.
New Zealand has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic, with just 1,154 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern took a hardline approach to the country’s lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.
Ardern said on Wednesday a draft blueprint on safely starting travel between New Zealand and Australia will be presented to both governments in early June.
The neighbours have been discussing the possibility of a travel bubble between them as both have slowed the spread of the novel coronavirus to levels well below those in United States, Britain and some other European countries, Reuters reported.
Ardern said she spoke to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday and there was enthusiasm for travel to resume on both sides.
“We are working to move on this as quickly as we can. We are both very keen on it ... across both sides of the ditch,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“It won’t be too long before we are ready,” she said.
Over the past two weeks, experts from both countries, including government and airport officials, airlines and health specialists have been working on the plan to re-open their borders with each other.
“Our aim is to put forward a detailed set of recommendations that safely manage any health risks, while also allowing Kiwis and Australians to travel to each country without the need for a 14-day quarantine” Scott Tasker, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, which is developing the plans, said in a statement.
New Zealand is the most popular outbound travel destination for Australians, with 1.5 million of them arriving from across the Tasman Sea in 2019.
Likewise, Australia is the most popular outbound travel destination for New Zealanders.
Ardern has been criticised in recent days for being too cautious. Her deputy, Winston Peters, said New Zealanders should be allowed to travel to Australia now.
Ardern brushed off the criticism as a difference of opinion and said her coalition government had a consensus on all its decisions.
- with inputs from agencies