New Zealand is now down to only one active COVID-19 case, reaching a new level of success in its fight against the coronavirus. The last time a new case was reported in the country was more than a week ago; no one is currently hospitalized with the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"For the seventh day in a row, there are no new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand," the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

The news came on the same day that the country further eased its restrictions on the public. It will now permit gatherings of up to 100 people — clearing the way for weddings, parties, funerals and other large events. Restaurants can also host up to 100 people, as long as safety protocols are followed.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly urged caution, even as she has celebrated a string of successes in combating COVID-19.

When Ardern announced last month that the country had eliminated community transmission, she said, "We have won that battle," and added, "But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way."

The prime minister is credited with taking decisive and early action to minimize the coronavirus's impact on her country.

"In mid-March, as cases were exploding in Italy and Spain, Ardern ordered anyone entering New Zealand into quarantine," NPR's Jason Beaubien reports. "At that point, the country had confirmed just six cases. A few days later, on March 19, Ardern shut down travel to the country, essentially banning all foreigners from entering the island nation of 4.8 million."

The prime minister also explained the "unprecedented" threat posed by the coronavirus and the country's plan to tackle it, laying out a four-stage lockdown system that closed schools, businesses and travel.

That system worked well, allowing New Zealand to permit businesses and schools to reopen earlier this month.

In a bid to help the country's economy by bolstering domestic tourism, Ardern has also urged businesses to consider allowing employees to work a four-day week.

Overall, New Zealand has reported a total of 1,154 confirmed and 350 probable cases of COVID-19. Twenty-two people have died.

With seven more people having recovering from COVID-19 late this week, the number of recovered cases now stands at 1,481, the ministry says.

Worldwide, the four countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases are the U.S. — with more than 1.7 million cases — followed by Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

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