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New cabinet focused on Covid-19 recovery named in NZ

Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled her new cabinet, which will create new portfolios for the country’s economic recovery and ongoing Covid-19 response.

“The next three years will be very challenging for New Zealand. With the global outlook worsening we won’t be immune to the ongoing impact Covid-19 is having around the world,” Xinhua news agency quoted Ardern as saying at a press conference.

“With this in mind the new Labor government will have two overarching priorities: to drive our economic recovery from Covid-19, and to continue our health response to keep New Zealanders safe from the virus,” she added.

Grant Robertson will become the Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Infrastructure Minister, drawing together the key portfolios central to that economic recovery, according to Ardern.

The incumbent Health Minister Chris Hipkins has been given the Covid-19 response portfolio.

The premier said that this new portfolio will give the minister responsibility for all aspects of the ongoing response, including the running of managed isolation facilities, border defenses as well as health response including testing and contact tracing systems and managing any resurgence of the virus.

Andrew Little will become the Minister of Health, driving overdue reforms of the system aimed at improving health outcomes for all New Zealanders, she said.

Nanaia Mahuta will become the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the first woman in New Zealand’s history appointed to the post.

The new cabinet line-up comes after Ardern secured a second term after winning a landslide majority in the October 17 general elections.

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coronavirus International Latest News

New Zealand declared COVID-19-free

Wellington: New Zealand has lifted almost all of its coronavirus restrictions after reporting no active cases in the country. At midnight local time (12:00 GMT), all of New Zealand moved to level one, the lowest of a four-tier alert system, the BBC reported.

Under new rules, social distancing is not required and there are no limits on public gatherings, but borders remain closed to foreigners.

New Zealand has reported no new Covid-19 cases for more than two weeks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters she did “a little dance” when she was told the country no longer had any active virus cases.

“While we’re in a safer, stronger position, there`s still no easy path back to pre-Covid life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild,” Ardern said.

“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple, Thank you, New Zealand.”

New Zealand first went into lockdown on 25 March, setting up a new four-stage alert system and going in at level four, where most businesses were shut, schools closed and people told to stay at home.

After more than five weeks, it moved to level three in April, allowing takeaway food shops and some non-essential businesses to re-open.

As the number of community cases continued to decline, the country moved into level two in mid-May.

Under the new rules, all schools and workplaces can open. Weddings, funerals and public transport can resume without any restrictions. Social distancing is no longer required but will be encouraged.

The country’s borders remain closed to foreign travellers, and rules remain in place requiring New Zealanders arriving from abroad to go through a 14-day period of isolation or quarantine.

Ardern warned that the country would “certainly see cases again”, adding that “elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort”.

New Zealand has recorded 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from Covid-19 since the virus arrived in late February, but has been widely praised for its handling of the crisis.

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