Australia and New Zealand flatten virus curve but keep blockages intact

SYDNEY: And on Tuesday it dropped calls for easing tough restrictions on travel and public gatherings despite its success in curbing the spread of Covid-19.

The number of new cases in neighboring countries has dropped dramatically in the past two weeks, raising hopes that difficult measures of social distancing may be relaxed.

But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was still many weeks away from lifting any restrictions.

Patience has to be our virtue here, he said, noting that countries like Singapore and South Korea had initial success against Covid-19, but saw an increase in new ones after travel and other restrictions were eased.

Australia recorded just 63 new infections on Sunday and Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 6,366 for a population of 25 million.

It was the lowest increase in two days in a month.

New Zealand, a nation of five million, saw just eight new cases on Tuesday totaling 1,072, its lowest daily increase in more than three weeks.

We have been relatively successful, I don't want to waste that success or the sacrifices New Zealanders have made, New Zealand Prime Minister said Jacinda Ardern He responded Tuesday when asked when the blockade will be reduced.

Our goal should be to go early and hard, so that we can reach a position where we can ease the restrictions with confidence, he said, adding that no action will be taken for at least another week.

Both countries have closed their borders to foreigners and imposed 14-day quarantines on returning residents.

New Zealand has imposed a strict stay-at-home lock, while Australia has imposed strict restrictions on movements, meetings and public activities.

Australians are doing superbly, we've seen real progress, health minister Greg Hunt said Tuesday, linking the slowdown in new cases to people who follow the shutdown rules.

The rest of the world, overwhelmingly, in the blink of an eye, would trade positions with Australia. But the cuts have caused significant economic damage, and Australian officials forecast on Tuesday that unemployment will double to 10 percent despite a massive wave of government spending to counter the impact of the pandemic.