The Slatest

The Two Countries That Just Declared the Pandemic All but Over

People sit by a road and drink while watching cyclists with face masks ride by.
People sip drinks while cyclists protest Slovenia’s coronavirus restrictions on May 8. Jure Makovec/Getty Images

The small European country of Slovenia declared the coronavirus pandemic over on Thursday, after recording single-digit new cases each day over the past two weeks, while New Zealand announced a broad reopening after three consecutive days with no new cases at all. Slovenia is the first European nation to call an end to extraordinary health measures arising from the pandemic. The nation of 2 million people will now roll back most measures put in place to contain the virus’s spread; by next week, all bars and restaurants will be permitted to reopen. “Slovenia has tamed the epidemic over the past two months. … Today, Slovenia has the best epidemiologic picture in Europe,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa told Parliament Thursday.

New Zealand lifted its national state of emergency on Wednesday, allowing most businesses—bars, restaurants, schools, malls, and movie theaters—to reopen with some limits on capacity. Social distancing guidelines will remain in the country of 5 million, but life will begin to creak back to normal. “We went hard and we went early. We got control of the virus, and now we’re in a position where we can safely step out of those controls and open our economy back up,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week. New Zealand has recorded about 1,500 cases of the virus and 21 fatalities. “There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle,” Ardern announced two weeks ago. “But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”

Slovenia is on a similar trajectory and had already begun easing certain restrictions; public transport resumed this week and some students will return to school as early as next week. The government will halt financial aid to citizens and businesses at the end of the month. Visitors arriving from other European Union countries will no longer be ordered to quarantine for seven days upon arrival, though a 14-day quarantine will remain in place for non-EU arrivals.

Slovenia, which neighbors hard-hit Italy, recorded its first coronavirus case on March 4 and a week later declared an epidemic, taking swift measures in mid-March to close much of public life, including shops, schools, sporting events, bars and restaurants, and public transport. Over the past two months, with intra-European movement basically halted, Slovenia recorded nearly 1,500 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths. “Citizens will still have to follow basic rules to prevent a possible spread of infection, the government said without elaborating,” Reuters reports. “People have been required to wear masks in indoor public spaces, stand at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart and disinfect hands upon entering public spaces.”

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