Australia has reported its first week without a locally transmitted coronavirus case for the first time in more than nine months, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
The major milestone comes as social distancing restrictions continue to be eased and Queensland announced it would on Saturday open its border to New Zealand travellers.
“Advice just received from the National Incident Centre,” Mr Hunt tweeted on Friday afternoon.
“Today marks the first 7-day period without any cases of community transmission since February 29.”
Australia’s ability to contain the spread of the deadly virus has allowed nearly all state borders to open ahead of Christmas, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk breaking from her strict stance on travel to allow tourists to enter the Sunshine State from across the Tasman Sea.
“(Chief health officer) Dr Jeannette Young advised me late last night that New Zealand is good to go,” she told Today on Friday morning.
“So, visitors coming in from New Zealand from 1am tomorrow are welcome into Queensland.
“We are hoping that eventually New Zealand will not have to hotel quarantine upon return, and then there would be free flowing movement between the two.”
Only one more internal border needs to reopen – the one between South Australia and Western Australia, which Premier Mark McGowan has promised to do on Christmas Day.
Mr Hunt celebrated the positive milestone comes as countries across the world continue to report horrific death rates from the pandemic.
Deaths in the United States as a result of coronavirus reached 3054 on Thursday local time, while hospitalisations also hit a record high of 107,248, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
And the worst has only just begun, doctors have said, with a predicted post-thanksgiving surge leading to widespread infections and consistently record-setting hospitalisations and deaths.
“Things are really bad,” dean of Brown University School of Public Health, Dr Ashish Jha, told CNN.
“What we have seen over the last few weeks is a sharp rise in infections. And what we know – from the beginning of this pandemic – is infections are followed by hospitalisations, which are then followed by death.”