NZ confirms first new coronavirus cases in 24 days

Both cases were travellers returning to New Zealand from the UK

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 16: Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaks to media during a press conference at the Ministry of Health on June 16, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in New Zealand after 24 days without an active case in the country. The new confirmed cases are returning travellers from the United Kingdom and are related.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
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New Zealand on Tuesday reported two new cases of the coronavirus, ending a 24-day streak of no new infections in the country.

The new infections are a setback to New Zealand, which lifted all social and economic restrictions except border controls last week, declaring it had no new or active cases of the coronavirus. It was one of the first countries in the world to return to pre-pandemic normality.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said new cases may come up in the future as New Zealanders return home, and some others were allowed in under special conditions.

The two new cases were sisters in their 30s and 40s who visited a dying parent in Wellington, the director general of health said.

Both women arrived in New Zealand on June 7 from the UK, via Doha and Brisbane and were in an isolation centre in Auckland. They were given special permission to leave the centre to visit the dying parent in Wellington. Both are in self-isolation now, Ashley Bloomfield said.

This takes the country's infection cases to 1,506, while deaths from the disease remain at 22.

New Zealand's 5 million people emerged from the pandemic while big economies such as Brazil, Britain, India and the United States continue to grapple with spread of the virus.

This was largely due to strict restrictions in which most businesses were shut and everyone except essential workers had to stay home.

Ms Ardern has been wary of saying the country was 'Covid-free' as the global pandemic raged around the world and new cases were likely to come to the country.

"I don't want New Zealanders to believe that the battle is over when it is not," she said earlier this week.