New Zealand has been praised for the way it responded to the COVID-19 outbreak and earlier this year, it appeared to have contained the virus as it succeeded in going longer than three months without recording a single case of community transmission of the virus.
Restrictions were eased, however, a fresh outbreak in Auckland prompted officials to put the city back into lockdown last month.
On September 21, The Guardian reported that Prime Minister Ardern announced the lifting of restrictions across New Zealand, though she noted that while some measures could be eased in Auckland, the city needed more time before all curbs could be lifted.
“Our actions collectively have managed to get the virus under control. This was the center of the outbreak and that’s why that caution is needed here,” Ardern said.
Residents outside Auckland will no longer be required to wear masks on public transport or limit their social gatherings to 100 people. The move to so-called ‘level 1’ rules means a return largely to normal life, and the news has been celebrated online by residents.
Auckland’s rules will ease at 11:59 pm on Wednesday to allow gatherings of up to 100 people, instead of 10, though businesses will be required to maintain physical distancing and masks will still be mandatory on planes and public transport.
Ardern said to reporters that there is ‘no costless response to COVID, no matter what your strategy is.’ The prime minister, who faces an election in October, also pointed out that the country’s economy was ‘more open than that of nearly any other country in the world.’
Though restrictions have lifted, Ardern encouraged residents to continue using the government’s contact tracing app, practice good hygiene, and stay at home if they were unwell.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand reported no new cases today, with its total number of cases at 1,815 and the total number of fatalities at 25 – far fewer than other countries.
There are currently 62 active cases of coronavirus in the country, though Ardern said a health ministry analysis indicated there was still only a 50-50 chance of having eliminated the virus by the end of the month, indicating the need for vigilance.