New Zealand will ease coronavirus restrictions in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday, ending nearly five weeks of the strictest lockdown in the country’s most populous city.
Some businesses, including restaurants and cafes, will be allowed to reopen for takeout and delivery from Tuesday evening, and as many as 10 people will be allowed to gather in the city for ceremonies, including funerals and weddings, Ms Ardern told reporters. In New Zealand’s four-tier system of Covid rules, Auckland is now at level 3, the second most restrictive. The rest of the country has been below Level 2 for the past two weeks.
The measures have frustrated residents and closed businesses, as the country is one of the few committed to completely eradicating the Delta variant of the coronavirus. There were 22 new cases reported Monday, up from a peak of 83 during this outbreak. New Zealand slowly began easing some of the world’s strictest antivirus measures earlier this month, with the goal of reopening borders to foreigners next year.
“We continue to do the work to eradicate Covid,” said Ms Ardern. “We’re not getting out of level 4 because the job is done. We are also not moving because we don’t think we can achieve the goal of eradicating Covid-19.”
Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have begun to reopen despite the rising number of new cases, recognizing that strategies aimed at eliminating the virus may be unsustainable. Australian authorities have said the country will begin to reopen once 70 percent of the eligible population has been vaccinated. Singapore has relaxed quarantine rules for some travelers. In Vietnam, businesses are reopening, although there are still many cases.
Ms Ardern insisted that the change to the rules for Auckland should be seen as a cautious step. In the rest of New Zealand, restrictions on indoor gatherings, including restaurants and bars, will be further relaxed, allowing 100 people to gather. The new restrictions will remain in effect for a minimum of two weeks and will be reassessed on October 4.
Elsewhere in the world:
Vatican CITY will require residents, employees and visitors from Oct. 1 to demonstrate immunity to Covid-19, officials announced Monday. The measure is in line with the requirement introduced last week in Italy, which surrounds the small state. Vatican police will check so-called green passes, which will show whether the holder has received at least one dose of vaccine, has recovered from a coronavirus infection or has recently tested negative. The only exception is for people attending Mass.