New Zealand to relax restrictions now COVID-19 outbreak ‘under control’

Sydney, Australia, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- New Zealand’s prime minister announced on Monday the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions put in place to contain an outbreak detected in Auckland last month, which is now considered “under control.”

From 11.59 pm Wednesday, Auckland is to move to Level 2 restrictions, Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference, with the rest of the country moving to the lowest Level 1 at midnight Monday.

“Essentially Auckland needs more time. Whilst we have reasonable confidence that we are on the right track, there is still a need in Auckland for that cautious approach, this was the center of the outbreak and that is why that caution is required here,” Ardern said.

Under Level 2, the authorities will allow social gatherings of up to 100 people for events such as weddings, birthdays and funerals, although it will require Auckland’s 1.7 million residents to wear face masks on public transport.

“If we remain on track it would then be our intention to consider moving alert levels from 7 October,” Ardern said on a day when New Zealand did not register any new cases of COVID-19.

Ardern stressed that the virus is now “under control” given that no new local cases have been registered for several days during this second outbreak that experts have linked to a strain similar to one found in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The leader indicated that health ministry analysis suggest that there is a “50-50 chance” that New Zealand will again eliminate the coronavirus by the end of the month, as it did in early June.

On Aug. 11 as the country reached 102 days without any local transmission, the authorities reported four cases in the same family and a day later declared the confinement of Auckland. It is still unknown where the outbreak originated from.

New Zealand, whose government has been praised for its management against COVID-19 by sealing its borders and applying one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in March when it only had 50 cases, has accumulated 1,464 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, including 25 deaths and 62 active cases.

The Oceanian country, which entered a technical recession last week after falling 12.2 percent in the second quarter as a result of the hard restrictions imposed, will hold general elections on Oct. 17. EFE-EPA


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