New Zealand begins gradual exit from coronavirus lockdown

AUCKLAND: New Zealand has started a phased exit from its coronavirus lockdown, one of the most stringent imposed anywhere in the world, as the number of cases dropped significantly.
After nearly five weeks at the maximum Level Four restrictions – with only essential services operating – the country moved to Level Three late on Monday night. Residents able to travel to work, spend more time outside and order takeaway food for the first time in more than four weeks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claimed the country scored a significant victory but has not completely eradicated the disease. “There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” Ardern declared. “We have won that battle.”
Ardern warned there was no certainty about when all transmission would be eliminated, allowing a return to normal life as strict social distancing remains in force, advising anyone who could work or study to stay at home.
She said that everyone wants to “bring back the social contact that we all miss, but to do it confidently we need to move slowly and we need to move cautiously”. She added: “I will not risk the gains we’ve made in the health of New Zealanders. So if we need to remain at Level Three, we will.”
New Zealand is home to about five million people and reported only one new case of COVID-19 in the 24 hours ahead of the relaxation. The total toll has reached 1,122 cases and 19 deaths, one of the lowest tallies in the world.
The loosening of the restrictions triggered an early morning rush for burgers, fries and coffee, with long queues of cars appearing outside outlets of fast food chain hours before they were due to open, according to the New Zealand Herald.
New Zealand imposed the lockdown in late March closing its borders, shutting down all non-essential businesses and services, and telling people to stay at home – unless for a short walk around the neighbourhood or to visit the supermarket for supplies.
Under Level Three, people are still being urged to stay at home when they are not at work, school or getting food and other essentials. Strict social distancing remains in force, and police will be on the lookout for large groups of people.
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