Daily US Times: Famous coffee of New Zealand and its fast food seemed to be the first thing on the mind of residents as the country emerged from almost five weeks of strict lockdown.
The alert level has shifted to level three, allowing some non-essential business and takeaway food shops to re-open.
And it wasn’t long before queues were seen in front McDonalds outlets and coffee shops as people rushed out.
One coffee lover said: “That cup of coffee tasted amazing and I felt a sense of normality come back into my life.”
Auckland based Victoria Howe said, “Nothing beats a skilled barista making your coffee.”
Wellington resident Dr Samantha Keene agreed, saying “the ability to get a coffee and a scone made by someone else after weeks of doing it myself was a real treat”.
But it was the re-opening of McDonalds that got people most excited – with local media speaking to one Auckland resident who said he arrived at 04:00 as social media pictures showed queues of cars and people posing with their fast food loot.
Local MP Christopher Bishop said: “It’s just great to have a wee treat at the end of a pretty tough period in lockdown” adding that his order was “a delicious Sausage and Egg McMuffin”.
New Zealand has reported 19 deaths due to coronavirus and confirmed fewer than 1,500 cases.
The country’s Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the low number of new cases in recent days “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination”.
‘Don’t congregate at cafes’
Despite the coronavirus curve appeared to have flattened, the country’s top health expert warned against people congregating outside public spaces.
“Like many people returning to work today, I have enjoyed a takeaway coffee. However it is important not to congregate outside the cafes, the carpark of takeaway places like McDonalds,” Dr Ashley Bloomfield warned.
”We do not want to see the sort of rebound we have seen in other countries.”
Under the level three alert – a notch below its highest alert level – people still have been asked to stay at home and work at home if they can, but businesses are allowed to open if they can provide contactless service.
Schools are also allowed to re-open ensuring social distancing rules are followed. Mass gatherings, however, remain cancelled and public venues closed.
What did New Zealand do right?
New Zealand’s apparent success in containing the virus has been attributed to its early and sweeping actions when the country reported only dozens of cases.
The country brought in some of the toughest restrictions in the world on activity and travel when it only had a few dozen cases.
It started enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, closed its borders, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.
Waterfronts, beaches, and playgrounds were shut on 26 March, as were schools and offices. Restaurants and Bars were also closed, including for takeaway and delivery.
The prime minister said modelling indicated that New Zealand could have had more than 1,000 cases a day if it had not brought in the lockdown so early.
The country’s easily sealable borders and remote location played in its favour when the virus broke out, experts say, but the government has also been praised for the clarity of its messaging throughout the crisis.
That sweeping actions helped stop cases being brought in from overseas – 33% of New Zealand’s cases were imported.
“We only have 102 cases, but so did Italy once,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prof Sanjaya Senanayake of the Australian National University said: “If you look at neighbouring Australia, two-thirds of its cases came from overseas.”
“So it was really important to close the borders and it did that very effectively.”
New Zealand is also working on a contact tracing app, similar to those in use in Singapore and Australia.