New Zealand to ease restrictions after ‘stopping explosion’

New Zealand to ease restrictions after 'stopping explosion'
Jacinda Ardern has thanked people for "stopping an uncontrolled explosion of Covid-19". Source: AFP
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Daily US Times: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has thanked people for “stopping an uncontrolled explosion of Covid-19”, as she announced an easing of lockdown.

The country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been praised. New Zealand acted quicky and strictly against the virus and will move from “Level 4” lockdown to “Level 3” late next Monday.

It means some schools can reopen, along with some businesses, while rules on local travel will be relaxed.

Ms Ardern said, “We have done what very few countries have been able to do.”

The five million population nation has had 1,440 confirmed cases with 12 deaths, while seven of the deaths are linked to a care home in Christchurch.

On Monday, just nine new cases were announced.

Meanwhile, global death toll of coronavirus raised to 166,267, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The United States is currently the epicenter of the outbreak where more than 40,000 people have died so far.

What is changing in New Zealand?

On 25 March, New Zealand introduced a state of national emergency and went to “Level 4” later that day.

That was four days before the first coronavirus-related death in the country was confirmed.

The Level 4 lockdown meant people had to stay at home, and are allowed only for “essential personal movement”. Exercise was allowed locally, but travel was “severely limited”.

Businesses closed – except for essential services – as did public venues and schools. All gatherings were canceled.

But as the country is going to shift level 3, some of those restrictions to be relaxed. Businesses can open but not “physically interact with customers” and schools can open with “limited capacity”.

Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed but only for weddings, tangihanga (Maori funeral rites) and funerals.

The level 3 will last for two weeks, with a new decision going to take place on 11 May.

The country closed its borders to almost all foreign travellers on 19 March – but that policy remains unchanged.

What did Jacinda Ardern say?

She said: “We believe that decisive action, going hard and going early, gave us the very best chance of stamping out the virus. And it has.”

The Prime Minister said to her nation that what they have done, very few countries have been able to do.

”We have stopped a wave of devastation.”

Ms Ardern said the transmission rate – the number of cases each person with the virus passes it onto – is now less than half a person each.

“I couldn’t feel prouder of the start that we have made together,” she said.