Auckland emerges from strict weeklong Covid lockdown

Auckland has come out of a weeklong lockdown imposed after a community cluster of the more contagious UK coronavirus variant.

There were no new local Covid-19 cases recorded on Sunday, health officials said, allowing for the restrictions to ease. If no community cases are confirmed during the rest of Sunday it would make a full seven days since the last community case.

There are still limits on public gatherings in the city of nearly two million, however, and masks are obligatory on public transport.

Footage on TVNZ showed people lining up at coffee shops on Sunday morning with many saying they were feeling relieved.

The government said it might ease restrictions in Auckland further on Friday to bring them to the same level as in the rest of New Zealand.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said on Friday that she stood by New Zealand’s decision to pursue an elimination strategy, but acknowledged it came with costs, from job losses to school camp cancellations.

She said the government was right to impose the seven-day lockdown, only weeks after lifting three days of snap restrictions, due to the more transmissible and unpredictable nature of the UK variant.

“Level three provided us with an extra layer of security while we addressed the unknowns and reduced the risk,” she said.

Rule breaking under level three, contributing to spread in the Auckland cluster in late February, had been a flashpoint for criticism this week – and sparked calls for the government to do more in terms of community outreach.

Ardern said that she did not believe anyone who broke level-three restrictions set out deliberately to do wrong, but that she had not seen any benefit in continuing a “back-and-forth” over individual cases over this past week.

Swift public health measures combined with aggressive contact tracing, border closures and compulsory quarantine for travellers have been credited with making both New Zealand and Australia highly successful in keeping the pandemic from spreading.

Both countries saw their economies recovering speedily in the second part of 2020. New Zealand has reported just over 2,000 cases of the coronavirus and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Guardian

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