New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that coronavirus restrictions in Auckland would be lifted this week, as she expressed confidence the second wave of coronavirus infections in the country’s biggest city had been almost eliminated.
“It felt longer, and dragged on in what was already starting to feel like a very long year,” she said.
“But despite this, Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan that has worked twice now, and beat the virus again.”
The city will move to alert level 1 before midnight on Wednesday, joining the rest of the country, with no new cases reported in the Auckland cluster for 10 consecutive days.
“There is now a 95-percent probability of the cluster being eliminated,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come. But we should still mark these milestones.”
New Zealand, a nation of five million, appeared to have stamped out community transmission of COVID-19 earlier this year following a tough nationwide lockdown that was subsequently lifted.
The renewed Auckland outbreak, detected in August, was the biggest the country had seen, with 179 linked cases, and prompted Ardern to reinforce restrictions in Auckland.
October 17 general election
The easing of measures means there will be no 100-person limit on gatherings in Auckland, and no physical distancing rules in bars and restaurants.
The country recorded one new case on Monday, involving a New Zealander returning from overseas, taking its total number of confirmed cases to 1,499, including 25 deaths.
Well done Aotearoa! We did it. https://t.co/CZREe83bMY
— Helen Clark Foundation (@HelenClarkFound) October 5, 2020
Ardern’s success in containing the coronavirus has played a significant role in putting her firmly ahead in polls for a general election on October 17.
Still, Ardern warned that success could not be taken for granted.
She pointed to a decline in the use of the official COVID-19 tracing app and falling virus test numbers.
“A resurgence of the virus is not our only worry, resurgence of complacency is right up there too,” Ardern said.