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New Zealand PM Ardern lifts COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland

New Zealand PM Ardern lifts COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, Sep 22, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Fiona Goodall)

WELLINGTON: Coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand's largest city will be lifted this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (Oct 5) as she expressed confidence a second wave of coronavirus infections in Auckland has been almost eliminated.

The city will move to alert level 1 from 11.59pm on Wednesday, joining the rest of the country, after reporting no new cases in the Auckland cluster for 10 consecutive days.

READ: COVID-19: Six months after shutting its borders, Australia to allow New Zealanders to enter

"There is now a 95 per cent 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 5 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, prompted Ardern to reinforce restrictions in Auckland.

"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," said Ardern.

READ: COVID-19: New Zealanders may be able to travel to some Australian states before Christmas, PM Ardern says

The easing of measures means there will be no 100 people 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.

Ardern's success in containing coronavirus has played a major part in putting her firmly ahead in polls for a general election on Oct 17.

Despite this, she warned that the success should not be taken for granted: "A resurgence of the virus is not our only worry, resurgence of complacency is right up there too."

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Source: Agencies/zl
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