WELLINGTON: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern eased the tough nationwide lockdown measures on Friday (Aug 27), although businesses and schools will still be closed and its biggest city Auckland will remain shut for longer.
Ardern said all of New Zealand, except Auckland and Northland, will move one step lower to alert level 3 from Tuesday.
Under level 3, businesses can only operate for click and collect or contactless services. Bars and restaurants remain shut except for takeaways.
Public venues remain closed, while crowds at wedding and funerals are limited to 10 people.
"This is a wait and watch level," Ardern said.
The prime minister added that the country was possibly starting to see a plateau in cases.
Auckland and neighbouring Northland will remain in full level 4 lockdown, possibly for another 2 weeks, Ardern said.
This means Auckland, the epicentre of the outbreak, will be cut off from the rest of the country for now.
The country reported 70 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Friday, all in the epicentre Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the latest outbreak to 347.
New Zealand has been largely free of the virus since last year, barring a small number of cases in February, but that changed last week after an outbreak of the Delta variant erupted in Auckland, prompting Ardern to order the lockdown.
The country has about 2,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far and 26 related deaths.