New Zealand will lessen its lockdown restrictions from next week after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she is confident there is no widespread community transmission.
A crunch meeting of the Cabinet agreed, on the recommendation of top health adviser Ashley Bloomfield, to shift New Zealand from its top-alert ‘level four’ to ‘level three’ as of 28 April.
The level three lockdown will be in place for another fortnight, to 11 May, before another evaluation.
While announcing the decision, Ms Ardern paid tribute to Kiwis who have maintained physical distancing and made sacrifices during the clampdown.
“The effort of our team of five million has broken the chain of transmission,” she said.
“All of you have stopped the uncontrolled explosion of COVID-19 in New Zealand and I couldn’t be prouder.”
New Zealand’s lockdown began on 23 March, shifting to the extreme ‘level four’ lockdown on 26 March.
Level three will allow for schools to re-open, more businesses to function and for restaurants to re-open for delivery services only.
Ms Ardern urged New Zealanders not to treat the downscaling of the lockdown as the end of the country’s COVID-19 challenge, warning against complacency.
“Please stay strong. Stay home. Be kind. And let’s finish what we started,” she said.
During the back half of the lockdown, New Zealand’s case numbers have plummeted from a daily high of 89 cases to single digits.
On Monday, Kiwi health officials announced there had been nine new cases, bringing the nationwide tally to 1440.
Of that, 974 people have recovered from the virus.
With no deaths in the last 24 hours, the country’s death toll stands at 12.