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New Zealand is again a country united in its response to coronavirus, with Auckland joining the rest of the nation on the lowest alert level.
Auckland was freed from restrictions on gatherings and social distancing requirements in restaurants and bars at midnight on Wednesday. That day three new cases were announced, bringing the total of active cases to 37. Key to lowering the alert level was the absence of active cases in the community, meaning all current cases are in quarantine facilities or managed isolation at home.
Twenty-five people have died of Covid-19 in New Zealand, including three since Auckland was put back into level 3 lockdown after a family of four tested positive for the virus on 11 August.
This cluster – origin unknown – spread to become the country’s largest, infecting 179 people. Most of the deaths have been in Canterbury, in the South Island, due to the coronavirus spreading through a rest home in Christchurch.
While wearing masks on public transport is not required at level 1, it is encouraged, as is recording visits to shops and businesses, and for people to isolate and be tested for the coronavirus if unwell. Anecdotal reports suggest people are remaining vigilant – a commuter tweeted this morning that almost everyone on her bus into the city wore a mask.
It remains the case that only New Zealand residents and citizens, and their children and partners, are permitted to enter New Zealand.
While some doctors are urging the government to keep testing stations open, Auckland businesses are hoping trade will pick up fast with the lifting of restrictions.
“In level 2, 75% of businesses in Auckland were operating around 60 to 65%,” Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Business Chamber, told Radio New Zealand.
“But in level 1, the same group is more likely to be operating at about 85%, so that’s good for the economy and good for business.”
Barnett also hopes the border will be well protected to reduce the likelihood of another lockdown.
In September, Statistics New Zealand reported the economy had shrunk a record 12% due to the impact of coronavirus, signalling the nation of five million people is officially in recession for the first time in 11 years.
Alert level 1 allows the return to workplaces, schools, sports competitions and unrestricted domestic travel. New Zealand previously moved to that level on 8 June after being declared Covid-free for the first time.
With the country reopened once more there will be crowds in the stands when the All Blacks play Australia in two rugby Bledisloe Cup matches later this month. Diwali festivals can go ahead from the end of the month along with a package of events to support the America’s Cup over summer.
But coronavirus has already caused the cancellation of the two international tennis tournaments held annually in Auckland in January.
The second lockdown resulted in the general election being delayed by four weeks, with Kiwis now going to the polls on 17 October. The government’s handling of the pandemic and its economic management, including record borrowing to soften the impact, have become the most prominent election issues.
Jacinda Arden’s Labour party with its slogan “Let’s keep moving” is campaigning on its record including being one of the most successful countries at managing Covid-19, and policies in tune with Ardern declaring climate change “my generation’s nuclear-free moment”.
National, the main opposition party, is campaigning on the assertion it is the better economic manager.
The challenge for the new government will be to manage the border to prevent another outbreak while also stimulating an economy for which tourism before Covid-19 was the biggest export industry, contributing 20% of total export revenue and directly employing 8.4% of the workforce.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: New Zealand whole again as Auckland lockdown ends | New Zealand