New Zealand to ease COVID-19 restrictions for every region except Auckland
All of New Zealand outside of Auckland will move to level 2 at midnight on Tuesday while Auckland will stay at level 4 until at least next Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.
She also introduced face coverings and two metre physical distancing to level 2 restrictions for people inside facilities like hospitality and event venues. They will now have a limit of 50 people indoors while outdoor spaces can have up to 100 people.
“We are making progress but there are some critical challenges ahead. We continue to see persistent cases connected to the outbreak,” Ms Ardern said at the post-Cabinet announcement on Monday.
“We have learned the hard way that Delta travels through the air.”
The country went into lockdown on August 17 as a response to the Delta outbreak before dropping to level 3 on August 31. But Auckland, the centre of the outbreak, remained at a strict level 4 and was set to stay there for at least another week.
The decision posed a challenge to Northland, which was now cut off from the rest of the country, but the Government was working through the issues, Ms Ardern said.
“Level 4 restrictions are working but the job is not done. We are within sight of elimination but we cannot drop the ball.”
The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there were 20 new community cases in Auckland, with 821 cases in the outbreak. Six of the cases were in an ICU or high dependency unit.
Ninety-one per cent of the more than 38,000 contacts had been tested for COVID-19 and 33 cases had yet to be epidemiologically linked to the cluster, including five of Monday’s cases, but Dr Bloomfield expected that number to fall.
“All these numbers are moving in the right direction, which is reassuring,” he said.
He said officials would be working to ensure there weren’t any undetected community cases in Auckland. Staff at MIQ would be tested twice weekly and essential workers crossing the Auckland border would be expected to have had a test in last seven days and show proof of this.
There will be more regular surveillance testing for health workers treating COVID-19 patients as well, he said.
“The sole purpose is to ensure we stamp out the Delta outbreak.”
Infections had been falling since late last week with 20 cases announced on both Saturday and Sunday. Dr Bloomfield said it showed the restrictions were working.
Bloomfield on Sunday confirmed the Ministry of Health was working on tweaks to alert level 2 but there wouldn’t be any regional differences between the North and South Island over what level 2 entailed. None of the cases in the outbreak had been in the South Island.
Auckland is due an alert level review next Monday.