Auckland has emerged from a week-long lockdown after a community group of the most contagious UK coronavirus variant.
Health officials said that no new domestic cases of Covid-19 were recorded on Sunday, which allowed restrictions to be eased. If no community cases are confirmed during the remainder of Sunday, that will be a full seven days since the last community case.
However, restrictions remain on public gatherings in the city of nearly two million people, and masks are mandatory on public transport.
TVNZ footage showed people lining up in cafes on Sunday morning, with many saying they felt relieved.
The government said it may ease restrictions in Auckland further on Friday to bring it to the same level as in the rest of the country New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday that she is sticking to New Zealand’s decision to pursue the abolition strategy, but acknowledged that it comes with costs, from job losses to canceling school camps.
She said the government was right to impose a seven-day lockdown, just weeks after the three days of sudden lifting of restrictions, due to the more transmissible and unpredictable nature of the UK variant.
“The third level provided us with an extra layer of security while we were tackling the unknown and we reduced the risks,” she said.
Violating the rule under Level Three, and contributing to the spread in the Oakland Group in late February, was a flashpoint for criticism this week – and sparked calls for the government to do more in terms of community outreach.
Ardern said she did not believe that anyone violating Level 3 restrictions would have made a deliberate mistake, but she saw no benefit in continuing “back and forth” on individual cases over the past week.
Rapid public health measures combined with aggressive contact tracing, border closures and mandatory quarantines of travelers are credited with making both New Zealand and Australia so successful in preventing the spread of the epidemic.
Both countries saw their economies recover quickly in the second part of 2020. New Zealand has reported more than 2,000 cases of coronavirus and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic.