‘Won that battle’: NZ plans phased exit from coronavirus lockdown


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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has claimed the country scored a significant victory against the spread of the coronavirus as it begins a phased exit from lockdown.
After nearly five weeks at the maximum Level Four restrictions – with only essential services operating – the country will move to Level Three late on Monday.
“There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand,” Ardern declared. “We have won that battle.”
The announcement will allow some businesses, takeaway food outlets and schools to reopen.
However, Ardern warned there was no certainty about when all transmission can be eliminated, allowing a return to normal life.
Everyone wants to “bring back the social contact that we all miss, but to do it confidently we need to move slowly and we need to move cautiously”.
“I will not risk the gains we’ve made in the health of New Zealanders. So if we need to remain at Level Three, we will.”
The easing of restrictions came as New Zealand, a nation of five million people, reported only one new case of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,122 with 19 deaths.
New Zealand entered a four-week lockdown in late March, which included closing the island nation’s borders, countrywide stay-at-home orders and shuttering all non-essential businesses and services.
The draconian measures made the country one of the most successful in containing the virus.
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