New Zealand to lift coronavirus lockdown in biggest city on Sunday

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Wellington, New Zealand, February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Praveen Menon

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government will on Sunday lift a lockdown in the country’s largest city of Auckland which was prompted by just one new case of the coronavirus.

Ardern imposed a seven-day lockdown on the city of 2 million last Saturday, continuing its “go hard, go early” response throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Two more locally transmitted cases were subsequently reported, but no new cases have been reported in the last five days.

“We may not be in the devastating position that much of the rest of the world finds itself in, but an elimination strategy can feel like hard work and it is completely natural to feel fatigued,” Ardern told a news conference on Friday.

“COVID is hard work for everyone. Thank you for pushing through once again.”

Ardern’s approach has been credited with making New Zealand one of the most successful countries in the world at controlling the spread of the coronavirus, but the latest shutdown has been criticised by some on social media as several sporting and cultural events had to be called off.

Ardern said Auckland will move to alert level two after the lockdown ends at 6 a.m. local time on Sunday (1700 GMT Saturday), down from alert level 3 which requires people to remain in their household bubbles when not at work or school.

The rest of the country will move to alert level one, which is the lowest.

New Zealand has reported just over 2,000 cases of the coronavirus and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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