New Zealand will begin easing its coronavirus restrictions next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday.
The country will move from the highest restriction — alert level four — to level three from the morning of April 28, according to Ardern. The situation will be reviewed after two weeks.
In harsher measures than those seen in Australia, NZ closed all non-essential services, including offices and schools, in late March. The country also entered a four-week lockdown.
Ardern said she had considered easing restrictions this week, but decided “the longer we are in lockdown the less likely it is we will need to go back”.
Level three restrictions will involve only leaving home to get essentials, to exercise, or to go to work or school, with early learning centres and schools to open for up to Year 10. However, the public will be encouraged to work and learn from home if possible.
The construction, manufacturing, forestry and retail industries will also be allowed to open. Parks and beaches will also be open for exercise only, while restaurants will be permitted to operate delivery services.
Finally, level three restrictions will allow individuals to visit close family, romantic partners, isolated people, and caregivers.
Ardern urged people to follow the rules in order to avoid reverting to another lockdown.
“Stay strong, stay home, be kind, and let’s finish what we started,” she said.
With a population of nearly 4.9 million, NZ has had just 1440 cases, 974 recoveries, and 12 deaths.
Its COVID-19 transmission rate sits at less than 0.5, compared to an average of 2.5 people overseas. The country has also tested more than 85,000 people for the disease.
The PM noted police would continue to enforce measures under the eased restrictions, “but there is more trust at alert level three”.
“These rules will be so important. We all want to continue to progress down the levels. The best hope of getting back to normal as soon as possible, is never getting ahead of where we are right now,” she said.