New Zealanders wear face masks as Auckland lockdown lifted

Medical staff prepare to take Covid-19 tests at a drive-through assessment centre in Christchurch early this month. (AP pic)

WELLINGTON: Schools and businesses reopened in Auckland on Monday after the lifting of a lockdown in New Zealand’s largest city to contain the resurgence of the coronavirus, but face masks were made mandatory on public transport across the country.

The Pacific nation of 5 million people had appeared to have succeeded in halting community transmission of Covid-19, but a fresh outbreak in Auckland prompted the government to place the city back in lockdown earlier this month.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern scaled back the restrictions in Auckland on Sunday, but made masks compulsory on public transport.

Ardern said on Monday that she was confident the new measure would be taken up across New Zealand, adding that “a bit of smiling with the eyes behind the mask” and kindness to Aucklanders in particular, would help get the country through the latest outbreak.

“We have a plan that we know will work. We just need everyone’s compliance and help. If everyone sticks to those guidelines and rules, coupled together with all the public health measures that we have, we can make this work,” Ardern, wearing a mask herself, told reporters in Auckland.

Students in Auckland returned to school after many weeks of disruptions.

“To me, it’s so good for them to go back to school. Online work, online school is alright but it’s still not good enough for them. So it’s good to get out of the house,” said one parent.

Limits on public gatherings in Auckland remain and the rest of the country remains in alert level 2, which means social distancing norms must be followed.

New Zealand announced 9 new coronavirus cases on Monday, five of which were in the community and were traced to the known Auckland cluster.

New Zealand has recorded 1,387 total confirmed cases of Covid-19 so far, and 22 deaths.

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