New Zealand relaxes COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland

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Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's Prime Minister

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is moving out of a strict COVID-19 lockdown, as the country contained a Delta variant outbreak.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the city would see restrictions slightly eased from Wednesday.

The country was put in a hard lockdown within hours of a single case being detected on Aug. 18, with all schools and non-essential businesses closed.

Auckland has remained in lockdown since, while the rest of New Zealand had restrictions eased within a fortnight.

Ardern said that from Wednesday businesses in Auckland could reopen but only in a non-contact way.

Schools would only open for the children of essential workers.

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“Delta does have a long hard tail to it. Keep your bubbles tight. I know that it is strict and it is hard, but (the requirement) is there for a reason,’’ Ardern said.

She asked that Aucklanders aged over-65 to “stay home and be cautious’’ if they had not yet been vaccinated.

She thanked the city’s 1.7 million residents for “persevering” with the lockdown.

It was the first nationwide lockdown in New Zealand since March 2020, where the entire country was at the highest level of restrictions for six weeks.

The country, with a population of five million, has reported about 4,000 cases of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic with 27 deaths.