New Zealand will ease coronavirus restrictions in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday, ending nearly five weeks of the strictest lockdown in the country’s most populous city.
Some businesses, including restaurants and cafes, will be allowed to reopen for takeout and delivery beginning Tuesday night, and as many as 10 people will be permitted to gather in the city for ceremonies including funerals and weddings, Ms. Ardern told reporters. In New Zealand’s four-tier system of Covid rules, Auckland will now be at Level 3, the second most restrictive. The rest of the country has been under Level 2 for the past two weeks.
The measures have frustrated residents and shuttered businesses, as the country remained one of the few committed to completely eliminating the Delta variant of the coronavirus. There were 22 new cases reported on Monday, down from a peak of 83 during this outbreak. New Zealand began slowly relaxing some of the world’s strictest antivirus measures earlier this month, aiming to reopen borders to foreigners some time next year.
“We keep doing the job of stamping out Covid,” Ms. Ardern said. “We are not stepping out of Level 4 because the job is done. Nor are we moving because we don’t think we can achieve the goal of stamping out Covid-19.”
Other nations in the Asia Pacific region have begun to reopen despite rising numbers of new cases, acknowledging that strategies that aim to eliminate the virus may be untenable. Australian authorities have said that country will begin to reopen once 70 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated. Singapore has loosened quarantine rules for some travelers. In Vietnam, businesses are reopening, although cases are still high.
Ms. Ardern insisted that the change in rules for Auckland should be considered a cautious step. Across the rest of New Zealand, restrictions at indoor gatherings, including restaurants and bars, will be further eased, allowing 100 people to gather. The new restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks, and will be reassessed on Oct. 4.
Elsewhere in the world:
Vatican City will require residents, workers and visitors to show that they have immunity against Covid-19 starting Oct. 1, officials announced on Monday. The measure matches the requirement introduced last week in Italy, which surrounds the small state. The Vatican police force will check what are called Green Passes, which show whether the holder has received at least one dose of vaccine, recovered from a coronavirus infection or tested negative recently. The only exception will be for people attending Mass.