New Zealand eases virus restrictions but PM Ardern remains wary, Latest World News - The New Paper

New Zealand eases virus restrictions but PM Ardern remains wary

This article is more than 12 months old

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday claimed New Zealand had scored a significant victory against the spread of the coronavirus, as the country began a phased exit from lockdown.

"There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand," Ms Ardern declared.

"We have won that battle."

After nearly five weeks at the maximum Level Four restrictions - with only essential services operating - the country has started moving to Level Three. That will allow some businesses, takeaway food outlets and schools to reopen.

But Ms Ardern warned there was no certainty about when all transmission can be eliminated, allowing a return to normal life.

Everyone wants to "bring back the social contact that we all miss", she said, "but to do it confidently, we need to move slowly and we need to move cautiously".

"I will not risk the gains we've made in the health of New Zealanders. So if we need to remain at Level Three, we will."

The easing of restrictions came as New Zealand, a nation of five million people, reported only one new case of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,122 cases with 19 deaths.

Some countries in Europe have also begun to ease some curbs. Europe's worst-hit countries - Italy, Spain, France and Britain - all reported drops in daily fatality rates on Sunday, a sign the peak of the weeks-long crisis may have passed.

Spain eased curbs yesterday allowing children outside for the first time since mid-March.

Children hopped on bicycles and scooters with some wearing small masks and gloves.

Spain did report 331 deaths yesterday, up from 288 the previous day. With more than 23,000 fatalities, it has the third highest death toll in the world after Italy (26,000) and the US, which has the most fatalities so far with nearly 55,000.

Italy has given the green light for wholesale stores and restaurants to resume business on May 4 and for people once again to stroll in parks and visit relatives.

But Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians that they would still have to wear face masks in public and rigorously observe social distancing. - AFP