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100-person gatherings and bars open: New Zealand's plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

In late March, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern activated one of the world’s strictest lockdown measures to mitigate the health risk presented by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, New Zealand has been credited with one of the best public health responses to COVID-19 in the world.

This week, the nation has recorded just three new cases. In total, they have recorded 21 deaths.

Now, New Zealand is able to prepare for the path out from lockdown, ahead of other Western countries.

On Thursday, Ardern outlined the new rules the country will face when New Zealand moves from a ‘level four’ lockdown to a ‘level two’ lockdown. New Zealand’s national cabinet will decide on Monday when the transition to level two will begin.

In level two, businesses will be allowed to re-open, domestic travel can re-commence, school is back in session and professional sport competitions will be played.

Side note… Celebrities are getting creative in isolation. Post continues below video. 

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“We need to balance the risk of the virus bouncing back against the strong desire to get the economy moving again,” Ardern said.

“We think of ourselves as halfway down Everest. I think it’s clear that no one wants to hike back up there.”

With Australia also preparing to life some restrictions over the coming weeks, New Zealand’s update provides possible indicators to what the foreseeable future could look like here.

Here’s how New Zealand’s level two restrictions will work.

Hospitality

Hospitality businesses will be allowed to reopen, the Prime Minister announced, on the condition that they follow “the three S’s” – that is “seated, separated and single service”.

Seated: All customers will be required to be safely seated, and guests will not be permitted to stand around waiting for tables.

Separation: Tables must be socially distanced from each other, about two metres. And no venue will be allowed to hold more than 100 people, regardless of their size or normal capacity.

Single service: Every venue must have table service, meaning no one can go to the counter. There will also be one server per table, to minimise contact and mitigate the risk.

Gatherings

Gatherings in New Zealand will be limited to a maximum of 100 people, inside and outside. This includes weddings and funerals.

It also means museums and markets can reopen.

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New Zealand restrictions
New Zealand has been credited with one of the best public health responses to COVID-19 in the world. Image: Getty.

Socialising

The easing of restrictions will see the dismantling of the bubble rule, which has outlawed socialising outside households, splitting families and friends, and kept Kiwis cooped up at home for the past seven weeks.

While friends and families will be able to share "a careful hug", Ardern said handshakes or contact with strangers will still be a no-go.

"The aim is still to reduce close contact with strangers, acknowledging that the virus is probably still with us so we need to behave differently to prevent it taking off again," she said.

"This is not the time for a large party or function at your home.

"We all have to stay on guard."

Shops, hairdressers and gyms

Kiwis will be eyeing their first haircuts in almost two months, with hairdressers, gyms, libraries and retailers all set for a green light. Hairdressers and beauty salon staff will be asked to wear personal protective equipment.

Retail shops can also reopen, and professional sport can restart domestically, without crowds. Recreational sport can also restart, including contact sports.

Workplaces

Businesses will be able to reopen for customers, and staff can return to their offices.

However, Ardern urges employers to adopt staggered start times for their staff to ensure there is less congestion and states that working from home should continue where possible.

Ardern also left open the possibility the level two rules could be phased in at different times across the country, noting many communities had different case numbers.

Kiwis have supported the lockdown in large numbers but have grown weary of the more brutal measures, such as retail restrictions.

Feature Image: Getty. 


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