After nearly five weeks in lockdown Auckland will move out of the highest setting, New Zealands prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said, adding she was confident there was no undetected transmission of the Delta variant in the community.
New Zealand recorded 22 new cases of coronavirus in the community including three cases outside Auckland on Monday which some had feared could put the brakes on the easing of restrictions.
Level 4 has done what we needed to do it has helped us contain the outbreak. Level 3 helps us keep up that important work, Ardern said.
We are not stepping out of level 4 because the job is done, but nor are we moving because we dont think we can achieve the goal of stamping out Covid-19 we are moving because level 3 still provides a cautious approach while we continue to stamp out Covid-19, she said.
It means staying in your bubble, it means contactless transactions and keeping your distance. It means we say thank you to Auckland for their tireless work, and we collectively keep going.
Almost all cases of the last 14 days have either been household or known contacts, and wastewater testing suggests there is no significant undetected transmission.
Ardern said the decision to move down levels is due in part to a couple of observations: there has not been widespread clusters around workplaces, and of the cases where a link has been established, none has resulted from people accessing essential services.
Level 3 allows for people to narrowly expand their bubbles to people who may be isolated and more businesses can provide click-and-collect services or deliveries.
Ardern strongly urged people over 65 years old who had not yet been vaccinated to stay home because of the risk the virus poses.
Auckland will move down settings from midnight Tuesday and stay in level 3 for at least 2 weeks.
A bespoke set of temporary level 4 restrictions will be put in place for the community south of Aucklands border where three household contacts of a remand prisoner with Covid-19 have tested positive for the virus. All three live in the Waikato region, and two are schoolchildren at Mangatangi School. One of those students was symptomatic at school on Thursday.
The rest of the country is at alert level 2 out of lockdown but with restrictions on gatherings and requirements on mask-use. This setting will remain in place as long as Auckland is in level 3 but gatherings will be expanded from 50 to 100 people.
There have now been a total of 1,071 cases in the outbreak, with 337 of those still active. Twelve cases in the last fortnight are yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak, with five of those reported on Monday. There are 16 people in hospital and four in intensive care.
Just over 71% of eligible New Zealanders those aged over 12 have had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and more than 37% are fully vaccinated.*
Cabinet will review the lockdown settings on 4 October.
*A note on data: the Guardian has begun calculating the percentage of NZs eligible population vaccinated from Statistics New Zealand population data, comparing numbers vaccinated against a total 12+ population of 4,355,300. This may differ slightly from government-generated percentages that use different denominators, such as the Health Service Utilisation Population which measures all those 12+ who are engaged with the health system.
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