New Zealand’s largest city to relax Covid curbs

New Zealand’s largest city Auckland will relax restrictions by moving to Covid-19 Alert Level 3 at 11.59 p.m. on Tuesday for at least two weeks, as the country reported 22 new Delta cases on Monday.

The city has remained at level 4, the top-level Covid-19 lockdown, for more than 30 days, longer than last year’s lockdown, with schools and none-essential businesses closed, reports Xinhua news agency.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Monday after a post-cabinet meeting.

Construction work and takeaway services can resume with necessary safety measures in place, while most students are encouraged to study at home.

The rest of the country will stay at Alert Level 2, which means businesses and schools are back to normal, with masks-wearing mandatory in certain settings and gatherings limited to 50 people in size.

“We know that Level 4 has been tough, but it has made a difference,” Ardern told a press conference, stressing that Level 4 was “necessary to stop the outbreak exploding into thousands of cases”.

Monday’s new community cases of Delta variant were in Auckland and nearby Whakatiwai, which brought the total number of cases in the country’s community outbreak to 1,071, according to the Ministry of Health.

Sixteen community cases are in hospital, including four in intensive care units (ICUs) or high dependency units (HDUs), said a ministry statement.

There are 1,039 cases that have been clearly epidemiologically-linked to another case or sub-cluster, and a further 12 cases for which links are yet to be fully established, it said.

The country also reported one case in recent returnees. The case has remained in quarantine in Auckland.

The total number of confirmed cases in New Zealand since the start of the pandemic is 4,082, while the death toll 27.