New Zealand to relax COVID-19 restrictions in most regions next week

New Zealand will relax its COVID-19 restrictions by moving to Alert Level 1 and decide on whether to lower Auckland’s alert level on Sept. 21, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Currently, Auckland remains in Alert Level 2.5, with the rest of country in Level 2.

Auckland saw the second wave of community outbreak in August which has been under control.

Under COVID-19 Alert Level 2, gathering sizes are restricted to 100 people, while only 10 people in Level 2.5 and Level 3.

At Alert Level 1, everyone can return to work, school, sports and domestic travel, without gathering restrictions. However, border restrictions and good hygiene are required, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the government also relaxed public transport distancing requirements.

“The advisory by Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport for recommended seating configurations on public transport that promoted physical distancing have now been revoked, effective immediately,” said a ministry statement.

“With the use of face coverings, our updated advice is that physical distancing should be maintained where possible, however it is not required on either domestic flights or on public transport such as trains, buses and ferries,” it said.

Airlines and those transport operators requiring pre-bookings can now accept higher volumes of bookings, Ardern said.

New Zealand saw one new community case of COVID-19 on Monday.

With Monday’s new case and two additional recovered cases, the country’s total number of active cases is 96. Of those, 39 are imported cases in managed isolation facilities, and 57 are community cases, the statement said.

New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 1,447, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization.