New Zealand embraces relaxation of lock-down

Children can return to playgrounds, families can meet and restaurants can seat groups of 10 under new rules

Joshua Young was raring to get to the Tahunanui Beach playground on Friday morning.

For almost two months, the seven-year-old Nelson resident has had to see one of his favorite play spots wrapped up in caution tape, while New Zealand undertook the strictest lock-down in its history.

While Joshua and his mother Claire Young have explored other parts of Nelson, there was no substitute for the popular beach-side park.

“We are lucky here that there are plenty of places to play without climbing structures, but he just couldn’t wait to come today,” she said.

Returning to the playground was one of several signs of normality creeping across New Zealand as the nation settled into COVID-19 alert level 2. It began on Thursday with the re-opening of shops, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and other public spaces, including playgrounds and gyms. Family members kept apart by the lock-down were also finally allowed to reunite. Next week, schools and early learning centers across the country will also reopen.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the nation had won the battle against corona virus, but not the war, and urged citizens to remain vigilant.

Fewer than 1,500 people have been infected with Covid-19 in New Zealand after the government pursued a vigorous elimination strategy, shutting its borders on 15 March and entering a country-wide lock-down on 25 March. Mairi Lewis-Smith said she was “a bit anxious” about coming back out in the open. “Lock-down has been pretty intense but you kind of have to go with it. You can’t be super paranoid.” Most New Zealanders have embraced the new freedom, with the first stop for many being the local hairdresser.

In Auckland, barber Tomi Cvetanovski said he saw his fair share of unkempt hair coming through his doors.

He opened up at one minute past midnight on Thursday with a line outside and he did not close until 4.30 am. Then he reopened at 6 am and kept going until 7 pm.

“Oh man it’s crazy but I like when it when it’s like this. It was a big day, but everyone needs a haircut.”

He was keeping clients distanced and disinfecting everything after each cut. “It’s been really nice. We are just sticking to our plan.”

Under the new rules, restaurants and cafes patrons must be seated. Serving staff must stick to specific tables and no more than 10 people are allowed in any one group with no more than 100 in the restaurant. There must also be safe spacing between seated groups.

However, bars will have to wait until Thursday to reopen. Ardern said this was because bars posed the biggest risk in the spread of COVID-19. She pointed to the recent outbreak in Seoul, South Korea which was linked to a 29-year-old man who had visited three nightclubs.

Wellington bar owner Matt McLaughlin, who is also the regional president of Hospitality New Zealand, said the delay was “a bit of a kick in the guts”.

“Every day we’re closed, every week we’re closed more jobs are going to go.”


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Reunions, Eating Out and a Lot Of Haircuts: New Zealand Embraces Relaxation Of Lockdown

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