Lockdown lifted in New Zealand

Phil Etchells discusses the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in New Zealand.

Philip Etchells
9th June 2020
Image: Wikimedia Commons

As of today (Tuesday 9 June), New Zealand has lifted almost all its lockdown restrictions after recording no new coronavirus cases for 17 days. 

The country has confirmed 1,154 cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths. The most recent case, recorded on May 22, tested negative on 8 June. 

However, Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern stated that it is almost certain that the country will see more cases of the virus and that “elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort”. Ms Ardern praised the work of the nation’s medical staff and said she “did a little dance” when she heard that the most recent coronavirus patient had recovered and the nation was virus-free.

Under new rules, all schools and businesses can open. Public gatherings, such as sporting and music events, can take place with no restrictions on numbers. There are no longer rules on social distancing but it is strongly encouraged. Travel restrictions remain in place with borders closed to tourists and those returning to the country must remain in a 14-day quarantine. 

Under new rules, all schools and businesses can open. Public gatherings can take place with no restrictions on numbers. Social distancing is not enforced but strongly encouraged.

New Zealand went into lockdown on March 25, four days after a tiered alert system was implemented. The country went straight to level four, with schools and businesses closed and only essential workers allowed to continue. At the time, there were only 200 confirmed cases in the country and no deaths.  

As the pandemic progressed in early March, the country had one of the most stringent lockdown policies in the world.  From March 15, all visitors were made to quarantine for a fortnight, despite only having six confirmed cases in the country. Yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced that 800 more tests had been carried out, bringing the total number to 294,848.

In general, Ms Ardern's leadership has won plaudits for being clear and decisive.

The country’s response has been praised for its swift and strict response to the outbreak. There has been some criticism for the length of the lockdown, most recently from her own deputy PM and election rival, Winston Peters. However, in general, Ms Ardern’s leadership has won plaudits for being clear and decisive. She has earnt the respect of the public who have followed the government’s advice and has ended each daily briefing with the message: “Be strong. But be kind”.

Whilst borders will remain closed for the foreseeable future, discussions are ongoing about the possibility of a ‘trans-Tasman travel bubble’ with Australia, where travellers could move freely between the countries without having to quarantine.

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