New Zealand PM Ardern says Auckland on track to exit lockdown

Auckland has been locked down for 83 days in an attempt to suppress the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus while vaccination rates increase. PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has further eased Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland and said the country's largest city is on track to exit lockdown by the end of the month.

Auckland retailers and malls can reopen on Nov 10, Ms Ardern said on Monday (Nov 8) in Wellington.

The government expects Auckland to reach the milestone of being 90 per cent fully vaccinated within weeks, allowing it to move out of most remaining lockdown restrictions, though residents may still not be allowed to leave the city, she said.

"Cabinet has a check-in on Nov 29 and there is a strong expectation that Auckland will likely move into the Covid-19 Protection Framework following this check-in," Ms Ardern said, referring to the new traffic-light system that will see New Zealand move away from large-scale lockdowns.

Auckland has been locked down for 83 days in an attempt to suppress the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus while vaccination rates increase.

Most of the rest of New Zealand is largely free of restrictions, though social distancing and mask wearing is required in indoor public spaces.

Even when Auckland comes out of lockdown, it is unlikely that residents will be able to travel out of the city until vaccination rates in the rest of the country are higher, Ms Ardern said.

"Obviously, for the Auckland border, it's not just about Auckland," she said. "It's about the status of the rest of the country and their vaccinations."

In addition to Auckland retailers being allowed to open from midnight on Tuesday, public facilities will also reopen and the number of people who can gather outdoors will increase to 25.

Hospitality venues like cafes, bars, and restaurants must remain closed.

"In making this decision, we have also considered the ongoing mental emotional strain of lockdown on Aucklanders and the impact on businesses," Ms Ardern said. "We do hope this easing will relieve some of the pressure."

There were new 190 infections in the community reported on Monday, the Ministry of Health said, the second highest daily total.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.