From ‘Lockdown’ to ‘Restrict’ . . .
Just before midnight on April 27, New Zealand reduced its national COVID-19 state of emergency from alert level 4, termed ‘Lockdown,’ to alert level 3, ‘Restrict.’ The move was announced in mid-April and involves a partial re-opening of businesses with ‘safe’ operations (as opposed to ‘essential’ operations under level 4), a partial re-opening of schools with attendance being voluntary, and travel restrictions being loosened to allow for regional, instead of just local, travel. All residents are required to keep to their ‘bubble,’ and are asked to only go out when necessary, while all workplaces have been tasked with creating a plan for managing the risk of COVID transmission. Bars, restaurants, cafés, malls, and retail stores remain closed under alert level 3, with drive-through, pick-up, and online purchases allowed.
“Remain vigilant” . . .
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been consistent in reminding New Zealanders that the move to alert level 3 is not a broad economic re-opening, but rather an opportunity to allow some economic and social functions to return, in line with a continued slowing of new COVID-19 cases. While alert level 4 focused on eliminating person-to-person contact, alert level 3 focuses on restricting it. Ardern stated: “There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”
A cautious yet firm approach . . .
A total of 104 breaches of the new conditions were reported in the first 18 hours at alert level 3, with 21 people being charged with offences and others receiving warnings. Authorities received 742 complaints about businesses not complying with alert level 3 rules. Few children have returned to school with most parents still opting to keep kids at home. As Canadian provinces announce plans for the managed loosening of COVID-19 restrictions and the re-opening of some parts of their economies, familiarity with New Zealand’s staged approach could be instructive in managing provincial transitions. New Zealand has only taken the move from level 4 to level 3 after its instance of community spread was near zero. Canadian provinces are encouraged to follow suit.
- The Guardian: Ardern: New Zealand has 'won battle' against community transmission of Covid-19
- New Zealand Government: Unite against COVID-19
- Radio New Zealand: Schools, ECEs reopen with fewer children than expected