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5 Oct, 2020 10:36

As election looms, New Zealand prime minister celebrates victory against Covid, again

As election looms, New Zealand prime minister celebrates victory against Covid, again

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the relaxing of strict Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland, declaring “We beat the virus again” as she and the country prepare for a general election in less than two weeks.

Four months after New Zealand was first deemed virus-free, Ardern announced that Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and most afflicted city, would once again be relaxed on Wednesday following 10 straight days without community transmission.

The situation is deemed “under control” and the country will be free from any domestic coronavirus restrictions. Speaking at a news conference on Monday, the prime minister said it felt like a long year but praised New Zealanders for their resolve.

Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan that has worked twice now, and beat the virus again.

Ardern noted that there has only been one Covid-19 case in the past two weeks in Auckland and only five people from the cluster are yet to recover, hence there is a 95 percent probability of this cluster being eliminated. “A resurgence of the virus is not our only worry, resurgence of complacency is right up there too,” she added.

Auckland was plunged into a second lockdown in August, following a spike in cases. The city saw 179 cases during the second wave, five of which are yet to recover. The government’s decision will see the removal of the unpopular restrictions including no physical distancing rules in bars and restaurants and no 100-person limit on gatherings in Auckland. 

The announcement comes less than two weeks before New Zealanders head to the polls to elect a government. Ardern’s Labour Party is ahead in pre-election opinion polling and her colleague, Paul Stevens, has promised the “the most rainbow parliament in the world” if they are re-elected. 

New Zealand is one of the least afflicted countries in the world with Covid-19, with 1,499 cases and 25 deaths to date. The Pacific nation continues to register infections, with 22 international arrivals testing positive in the last week; however, these infections are separated from domestic cases as international arrivals are subject to mandatory isolation.

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Restrictions have been seen as an overreaction by many in the country and were met with fierce opposition. In September, over 1,000 people gathered in Aotea Square in Auckland in what was dubbed the ‘National Rally for Freedom’. 

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