WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday retained the restrictions put in place to beat the spread of the coronavirus until at least mid-September, as the country reported a new death related to the virus.
Auckland, the country’s largest city and the centre of a fresh outbreak, will remain on alert level 2.5, which limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.
“The best economic response remains a strong health response. If we get it right we will ultimately shake off restrictions faster and lessen the risk of bouncing around,” Ardern told a news conference.
Other parts of the country will be under alert level 2, which requires people to observe social distancing rules and restricts gathering sizes to no more than 100 people. The settings will be reviewed on Sept. 14.
New Zealand’s health ministry said a man in his 50s had died in an Auckland hospital on Friday due to COVID-19. He was linked to a known Auckland cluster and was in intensive care for the last few days. His death takes the number of COVID-19 related fatalities in the country to 23.
The ministry also reported five new COVID-19 cases on Friday – three cases of community transmission and two imported cases at managed isolation facilities. The country has had 1,413 coronavirus cases so far, of which 112 are active.
The Pacific nation of 5 million people had appeared to have succeeded in halting community transmission of COVID-19 but Auckland’s fresh outbreak prompted the government to place the city back in lockdown last month.
The lockdown was mostly lifted on Sunday, allowing schools and offices to reopen, although masks are mandatory on public transport across the country.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Lincoln Feast)