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    New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announces Auckland will end lockdown TONIGHT and move into ‘stage 2.5’ after two new COVID-19 cases

    • Auckland’s tough Stage Three coronavirus lockdown will come to an end tonight
    • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Sunday afternoon
    • Nation recorded two new COVID-19 cases, both linked to Auckland cluster
    • Masks will be strongly encouraged and large gatherings still restricted 

    Auckland’s tough Stage Three lockdown will come to an end tonight after several extensions, but life won’t yet return to a pre-COVID normal.

    From 11.59pm on Sunday, restrictions in New Zealand‘s most populous city will be eased after two-and-a-half weeks to a Stage Two warning, like the rest of the nation.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Sunday afternoon as she confirmed a further two coronavirus cases linked to the Auckland cluster.

    But the eased restrictions won’t look exactly the same as they do for the rest of the nation.

    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demonstrates how she makes an improvised face mask during a video meeting with local community health leaders

    A further two COVID-19 cases were identified in New Zealand on Sunday, both linked to the Auckland cluster

    A further two COVID-19 cases were identified in New Zealand on Sunday, both linked to the Auckland cluster

    Aucklanders will be subject to temporary ‘Stage 2.5’ restrictions, officials said.

    Authorities will continue to stress the importance of wearing face masks where possible – without making them mandatory – and discourage non-essential public gatherings.

    Mask use is only mandatory on public transport for commuters aged 12 and above in Auckland, and that policy will remain under level 2.5 restrictions.

    Social gatherings will remain limited to 10 people, despite Stage Two lockdown in the rest of the nation allowing gatherings of up to 100.   

    ‘No gathering can be larger than 10. I cannot stress how important this is. Much of this cluster has stemmed from social gatherings. If we want to stop the spread, we have to stop socialising for a time,’ Ms Ardern said on Sunday.

    People work at a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Brisbane as the Sunshine State battles a new outbreak, similar to New Zealand

    People work at a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Brisbane as the Sunshine State battles a new outbreak, similar to New Zealand

    Staff at Honey Bones cafe in Grey Lynn serve takeaway customers at level three lockdown

    Staff at Honey Bones cafe in Grey Lynn serve takeaway customers at level three lockdown

    Authorised funerals will be granted exemptions to host up to 50 people. 

    ‘We are also keeping aged care facilities in Auckland on very strict settings. To those this affects, I am sorry. I know how hard this will be but we need to keep everyone in our aged care facilities safe,’ Ms Ardern added.

    The restrictions remain in place throughout Auckland, but the prime minister has urged anybody from the region who is travelling to exercise caution and ‘common sense’.

    ‘If you are an Aucklander, please don’t just pop into an aged care facility no matter where it is in the country,’ she said.

    A person waits for a bus at a Karangahape Rd bus stop in Auckland after Ms Ardern made face coverings mandatory on public transport

    A person waits for a bus at a Karangahape Rd bus stop in Auckland after Ms Ardern made face coverings mandatory on public transport

    A nurse checks on people as the arrive at the Mangere Town Centre testing clinic

    A nurse checks on people as the arrive at the Mangere Town Centre testing clinic 

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday Auckland would enter a 'level 2.5' lockdown to ease out of Stage Three

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday Auckland would enter a ‘level 2.5’ lockdown to ease out of Stage Three

    ‘Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it is not in Auckland. And if you are sick, please stay home. Definitely don’t travel.’ 

    There are now 135 cases linked to the Auckland cluster, and Ms Ardern told the public she highly doubted the virus had spread into other cities.

    ‘We are still dealing with a single source, and a single cluster,’ she said.

    But the PM, who has acted swiftly at every stage of the pandemic, insisted she wouldn’t hesitate in locking down the community again if she considered it necessary.

    ‘We need the team of five million to help us get back where we need to be. Our system is only as good as our people,’ Ms Ardern said. 

    A worker hands out information to people entering the Otara Town Centre COVID-19 Community testing centre

    A worker hands out information to people entering the Otara Town Centre COVID-19 Community testing centre

    Ms Ardern visited a medical research clinic after allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund

    Ms Ardern visited a medical research clinic after allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund

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