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Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, emerged on Sunday from a strict weeklong lockdown imposed after a community cluster of the more contagious UK coronavirus variant, Reuters has reported.
There were no new local Covid-19 cases recorded on Sunday, health officials said, allowing for the restrictions to ease. If no community cases are confirmed during the rest of Sunday, it would make a full seven days since the last community case.
There are still limits on public gathering in the city of nearly two million, however, and masks are obligatory on public transport.
Footage on TVNZ, New Zealand’s state-owned television network, showed people lining up at coffee shops on Sunday morning with many saying they were feeling relieved.
The government said it might ease restrictions in Auckland further on Friday, to bring them to the same level as in the rest of New Zealand.
In neighbouring Australia, the state of Victoria, which was under a five-day lockdown in mid-February after a small Covid-19 outbreak, recorded nine straight days of no local transmissions on Sunday.
The reopening of England’s schools to all pupils on Monday will mark the first step back towards normality, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Johnson has announced a roadmap for lifting lockdown measures that sees schools open first, followed in later stages by the gradual easing of restrictions on mixing with other people and the re-opening of non-essential shops and other venues. In the final stage, which will take place no earlier than June 21, the government hopes to remove all remaining legal limits on contact with others.
“The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus,” Johnson said.
“It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is the first step.”
Each step on the roadmap will depend on the level of Covid-19 cases, the government has said. It hopes the pandemic can be contained by a vaccine programme that has already delivered a dose to nearly 22 million people, as well as regular testing.
Many secondary schools and colleges had already started inviting students for their first “lateral flow” Covid-19 tests, which give rapid results, with nearly 1 million conducted last week, the government said.
After three initial tests on site, students will be provided with two tests to use each week at home, it said, adding that nearly 57 million tests had been delivered to schools and colleges across the country.