New Zealand will lift some of its strictest lockdown restrictions at midnight local time as the country moves from level 4 to a level 3 alert for two weeks.
What it means: Under level 3, New Zealand will still essentially be under lockdown, but there will be an easing of restrictions. Schools can open. People will be able to buy takeaway food, and take part in more recreational activities, such as swimming at the beach. Up to 10 people will be allowed to gather for weddings and funerals.
Alert level 3 does not permit more social activity, but would allow more economic activity like construction, manufacturing and forestry.
Dwindling cases: The move comes as New Zealand has seen a dwindling number of coronavirus cases over the past few weeks. On Monday, New Zealand reported one new case, four "probable cases" and one new death.
"It has been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have been impossible. But we did. And we have done it together," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a news conference today.
Ardern said that New Zealand had one of the highest testing rates per capita in the world, with the capacity to process up to 8,000 tests per day. The country also has one of the lowest mortality rates and a low rate of transmission, with each case infecting less than half an additional person, she said.
“This provides strong evidence that there is not widespread transmission that is going undetected," she said. “Through out cumulative actions, we have avoided the worst.”
What happens next: Ardern said that the ambition is to be able to ease the social restrictions, but said to do that confidently, they would need to move "slowly and cautiously."
"We must make sure that we do not let the virus run away on us again and cause a new wave of cases and deaths," she said. "To succeed we must hunt down the last few cases of the virus."
"It is not and cannot be a return to pre-Covid-19 life," she said.
Level 3 will remain in place until May 11, when Cabinet will review whether to extend.