New Zealand to begin lifting virus restrictions

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All remaining virus restrictions will be lifted across much of New Zealand from late on Monday with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Auckland will continue to have some restrictions for at least another 16 days.

Ms Ardern made the announcement on Monday after meeting with prominent politicians.

The nation of five million people reimposed some restrictions last month after a fresh outbreak in Auckland, which now appears under control.

Under the plan, maximum gathering sizes in Auckland will be increased from 10 to 100 on Wednesday and then caps removed two weeks after that.

“Whilst we have reasonable confidence we are on the right track, there is still a need in Auckland for that cautious approach,” Ms Ardern told reporters.

Health authorities reported no new cases on Monday. The number of active Covid-19 cases is 62, with 33 of those from community spread and 29 among quarantined returning travellers.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea’s daily virus tally has stayed below 100 for a second consecutive day, maintaining a slowing trend in fresh infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the 70 new cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 23,045 with 385 deaths.

The drop to double digits on Sunday was the first in about 40 days. South Korea conducts fewer tests on weekends. But its recent virus resurgence has been on a downward trajectory amid strong social distancing rules since its daily tally surpassed 400 in late August.

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