COVID-19 brakes slack in Auckland as New Zealand hits vaccination targets


Staff prepare a store for reopening in central Auckland, New Zealand on November 8, 2021.
Image Credit: AP

Wellington: New Zealand eases COVID-19 restrictions in its largest city from Wednesday as vaccination rates rise and lockdown measures are likely to be removed by the end of the month, said the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The city of Auckland has been stranded for nearly three months as the infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads, infecting more than 4,500 people since August in New Zealand’s worst phase of the pandemic.

But a pickup in vaccination rates and mounting pressure from critics calling for more freedoms prompted Ardern to end the curbs.

“Auckland has worked so hard to get high immunization rates that they deserve to be able to move as soon as they hit those targets, no matter what happens in the rest of the country,” Ardern said at a conference. press Monday.

Auckland’s vaccination rate rose to 90% for the first doses over the weekend, Ardern said, and it is strongly expected to hit a target of 90% for the second doses of here Nov. 29.

Once Auckland hits that 90% second dose target, it will switch to a new ‘traffic light’ system to deal with outbreaks rather than strict lockdown measures.

Ardern said stores and malls could reopen in Auckland from Wednesday. Libraries, museums and zoos may also open and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people will be permitted.

But border controls between Auckland and the rest of the country remain in place and a decision on when this will be relaxed will be announced next week, Ardern said.

Once the poster child for COVID-19 eradication, New Zealand has struggled with the Delta variant, particularly in Auckland, forcing a rethink of a strategy to eliminate the virus.

Australia, meanwhile, began giving booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as millions of people in its largest city, Sydney, woke up with more freedom amid a accelerating vaccination campaign.

Australia’s vaccination rate has accelerated since July, after largely missing its initial targets, when its southeast was hit by a third wave of infections triggered by the highly infectious Delta variant forcing blockages of several month.

Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities and the most affected by the Delta wave, carried out their vaccinations before gradually easing the restrictions. Life returned to near normal on Monday in New South Wales, where Sydney is located, as the state nears its 90% double-dose vaccination rate for people over 16 years of age.

“There is a feeling of optimism and enthusiasm among customers. They come in droves and aren’t afraid to spend, ”said Rodney Sen, owner of Barzura restaurant in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

There is now no limit on the number of fully immunized guests in their homes, while restaurants and entertainment venues can allow more customers. Stadiums can operate at full capacity.

After more than 18 months of some of the world’s toughest lockdown policies, border restrictions have started to ease, setting in motion a plan to reopen the country to travelers amid a gaping hole in the travel market. casual workers.

Sen told Reuters on Monday that the restaurant had increased its pay rates to retain and attract staff.

“The public actually has the money to spend, but we are struggling to find the staff to serve them. It’s a very familiar story in the restaurant industry across Sydney, ”he said.

With around 181,600 cases and 1,827 deaths, Australia’s coronavirus count is among the lowest in the developed world.

Most of the new cases are detected in Victoria, which recorded 1,126 new cases on Monday. Neighboring New South Wales has reported 187 infections. Other states and territories are COVID-free or have very few cases.

The booster doses will be given to people 18 years of age and over who received their second injection more than six months ago.

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