New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the country will stay in its strict lockdown for five additional days.
The country was scheduled to come out of its level 4 lockdown — the highest level on the alert system — on Wednesday at 11.59 p.m. local time. However, Ardern said on Monday that the measures would continue until next Monday at 11.59 p.m.
That means New Zealand will remain under strict lockdown measures — which require all non-essential workers to remain home — during the upcoming three-day weekend. Next Monday is a public holiday in New Zealand for Anzac Day, a day of remembrance for soldiers killed in conflict.
The decision comes despite New Zealand seeing a dwindling number of coronavirus cases over the past few weeks. On Monday, New Zealand reported nine new cases, bringing the country’s total reported to 1,440. Of those, 12 have died and 974 have recovered.
What Ardern said: The prime minister praised New Zealanders, saying she couldn’t be prouder of the start they made to curbing the spread of the virus.
“We have done what very few countries have been able to do,” she said. “We have stopped a wave of devastation.”
She noted that New Zealand had one of the highest testing rates in the world, with more than 85,000 tests completed. The country also has one of the lowest mortality rates and a low rate of transmission, with each case infecting less than one additional person, she said.
“My message to New Zealanders is that you have sacrificed too much to lose those gains now,” Ardern said.
What happens next? Next Monday, the country will move to a level 3 alert for two weeks. Cabinet will review whether to extend that on May 11.
Under level 3, the country 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, Ardern said.