The Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland will continue at the current Alert Level 3 until Sunday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday.
The rest of the country other than Auckland will remain at Alert Level 2, Ardern said while announcing the government decision after a Cabinet meeting.
Previous decisions required Auckland to remain in Alert Level 3 until Wednesday with the rest of the country staying in Alert Level 2 with relaxed restrictions, Xinhua news agency reported.
Under level 3, businesses are required to implement Covid-19 safety measures, but most people are encouraged to work from home.
Ministers met on Monday to review whether community transmission has been contained in Auckland.
An Auckland family cluster was identified two weeks ago as New Zealand’s second wave of Covid-19 transmission started.
Ardern acknowledged “the cost to business, the cost to the Auckland economy” under the higher level of restrictions, while stressing risks of people leaving and entering Auckland under the lower Alert Level 2.
“It’s a finely balanced decision, but the right one, I believe.
“We may not have any choice about whether or not the world is in a global pandemic but we do have choices about how we deal with it,” she said.
Ardern also announced the decision to make masks mandatory on public transport at Alert Level 2 and above, which will take effect from Monday.
According to the rule, public transport includes planes, buses, taxis and rideshare services like Uber, but children are not required to wear masks.
“This is a commonsense approach to protect everyone’s health,” she said.
New Zealand reported eight new cases on Monday, taking the total to1,332.
One confirmed case is an imported one reported from a managed isolation facility in Auckland.
The remaining cases are all linked to the Auckland cluster, according to a Health Ministry statement.
The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 123, it added.