Covid curbs in New Zealand's North Island are being relaxed

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that restrictions in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, will be eased slightly beginning November 9, and restrictions in Waikato, New Zealand's second-largest city, will be eased beginning Tuesday night. On Tuesday at 11.59 p.m. Waikato will switch to Alert Level 3 - Step 2, which means outdoor gatherings can grow to 25 people, and public facilities like libraries and zoos, as well as retail, can reopen with mask-wearing, contact tracing, and physical distancing, according to Ardern. "We can move forward with confidence because of high vaccination rates," Ardern said, "but public health measures remain extremely important as we ease restrictions."

On November 9, Auckland's cabinet has agreed in principle to a shift down to these same settings. The government's primary goal of further lowering alert levels is being met, with fewer than 5,000 doses to go before 90 percent of people have received their first dose, according to the Prime Minister. She added that the latest figures show that 80 percent of Auckland's eligible population has now been vaccinated, and that these rates provide greater protection now, even as work continues to ensure that everyone who can be is vaccinated.

"We've had public advice that opening up retail doesn't lead to a significant increase in cases," Ardern said, adding that social distancing and wearing masks can significantly reduce the risk of transmission when people gather outside.

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