Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today that the New Zealand cabinet agreed to loosen restrictions for Auckland and upper Northland this week, while 190 new cases were reported and the deaths of two people who had covid-19 are under investigation.
Ardern said at the 4pm post-cabinet press conference that last week’s in principle decision to move Auckland to alert level 3, step 2, had been confirmed by cabinet.
Auckland will move to the new step from 11.59pm tomorrow, which means retail businesses and public facilities like libraries, museums and zoos can reopen.
Outdoor gathering limits increase to 25 people and the two-household restriction is removed.
“While we’re getting those rates higher still, we are easing into our reopening,” she said.
Ardern said that it’s hoped Auckland will reach 90 percent double-vaccination rates by the end of November, when the city will then change to the new traffic light framework.
A further 190 new community cases were reported in New Zealand today, with 182 in Auckland, seven in Waikato and one in Northland.
81 covid people now in hospital
There is now an increase to 81 people in hospital with covid-19.
Two deaths were reported today of people who were positive for covid-19, but their causes of death will be determined by the coroner.
One person in their late 60s died in Auckland City Hospital on Saturday. The patient was admitted to hospital on October 23 for a trauma incident and tested positive for covid-19 on admission, the Ministry of Health said.
Another death was reported in a managed isolation facility this morning. In a statement the ministry said the returnee arrived on November 3 and tested positive during a routine day three test.
The cause of that person’s death will be determined by the coroner, including whether it may have been covid-19 related.
Vaccination rates were key in determining if Auckland could relax restrictions, Ardern said.
All three of Auckland’s district health boards (DHBs) had hit the 90 percent milestone for first doses of vaccinations late yesterday.
89% of NZers had first dose
To date, 89 percent of New Zealanders have had their first dose and 78 percent are fully vaccinated.
There were 14,280 vaccine doses administered yesterday, including 3272 first doses and 11,008 second doses.
Medsafe has also approved a booster dose of Pfizer vaccines for people aged over 18, at least six months after the second dose. The next step is for the technical advisory group to inform ministers about this, Ardern said.
She said there was a “strong expectation” that Auckland would move to the new “traffic light” system after a November 29 cabinet meeting.
“Moving to the new framework at that time will mean certainty for Auckland. It will mean all businesses can be open and operate, it will mean we will manage covid safely, but differently,” she said.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told RNZ Checkpoint the push will now be on to meet that second dose target.
“We know that people now understand the importance of getting the second dose, we’re going to be working doubly hard to make sure that everybody over the next three weeks … comes forward.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.