New Zealand to relax COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday

Staff serve takeaway food at a cafe as New Zealand eases strict regulations implemented to curb the spread of the COVID-19 in Auckland, New Zealand, April 28, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)

WELLINGTON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 on Thursday and reopen most businesses in 10 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday.

Ardern told a press conference that the country was ready to move into Level 2, "to open up the economy, but to do it as safely as possible."

On Thursday this week retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces including playgrounds and gyms, can reopen. All will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place, Ardern said, adding health services will restart.

"You can begin to move around New Zealand, but space yourself out especially if you're using public transport," she said.

On May 18, all children and young people will be able to return to school and early learning. On May 21, bars will be able to open with all the requirements set out last week, including that seating must be provided, there must be space between tables.

"We have left bars till last because they do pose the most risk" said Ardern, referring to South Korea that recently opened up their bars, only to close them again after one person created an outbreak of at least 86 people and 2,456 tests so far.

Parties, big social events or anything designed to be for mixing and mingling will not be allowed to happen for groups larger than 10 people, she said, adding gatherings at home, need to be capped at 10. Church and religious events, weddings, funerals, stag dos - all must be limited to 10 for now.

New Zealand moved from Alert Level 4 to 3 on April 28 and had planned to stay for two weeks at Level 3 before a further review and Alert Level decision on Monday.