New Zealand to reopen malls, cafes from Thursday as virus curbs eased

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand businesses including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms will reopen on Thursday after some of the tightest restrictions in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus were further loosened on Monday.

The Pacific nation was locked down for more than month under “level 4” restrictions that were eased by a notch in late April. It has continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping prevent widespread community spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the staggered move to “level 2” restrictions will mean retail, restaurants and other public spaces including playgrounds can reopen from Thursday.

Schools can open from next Monday while bars can only reopen from May 21, Ardern said. Gatherings would be limited to 10 people.

“The upshot is that in 10 days’ time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand, and sooner than many other countries around the world,” Ardern told a news conference.

“But that fits with our plan – go hard, go early – so we can get our economy moving again sooner, and so we get the economic benefit of getting our health response right.”

Businesses will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place.