“Make sure you stick to your bubble at home,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said regardless of the eased restrictions.

By Alison Fox
April 30, 2020
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After weeks of strict lockdown measures, New Zealand has started to lift restrictions, declaring COVID-19 cases effectively eliminated.

The country has seen just over 1,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths, per Johns Hopkins University, in recent days, New Zealand has recorded new infections in the single digits, including on Monday when they recorded just one new case, CNN reported.

“It’s been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have seemed impossible, but we did and we have done it together,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a news conference this week, cautioning while the country would start reopening, it was not a return to pre-COVID-19 life. “That day will come, but it is not here yet.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during her post-Cabinet media update at Parliament on April 6, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.
| Credit: Pool/Getty

The country is now moving to Level 3 under their COVID-19 alert system, which allows people to leave their homes for work, school, or local recreation, but still tells them to maintain two meters of distance in public and work from home when possible. Under the new restrictions, public venues like libraries, museums, movie theaters, and playgrounds are still closed, but groups of up to 10 people are allowed for weddings and funerals.

“Make sure you stick to your bubble at home," she cautioned. "We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives for the very reason that we need to reduce down our risk as much as possible.”

Businesses and shops that can operate contactless will be allowed to reopen.

After the restrictions were lifted, however, crowds swarmed places like KFC and McDonald's drive-throughs throughout Auckland, CNN reported. And in at least one case at a BurgerFuel restaurant, police were called to monitor the crowds.

"Day one of re-opening saw our BurgerFuel stores inundated with a stampede of customers, way beyond what we had anticipated," a spokesperson told the network. Going forward, the restaurant will take orders online and have a crowd controller present.

Previously, the country was under a Level 4 alert, which meant people had to stay home except for essential travel like going to the supermarket. While the alert was restrictive, Ardern made light of the tense moment by declaring the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy essential workers.