Wellington, March 23 (IANS) New Zealand will ease the Covid-19 restrictions "that have prevented widespread health and economic damage" in early April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday as the country reported 20,087 new community cases.
"The evidence shows we are coming off the Omicron peak with cases in Auckland having already declined significantly, and a decline (is) expected nationally by early April," Xinhua news agency reported citing Ardern.
New Zealand to date has over 500,000 reported cases of Covid and expert modellers say there have probably been 1.7 million actual infections. "That figure, coupled with 95 per cent of New Zealanders being fully vaccinated, means we now have a high level of collective immunity," Ardern sad.
From April 4, "My Vaccine Pass" will no longer be required by the government, which means Kiwis will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to enter those venues covered by the Pass. Vaccine mandates will also be removed, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces, said the Prime Minister.
From midnight this Friday, outdoor gathering limits will be lifted, and indoor gathering limits at the current highest Red settings of the Covid Protection Framework will double from 100 to 200, but wearing masks will still be necessary, she said.
Among Wednesday's new community infections, 4,122 were in the largest city, Auckland. The rest of the cases were identified across the nation, including 3,468 in Canterbury, according to the ministry.
In addition, there were 43 new cases of Covid detected at the New Zealand border, said the ministry.
There were 960 Covid patients in New Zealand hospitals, including 31 people at the intensive care unit or high dependency unit.
The ministry also reported 11 deaths from Covid, taking the total number of publicly reported deaths in the country to 210, it said.
New Zealand has reported 537,582 confirmed cases of Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.
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