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Source: NZ Herald Derek Cheng // 14:29, 5 Oct 2020
Auckland will move to alert level 1 on Wednesday at 11.59pm, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
That means no limits on gatherings and the removal of social distancing requirements in restaurants and bars.
Masks are not required on public transport in alert level 1 but Ardern urged people to keep being vigilant - by washing hands, staying home if sick, scanning QR codes and getting tested if even feeling slightly sick.
"I don't want anyone to think that because we're at level 1 that Covid is now absent from New Zealand."
Safety measures like staying home when sick were "acts of public service", she said.
Ardern said Cabinet met via Zoom today to review Auckland's alert level.
The Auckland cluster was New Zealand's biggest but all signs pointed to it being under control, she said.
There had been no new cases in the cluster for 10 days, and only one case in the last two weeks.
Just five people from the cluster are yet to recover from Covid-19.
There was now a 95 per cent chance that the cluster had been eliminated, according to new modelling by Te Pūnaha Matahini.
A separate group of cases - which was linked to a person who tested negative twice in isolation before testing positive - had shown how new cases could be identified, traced, tested, and contained without any change to alert levels or restrictions, Ardern said.
It had now been 12 days since any cases associated with that cluster, and with only one remaining positive case, the Government was confident that it was also contained.
Ardern said the resurgence of the virus was not New Zealand's only worry - the resurgence of complacency was also a problem.
QR scans had halved from their peak at the height of the current outbreak, she said.
Businesses still need to display QR codes at Level 1, she said.
It was also important not to get complacent on testing, Ardern said.
The low rates of testing in July, during the freedoms of Level 1, might be part of the reason that the outbreak was not picked up sooner, she said.
Level 1 required everyone to be vigilant and play their part.
She reiterated that anyone who felt sick should stay home. And people should keep scanning into places via the contact tracing app.
Ardern said some progress had been made in alternative Covid testing methods, including a saliva test which could make a difference at the border.
Many countries were looking at a form of surveillance and screening, but New Zealand needed very a high sensitivity of testing because of its elimination approach.
Ardern said a lot was at stake with the resurgence of Covid-19 in Auckland.
"It was a test of our plan," she said.
New Zealand again responded well, she said.
"I know for many, this one has felt harder, especially for Aucklanders.
"Despite that, Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan that has worked twice now and beat the virus again.
"Our team of five million, a little more battle-weary this time, did what our national teams do so often: we put our heads down and we got on with it."
She pointed to soaring cases overseas, including 12,000 new cases in the UK on Saturday and restrictions of there of gatherings up to six people.
These restrictions overseas were largely absent in New Zealand, and the economy was getting back to full capacity, she said.
Building consents, exports, card spending and traffic showed the economy was ticking along well, she said.
However, recent months had been very challenging, especially for the arts, retail, hospitality and tourism, she said.
New Zealand was still well-placed compared to other countries in terms of Covid restrictions.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has welcomed the Government's decision.
"Aucklanders have for the second time united to successfully halt community transmission of Covid-19 and I want to thank them for the sacrifices they have made to achieve this result," he said.
"It's great news for businesses, which will be able to trade again as normal under Level 1, providing a welcome boost for the economy. It's also great news for Aucklanders who can enjoy gathering with friends and family and attending major events as normal," Goff said.
"I encourage everyone to get out and support local business, cafés and restaurants and make the most of everything our beautiful city has to offer.
"The Elemental Festival is in full swing, with more than 40 events across Auckland, and the Diwali Festival is set to light up the region from 27 October to 14 November.