Canberra/Wellington, (Asian independent) Australia and New Zealand, the two neighbouring countries with different strategies against the COVID-19 pandemic, on Tuesday began relaxing their social distancing measures following success in checking the spread of infections.
The reopening of several beaches in Australia and the resumption of certain work activities in New Zealand were steps undertaken by these nations from Tuesday, after having recorded a significant drop in infections, reports Efe news.
New Zealand, whose government claims to have won the battle against the novel coronavirus, from now on will permit a controlled resumption of 75 per cent economic and commercial activities.
Some 400,000 workers returned to their workplaces and fast food outlets filled up for the first time since the New Zealand government declared maximum alert on March 26, considered one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.
Schools will reopen on Wednesday for students unable to conduct their studies from a distance, although restrictions on social activities and physical distancing measures remain in force.
New Zealand – with 1,124 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 19 deaths – is aiming to completely eradicate the virus from its territory, which is home to about 5 million people.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern underlined that despite the ease in restrictions, the fight against the coronavirus had not ended, and asked the people not to let their guard down.
“We will have to keep stamping Covid out until there’s a vaccine,” said Ardern.
The Australian government has progressively implemented more moderate measures compared to New Zealand since the end of March, such as allowing schools and daycare to function.
Despite the differences in approach, Australia, with more than 24 million inhabitants, has also managed to flatten the curve at about the same time and has recorded 6,727 infections, including 85 deaths.
“As a country we are not just flattening the curve but we are consolidating it, extending it and securing it,” said Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt.
The government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday launched an app to track COVID-19 cases, which combined with the reinforcement of the coronavirus testing system, looks to speed up the process of easing social distancing measures.
At the moment many businesses are closed or their activities are restricted; gatherings of more than two people are not allowed, with some exceptions; and residents are recommended to stay at home unless exercising or visiting a doctor or making purchases.
Although the central government, aided by the recommendations of the government medical team, lays down the major social distancing measures against the coronavirus, states and territories, as well as local governments have some prerogatives with respect to their implementation.
In the case of New South Wales, whose capital is Sydney, the state government announced that starting Friday two adults, accompanied by an undetermined number of children, will be allowed to visit a home other than their own.
The state of Western Australia has been allowing meetings of up to 10 people since Monday, while in Queensland family picnics will be permitted from next weekend onward.
Moreover, the famous Bondi Beach in eastern Sydney, and two other nearby areas reopened Tuesday exclusively for water sports.
Both New Zealand and Australia also considering resuming flights between them.