Asia Minute: New Zealand: Opening for Business, Carefully

May 13, 2020

Some of the restrictions put in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic are gradually loosening in many countries and in a majority of states — including Hawaii. One place that’s been relatively successful in controlling the spread of the virus is New Zealand. And tomorrow, the country moves to a new phase.

Many establishments in New Zealand will be back in business tomorrow: retail stores and malls, restaurants, movie theaters, playgrounds and gyms. Schools are on track to open on Monday — while bars will have to wait another week.

It’s all part of New Zealand’s staged approach to re-opening.

In late March, the country ordered people to stay home except for “essential personal movement.” About a month later, some restrictions were eased under level three — allowing some construction and manufacturing; letting restaurants do takeout orders.

Tomorrow comes the first part of “level two” with very specific rules. Restaurants can seat a total of 100 patrons, but only if they have enough space for physical distancing. Group gatherings will be limited to ten – from parties and church meetings to weddings and funerals.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the reason for capping groups at ten is to simplify contact tracing — if there is a positive case, making sure that anyone who had any exposure to that person is notified and depending on the circumstances, possibly isolated.

New Zealand’s population of roughly 5 million has had about 1,500 “confirmed and probable cases” of COVID19, and 21 deaths.

On Tuesday, the country reported no new cases.