New Zealand has eased restrictions on businesses and gatherings as COVID-19 cases drop, The Washington Post reported.
The entire nation except for Auckland will be moving to level 2 restrictions, which allow schools and businesses to reopen, citizens to return to work and social gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
New Zealand's government will still implement some COVID-19 safety measures, including mask mandates for citizens 12 years of age and older at public places and requiring venues to keep records of visitors for contact tracing, according to the Post.
This comes as the highly contagious delta variant spurred the country's highest case count since the beginning of the global pandemic — though the scale of its outbreaks are still small compared to many other countries.
New Zealand’s ministry of health reported 22 new virus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of novel virus cases in the country to 720. The daily case count peaked in late August at about 80 a day due to what the ministry called the "Auckland August cluster."
“While we wait to share extra information, for now I have one simple message to New Zealanders: Please get vaccinated," Ardern said, "so we can protect our loved ones from COVID [and] avoid having to use Level 4 lockdowns in the future."
Twenty-seven percent of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University data.