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New Zealand to lift coronavirus curbs in most of country on September 21

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland's restrictions would be reviewed next Monday. She also said the government would immediately ease all physical distancing requirements on planes, a boost for Air New Zealand, which has had to limit passengers on its planes for months.

September 14, 2020 / 11:12 AM IST
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Image: AP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Image: AP)

New Zealand will lift coronavirus restrictions across the country on September 21, except in its biggest city, Auckland, which is the epicentre of a second wave of infections, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Ardern said Auckland's restrictions would be reviewed next Monday. She also said the government would immediately ease all physical distancing requirements on planes, a boost for Air New Zealand, which has had to limit passengers on its planes for months.

"I know this change will make a real difference to Air New Zealand and those parts of the country seeking increased numbers of visitors," Ardern said in a news conference in the South Island city of Dunedin, where she is on an election campaign trip.

Masks will still be mandatory on all public transport, she said.

New Zealand, a nation of five million, had appeared to have succeeded in halting community transmission of COVID-19, but a fresh outbreak in Auckland in August prompted the government to place the city back in lockdown.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is facing a general election on October 17, scaled back the restrictions this month, but the city is still under alert level 2.5, meaning social gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed.

Ardern cabinet will review the current rules for Auckland at its meeting on Sept. 21, with a view to increase gathering limits if the situation stays stable.

That change, if it comes, will take effect on September 23, she said.

New Zealand on Monday reported one new case of coronavirus in the community, taking the total number of cases to 1,447 and 24 deaths.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
Reuters
first published: Sep 14, 2020 11:00 am

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