With new cases being reported in locked-down Auckland daily, New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister has said the government will not abandon its zero-infections strategy, even as it is becoming increasingly unrealistic.

“We are not giving up on getting back down to zero. That is absolutely what we are striving for,” Chris Hipkins told a press conference on Wednesday, shortly after sweeping lockdown restrictions were eased in the country’s biggest city.

Having endured five weeks under a punishing level-four lockdown, Auckland was moved to level three on Tuesday night, though an array of rules severely limiting freedom of movement remain in place. Travel is allowed only for “permitted reasons,” such as going to work or school, or to undertake essential shopping. Residents can be asked to provide evidence that warrants their need to travel to a particular destination. They are also strongly encouraged to stay within their household “bubbles” as much as possible and to work from home. Masks are obligatory in shops, on public transport and in hospitals, and those who venture outside are asked to keep a two-meter (six-foot) distance from other passers-by. Restaurants are allowed to reopen their doors, but only for contactless pick-up, delivery, or drive-through collection. All gatherings, except for weddings and funerals, remain banned. (RT)