New Zealand's largest city of Auckland exited a three-month lockdown on Friday, marking the country's transition to a new coronavirus response that seeks to manage virus circulation in the community.
From 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, all of New Zealand moved to the new "traffic light" framework, a three-tier system that will provide greater freedoms for fully vaccinated citizens and allow businesses to reopen.
The move marks the first step towards New Zealand living with the virus after a long-successful campaign of elimination, following an outbreak in mid-August of the highly infectious Delta variant that proved too difficult to eradicate.
Authorities are now pivoting the focus of the nation's strategy to "minimization" and "protection," dependent on regions achieving high rates of vaccination to ease restrictions.
In Auckland, the epicenter of the outbreak, restaurants and gyms are among the businesses reopening on Friday to those who are fully vaccinated, and gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted. Businesses will remain closed to those who are yet to receive the jab, however, and gatherings for the unvaccinated will be restricted to groups of 25.
New Zealand's population of 4.8 million people recorded more than 100 daily infections on many days since late October.