NZ’s Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown was wound back at midnight, Monday, April 17, after kiwis spent the last 4 weeks in isolation, with nearly half a million workers back on the job from Tuesday morning.

The lockdown has proved highly successful – New Zealand has registered 17 deaths from COVID-19 and 1456 infection cases, with 2 new cases confirmed last Friday. Even given the benefit of the country’s isolation and sea borders, it’s a major community achievement.

NZ’s Level 3 lockdown still limits movement and contact, but allows more freedom to work and to undertake exercise, including surfing, fishing and swimming, as well as allowing people to head out to buy takeaway.

Meanwhile Australia remains at Level 2 or 3 lockdown, depending on state government rules, with infection rates in less populous states having hit zero and numbers in the larger states down to single digits, and current outbreaks restricted to tight locations. There were 8 new cases nationally in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning and the nation currently has just over 1000 active cases.

Some states are moving to ease movement rules, while keeping in place social distancing. For instance, people in NSW can now travel to visit family or friends in their homes anywhere in the state in groups of no more than 2. Queensland has also relaxed its rules slightly, while Victoria is staying at Level 3.

However, COVID-19’s ability to break out from a single asymptomatic carrier is profound and it’s likely we will need to see several months of very low or zero infection rates, alongside strong uptake of the COVID Safe app and ongoing maturity in social distancing, before an ANZ safe zone might be declared which would allow freedom of movement within and between the 2 countries.

Social distancing, widespread testing and lots of hand and surface hygiene will need to become permanent features of the near future, but there’s cautious confidence among health officials in ANZ’s ability to restrict community transmission of COVID-19, which is good news on every front.