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Lockdown restrictions in regions of New Zealand outside Auckland will move down to level 2 from midnight on Tuesday, according to prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Last month the entire country was placed into lockdown level 4 for a fortnight as one case of the Delta variant was discovered. Auckland will stay in level 4 until next Tuesday at least.

An additional 20 new Covid cases were reported in the community for the third straight day, an indication the outbreak is in slowdown. Including Monday’s figures, the total number of cases within this outbreak has hit 821, The Guardian reports.

The prime minister said on Monday that the Delta variant requires more stringent measures: “It’s now no longer just whether you have enough space between you and others, but rather, if you have too many people in a shared space generally with poor ventilation. That really ups the risk.”

Ardern added: “To keep it really simple, if you’re out and about at indoor venues, please wear a mask.” Masks are “our new normal” at level 2, she said. In regard to wearing masks in schools, director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said it is “recommended, but not required”.

Referring to the number of daily cases slowing down, the PM said it is “progress”, but challenges remain: “We’ve done so well to get this outbreak under control. Level four restrictions are working, but the job is not done. We’re within sight of elimination, but we cannot drop the ball,” she said.

“Our case numbers at present are coming down, but we continue to see persistent cases attached to the current outbreak. Some of this is to be expected as we see close contacts and family members test positive, but some of these are still what we call unlinked or mystery cases.

“These matter because so long as we don’t know where a case has come from, we cannot tell if we have other chains of transmission in the community, that we haven’t isolated yet. That’s a cause for concern and it is why testing is so important to us,” said Ardern.

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