Coronavirus: New Zealand reopens with midnight barbers queues

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image captionThis barber in Christchurch welcomed back customers just after midnight

Thousands of businesses in New Zealand have reopened on Thursday as the country relaxes its coronavirus curbs, with some hairdressers seeing overnight queues round the block.

Shops, cafes, and public parks are all open as the country moves into Level 2 of its restrictions, described as a "safer new normal".

New Zealand has reported no new cases of the virus in the past three days.

Authorities say the chance of community transmission is now very low.

People are allowed to start seeing their friends and families again, with a limit of 10 people.

Professional sport is back on the menu - albeit with safety measures in place. And for those keen to let off steam after a long lockdown, gyms have reopened too.

There have been reports of crowds at shopping centres in some parts of the country, but for some a quiet catch-up on the waterfront was the first thing on their minds.

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image captionThe waterfront in Wellington was a peaceful catch-up spot for this pair
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image captionThe wait is over for anyone who's missed the gym
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image captionHiding something, lads? Hoodies were a popular choice in this queue for haircuts in Wellington
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image captionParks and playgrounds are open again - to the joy of this young visitor
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image captionSome more unusual businesses have also reopened - like Frank and Anya Walkington's alpaca farm tours in Akaroa

New Zealand has seen 1,497 confirmed cases of Covid-19 out of a population of around five million people, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. Twenty-one people have died, and fewer than 90 are still sick.

The country had already eased some restrictions in late April, allowing takeaway food shops and some non-essential business to re-open.

Though offices reopened on Thursday, people have been urged to continue working from home where possible, to help avoid a second wave of infections.

To the relief of many parents, school pupils will be able to return from Monday.

Bars are closed for now, but will be back in business from 21 May.

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image captionOffices are open, but people have been asked to keep working from home where possible
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image captionNew Zealand's bars won't reopen until 21 May. It's a decision partly prompted by South Korea, which has seen a spike in virus cases linked to nightclubs
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image captionPosters are reminding everyone to keep up social distancing while they shop

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for taking swift action early on in the global pandemic.

"We're going hard and we're going early," Ms Ardern told the public in mid-March. "We only have 102 cases, but so did Italy once."

Beaches, waterfronts and playgrounds were shut on 26 March, as were offices and schools. Bars and restaurants were also closed, including for takeaway and delivery.

Imposing some of the world's toughest restrictions on travel and activity helped stop cases arriving in New Zealand from overseas. But it also struck a heavy blow to the country's tourism-dependent economy.

Ms Ardern has described economic conditions as the worst since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

As part of a budget on Thursday, the government announced a NZ$50 billion (£24bn; US$30) Covid-19 recovery fund to help cushion the country's losses in the months to come.

media captionFamilies and friends reunite as NZ moves to Level 2

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