New Zealanders line up for midnight haircuts, celebrate easing of coronavirus restrictions
New Zealanders cooped up in their homes for the better part of two months couldn’t even wait for sunlight to get their hair cut as they lined up outside hair salons and barbershops before the clock struck midnight.
Malls, retail stores and restaurants all reopened Thursday in the South Pacific nation – a reflection of New Zealand’s success in nearly eliminating the coronavirus.
The country has reported no new cases of the virus for a third straight day on Thursday. More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who have contracted COVID-18 have recovered, while 21 have died.
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At midnight, barber Conrad Fitz-Gerald reopened his shop. He told the Associated Press he’d had about 50 inquiries from customers in desperate need of haircuts.
“People are saying their hair is out of control, they can’t handle it anymore,” he said. “Lots of parents of teenage kids have been calling up, too, thinking a haircut at midnight would be a great novelty. Unfortunately, we are full up.”
Fitz-Gerald limited the midnight cuts to just a dozen customers, starting with his 18-year-old son. He planned to then go home and return at 6 a.m. for another round of cuts.
New Zealand eased its strict coronavirus measures a notch in late April, allowing for some construction work to commence again.
On Thursday, traffic slowly returned to the country’s roads and office towers filled up with employees returning after weeks of working from home. Schools will open on Monday, while social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Bars won’t reopen until May 21.
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Domestic tourism is also now permitted and New Zealanders like Jim Boult jumped – quite literally in his case – at the chance to celebrate the end of the country’s lockdown.
Boult, the mayor of South Island adventure tourism resort Queenstown, vaulted off the Kawarau Bridge – he was tethered to a bungee cord – in an act of sheer exuberance.
“Enthusiasm for local travel will bring a much-needed boost to our local economy and the thousands of locals that will benefit from the return to work this will deliver,” he told Reuters.
The country’s $200 billion economy, which is dependent on trade and tourism, took a big hit amid the pandemic.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her nation faces the most challenging economic conditions since the Great Depression.
“New Zealand is about to enter a very tough winter,” she said. “But every winter eventually is followed by spring, and if we make the right choices we can get New Zealanders back to work and our economy working quickly again.”
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The government revealed Thursday plans to borrow and spend vast amounts of money in an attempt to keep unemployment below 10 percent in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget unveiled would see debt shoot up from just over 20 percent of the country’s GDP to 54 percent by 2023, and thousands of jobs created by putting people to work building homes and improving the environment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source : Lucia Suarez Sang Link