Five weeks ago, The NZ Herald front page said history will consider this one of the most pivotal moments in our nationhood: We are in lockdown as we collectively fight Covid-19.
Just before midnight tonight, Monday April 27, alert level 4 moves to level 3.
As a nation, we have to date collectively done what is right for our family, friends, communities, and country. We have collectively sacrificed our everyday freedoms to ensure New Zealand emerges from this crisis. We have done, and continue to do, all we can to save lives.
There is still more to be done. To move to level 2, the Prime Minister says she needs to have confidence there is no community transition.
While level 3 will alleviate some pressure on our economy, as our businesses whirr back into life, we must remain collectively strong. Let's do all we can to support Kiwi business, and remain socially vigilant.
Because as we said then, and still believe now, we will beat it. It is our time to make history.
We are a whānau of five million.
Key developments in NZ
• As New Zealand comes to the end of its level 4 lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had some good news for the country - Covid-19 has currently been eliminated. Today was the eighth day in a row where the number of new Covid-19 cases has been in the single digits, with just five new cases. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said that the Government's goal has been elimination, not eradication – pointing out that elimination never meant zero – "but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from". Ardern said people should pause to digest the country's low number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, but also noted it was tragic that 19 lives had been lost, after one more death - a woman in her 90s - was confirmed today.
• The countdown is well and truly on - there are only a few hours until we move from level 4 restrictions to level 3, and there are still a lot of burning questions about what you can and can't do from tomorrow. The Ministry of Health has released a Q&A to help clear up any queries relating specifically to what you can and can't do in your "bubble", while here is everything you need to know about what is allowed and what is still off limits at level 3.
Listen live to Newstalk ZB's coronavirus coverage
• New Zealand could have been staring at 1000 Covid-19 cases a day if the country hadn't gone into lockdown when it did, the Government claims. The Prime Minister said the country had avoided the worst, but needed to remain vigilant to make sure there was no second wave. She again reminded the "team of five million" that it was still not a time to socialise. "Level 3 will not be a return to pre-Covid life", she said.
• The Government has promised that a Covid-19 contact-tracing app will be available in less than a fortnight. The announcement comes as the Australian Government launched its own voluntary app, designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 through an early notification system. Ardern has said in recent weeks that technology would be part of the answer to speeding up contact tracing.
Stories from lockdown
• We've been scared, tired and stressed. But we've also loved the silence, the time with our kids and partners, and the opportunity to slow down. Last week, after the Prime Minister announced a shift to level 3 from 11.59pm tonight, we asked our readers and listeners what they'd learned about themselves and their world from this time in lockdown. Many thousands of words poured in, and the responses reflect an extraordinary time in New Zealand's history. What does it look like when a whānau of five million came together? Here are some of your reflections from life in lockdown.
• There are 19 Kiwis who have died of coronavirus in New Zealand. Each one leaves behind a grieving family and heartbroken friends. Here, in a moving diary, a son recalls his mother's last days of hope and sorrow as she is lost to Covid-19.
• Amid job losses and closures from the lockdown, one of the world's biggest businesses plans to thrive when it starts up in New Zealand. Costco Wholesale is the world's second-largest retailer after Walmart, and said last winter that it would be open here next year, selling 20-30 per cent cheaper than elsewhere. That is still going ahead, with plans for the store revealed today.
• McDonalds' plan for staff to pass food directly to customers at the drive-through and handle cash will breach alert level 3 restrictions, Unite Union says. Mike Treen, the union's national director, says the draft plan of level 3 operations he's seen flouts the rules and may be a "breach of health and safety obligations". However, McDonald's say their number one priority is safety of staff and customers, and will continue to seek expert advice to ensure they meet guidelines.
• Many people are looking forward to takeaways tomorrow, but before you head out to the nearest drive-through, Diana Clement has some helpful financial tips to ensure your money is well spent as we move out of lockdown.
Around the world
• As Italy prepares to emerge from the West's first and most extensive coronavirus lockdown, it is increasingly clear that something went terribly wrong in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region in Europe's hardest-hit country. Italy had the bad luck of being the first Western nation to be slammed by the outbreak, and its official total of 26,600 fatalities lags behind only the US in the global death toll. But there is also evidence that demographics and healthcare deficiencies collided with political and business interests to expose the 10 million people in the northern Italian region of Lombardy to Covid-19 in ways unseen anywhere else.
• Two days after US president Donald Trump suggested the possibility of injecting disinfectant to fight the Covid-19 virus, Maryland's outbreak hotline has received more than 100 calls regarding bleach as a cure, while poisonings from household cleaners have doubled in New York. Trump also cancelled his near-nightly Covid-19 press conference, instead tweeting that the briefings are "not worth the time and effort".
The last word
• A lot of these past five weeks was pretty good, writes Steve Braunias. The way we all slowed down, the way we all moved in a kind of dream. We deserve a medal, some commemorative souvenir to mark our contribution to saving lives and doing the right thing during this incredible time in our nation's history. And we all played our part in doing an incredible thing. We eliminated the virus.