After 84 days, Auckland is back in business – with people all around the city allowed back into retail stores today.

The country’s largest city officially moved into alert level 3, step 2, of the current Covid lockdown restrictions that allow for shops to once again open their doors.

Public facilities including libraries, museums and the zoo are also up and running again.

PM Jacinda Ardern in Auckland today

Today’s big move coincides with a visit by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who will visit Auckland for the first time since news of the current outbreak was announced in mid-August.

It comes after a dramatic day in Wellington yesterday, when a mass protest took place outside Parliament and protesters caused delays at Auckland’s northern border.

The bright sunshine in Auckland has made for the perfect weather to head out to the shops this morning, with people already lining up outside particular stores and normally popular shopping malls.

JD Sports at the Sylvia Park shopping complex seemed to be the one everyone wanted to get into, with people camping outside for almost two days ahead of the store’s opening just after midnight last night.

Head Jason Lynch told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB they had a long queue of people waiting at midnight but it was worth it.

He dubbed the opening “amazing” and a “massive success” given there were no click and collect services available during the lockdown. He had yet to get any sleep early this morning.

Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas told Three’s AM Show that retail would be ramping up and he was expecting it to be significant.

Deadly Ponies and Service Denim were both giving away vouchers to welcome people back into their shops. Over this lockdown the town centre had been down around $16m a week, he said.

A few retailers and hospitality outlets had already closed and he expected more would close in the New Year because he didn’t think the Christmas “sugar rush” would be enough for them to survive.

Hospitals gearing up for surge of Covid cases

The further relaxation of rules in Auckland will, however, result in more community cases and a higher risk of people needing be hospitalised.

Clinical director Dr Vanessa Thornton at Middlemore Hospital, in South Auckland, says they are expecting a surge in hospitalisations.

“But we have been preparing for the surge,” she told the Breakfast show.

The fact the Counties Manukau DHB region reached the 90 per cent first dose coverage milestone a few days ago had been cause for celebration for the local community and for the hospital system as a result, she said.

“The ones that aren’t vaccinated, they have increased severity which mainly means around their breathlessness…so that is something that’s really concerning.

“They are much sicker than the vaccinated patients.”

They continued, therefore, to encourage people to get fully vaccinated as it meant they were far better off if they contracted the virus and also hugely helped to keep them out of hospital.

Thornton said in those really sick Covid patients they are seeing, it was really about the breathlessness.

“If people haven’t really experienced that sort of feeling before – it’s quite frightening the feeling of not being able to breathe.

“With people with any underlying conditions, then that makes the severity worse.”

There are 25 people with Covid-19 at Middlemore Hospital at the moment.

Thornton said they were preparing for predictions from epidemiologists that hospitalisations for Covid patients could reach up to 120 people.

A total of 125 community cases were announced by the Ministry of Health in yesterday’s latest update. Of those, 79 people are fighting Covid-19 in hospital.

The day before, the number of community cases recorded was 190.

On Saturday, 206 community cases were announced – the highest number of cases recorded in a single day since the pandemic started.

This map shows large vaccinations centres from the Unite again Covid-19 information page. For more detailed information about your neighbourhood visit Healthpoint.

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