New Zealand drops stringent coronavirus restrictions, starts reopening

New Zealand — lauded for its stringent lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic — dropped most of its restrictions as the country reported no new cases of the deadly bug for a third straight day Thursday.

Malls, retail stores and restaurants are opening their doors Thursday in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, and many are getting back to work.

A day earlier at midnight — the moment the restrictions were dropped — Conrad Fitz-Gerald of Cathedral Junction Barbers in Christchurch opened up shop.

He said about 50 people called in for haircuts, but he limited the initial customers to a dozen — beginning with his 18-year-old son — before going home and returning for a second round of cuts at 6 a.m.

“People are saying their hair is out-of-control, they can’t handle it anymore,” Fitz Gerald told the Associated Press. “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.”

Most of the country’s schools are set to reopen Monday, but bars will stay closed until May 21, a decision prompted partly by South Korea’s surge of coronavirus cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul.

More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who contracted the virus in New Zealand have recovered, and the country has seen 21 COVID-19-related deaths.

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