New Zealand could approve the restart of professional sport as early as next week when authorities decide whether to ease coronavirus restrictions further, the sport ministry said on Thursday.
Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson said professional sports would be able to resume domestically when the country lowers its COVID-19 alert level down a notch.
New Zealand is to decide on Monday whether the country will move from ‘Level 3’ to ‘Level 2’.
“Moving to Alert Level 2 continues to expand the opportunities for sport and recreation and reintroduces the opportunity for competitive sport – both at a local and professional level,” Robertson said in a statement.
“Obviously, the paramount concern is that a return to competitive sport is done safely.”
Level 2 restrictions would mean:
- Businesses can restart for staff and customers
- Bubbles can cease
- Domestic travel recommences
- Schools and early learning centres can open
- Gatherings both indoors and outdoors are limited to 100 people
- Public places reopen
- Sport and recreation comes back on-stream, including professional sports competitions
- Home gatherings must be kept small
- Hospitality must follow the three S’s – seated, separated, single-server
The announcement will give New Zealand hope of becoming the world’s first major rugby nation to resume playing the sport at an elite level.
Compared to the United States and countries in Europe, New Zealand has been relatively successful in containing COVID-19, recording less than 1,500 infections and 21 deaths.
Infection rates plunged in recent weeks after authorities installed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.
New Zealand lowered its COVID-19 alert status to Level 3 from Level 4 last week, allowing more freedom of movement and some 400,000 people to return to work.
Read more via Reuters