New Zealand barbers opens at midnight as coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased

A New Zealand barber shop opened its doors as the clock passed midnight on Thursday to mark the moment most lockdown restrictions were eased across the country.

Shopping centres, retail stores and restaurants were allowed to open their doors as of 12.01am, with many employees returning to their workplaces.

Mass gatherings will still be limited to 10 people and social distancing guidelines remains in place under the country's Level Two restrictions.

Conrad Fitz-Gerald said he received around 50 inquiries for midnight haircuts but limited the initial customers to 12, starting with his 18-year-old son Heathcliff.

Mr Fitz-Gerald, the owner of Cathedral Junction Barbers in Christchurch, said: “People are saying their hair is out of control, they can’t handle it anymore.

“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.”

Mr Fitz-Gerald said his business was taking extra precautions to try and keep staff and employees safe, adding he made his own “supercharged” hand sanitiser from isopropyl alcohol and also had masks available for himself and his customers on request.

Cathedral Junction Barbers owner Conrad Fitz-Gerald cuts the hair of his son Heathcliff. Credit: Mark Baker/AP

The reopening of the economy reflects the success New Zealand has experienced in its bold goal of eliminating the virus.

The country reported no new cases of the virus on Tuesday and Wednesday.

More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who contracted the virus that causes Covid-19 have recovered, while 21 have died.

Most New Zealand schools will reopen on Monday but bars will not reopen until May 21, a decision that was prompted in part by the experience in South Korea, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul.

Cathedral Junction Barbers owner Conrad Fitz-Gerald cuts the hair of a customer. Credit: Mark Baker/AP

The nation’s reopening coincides with the release of the government’s annual budget on Thursday afternoon.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Southern Hemisphere 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 moving quickly again.”

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