New Zealanders eager for their first taste of McDonald’s in more than a month queued in drive-through lanes well before dawn on Tuesday as Kiwis celebrated the end of their strict coronavirus lockdown.
The New Zealand government lifted the most extreme measures of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic just after midnight on Tuesday.
For hundreds of thousands of Kiwis, that meant a return to work.
For others, it just meant getting stuck into takeaway.
Jacinda Ardern’s government banned all restaurants from operating during the five-week level-four lockdown. That meant New Zealanders were reliant on supermarkets, local dairies and home gardens – and home cooking – for their food.
With the restrictions lifted, many went straight for the golden arches.
In New Plymouth, on the west coast of the North Island, the local McDonald’s store had customers waiting in line at the drive-through from 3.30am, according to Radio NZ.
There were about 40 cars lined up when the store opened at 5am.
Hutt South MP Chris Bishop posted his McDonald’s and takeaway coffee haul on Twitter, saying “it’s hard to explain how good this tastes”.
In Porirua, near Wellington, NZME reporter Jason Pine said there were 21 cars waiting to be served at 4.40am.
Many New Zealanders also took their first chance to go surfing in a month on Tuesday after that pastime was also barred under the restrictions.
For Kiwis, however, alert level three has many similarities to level four.
If residents are not at work, school, exercising, or getting essentials, then they are instructed to remain at home – as they were for the past five weeks.
Beaches, waterfronts and playgrounds are also shut, effectively restricting people to their homes and short walks around their neighbourhood.
“We will never know what would have actually happened without our level four restrictions, but we can look overseas and see that devastating scenarios have played out in many other countries,” Ms Ardern said.
Officials have also warned against complacency. Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield urged Kiwis to be cautious
“There will be a temptation to see your friends … whether you’re congregating for a coffee or takeaways,” he said.
“Physical distancing remains very important. I just want to reiterate that.”
Many businesses, including Parliament and the courts, began preparations over the weekend to restart operations while maintaining ongoing social-distancing rules.
New Zealand had 1472 confirmed and probably coronavirus cases on Tuesday afternoon, including 19 deaths. It reported just three new cases on Tuesday.