Crowds gather in Auckland, New Zealand against coronavirus lockdown

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People are waiting for a walk-in Covid-19 test on August 14, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Covid-19 restrictions have been reintroduced across New Zealand.Fiona Goodall | Actualités Getty Images | Getty Images

Large crowds of people gathered in Auckland on Saturday against social distancing restrictions imposed by the government on the country’s largest city after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus last month. Images on local television showed crowds very tight, many people not wearing masks, with attendance estimates ranging from a thousand to a few thousand.

“We are all here today because we believe we have to stand up for our rights,” said Jami-Lee Ross, leader of the Advance New Zealand party, one of the organizers of the protest.

“We are all here today because we think it is time to stand up and say, ‘We must reclaim our rights and freedoms.’ ”

There were no immediate reports of arrests.

New Zealand, a nation of five million people, appeared to have succeeded in stopping community transmission of COVID-19, but a new outbreak in Auckland in August prompted the government to put the city back on lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who faces a general election on October 17, lowered restrictions earlier this month, but the city is still below the 2.5 alert level, meaning rallies social groups of more than 10 people are not allowed. Masks are mandatory on public transport across the country.

New Zealand reported two new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, bringing its total number of infections since the start of the year to 1,444. Twenty-four people have died.

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