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A cafe and barbers shop in the Auckland suburb of Birkenhead open at 1 minute past midnight on Thursday after New Zealand moved into lockdown level 2. Retailers and restaurants have also reopened. All photos: Rebecca Falconer/Axios

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Lines formed outside three different barbers and a cafe in the Auckland suburb of Birkenhead at 12:01 a.m. Thursday local time for a haircut and a late-night bite as the country relaxed some of the world's toughest restrictions.

The big picture: New Zealand is reopening for business this month with no coronavirus community spread. Barber Karl Hurcombe said it was "nerve-wracking" not knowing when he'd reopen as he has a bank loan and a mortgage. He had to organize rent relief. But like many Kiwis Axios spoke with, he cherished the lockdown time with his family, going for walks on warm, sunny days. "Part of me was like I've got myself in a bit of a laid-back rut now!" he joked.

The Barber Shop Company is still busy at 1 a.m. New Zealand has confirmed just over 1,100 coronavirus infections and has reported weeks of single-digit or zero cases.
Dutch Delight cafe owner Willem van der Velden with Birkenhead Village Town Centre Association town center manager Kae Condon, who organized the unusual reopening after local Scott Cordes asked her if any barbers would be open before he had to return to work at 9am on Thursday. Van der Velden said he thought it'd be fun to reopen with the barbers next door.
Graham Wallace, Jonathan Sharrock and Cordes, who explained: "We wanted to help the community, and the boys here are all looking to go to work ... and looking sharp like Elvis and at the moment, we're not looking sharp like Elvis, but at 1 o'clock we will be!"
When Ishita Jadia's partner decided to drive roughly 9 miles from the outer Auckland suburb of Albany for a haircut in Birkenhead, she and her sister Megha Jadia decided to go with him still wearing their pyjamas and were excited to grab a quick bite at the cafe.
Condon, with trainee barber Caleb John, signs B & M Barbers' register that helps NZ keep on top of contact-tracing. John was about two months into his course when lockdown happened, but he appreciated spending more time with his pregnant wife.
Hurcombe, who got Cordes' hair "looking sharp" said he managed to watch all 25 of the James Bond movies during lockdown.
Maria Tyrrell and her son Heath Tyrell celebrated him just turning 13 by going to the barbers. "And because his father gave him the most awful cut in the world, so we're desperate to get it tidied up," she said. "He looks like Kim Jong-il!"

Go deeper: Australia and New Zealand reopen after coronavirus cases plummet

Go deeper

Updated Aug 10, 2020 - World

PM prepares for "COVID election" as NZ marks 100 days of no community spread

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends the launch of the Labour Party's election campaign in Auckland on Saturday. Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP via Getty Images

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — New Zealand has now gone 100 days with no detected community spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health confirmed in an emailed statement Sunday.

Why It Matters: New Zealanders are going to the polls on Sept. 19. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for her leadership that saw NZ lock down hard for several weeks before all domestic restrictions were lifted in June. She sees her government's response to and recovery from the coronavirus outbreak as key to her Labour Party being re-elected.

19 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A pricetag of $500-555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

26 mins ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

Jake Sullivan briefs the press. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.