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Relief mixes with anxiety as New Zealand eases lockdown

Anticipation is building among New Zealanders as an easing of the strict coronavirus lockdown rules approaches, but not everyone is relishing the prospect of re-entering society after months confined to their homes.

New Zealand has been in a stringent lockdown for seven weeks and on Thursday most restrictions will be loosened, allowing people to go back to work and school, to shop, eat in restaurants and go to the cinema, playground or library.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her “team of 5 million” sacrificed normality to protect the nation’s most vulnerable people – including the elderly and immunosuppressed – but now restrictions can begin to loosen as health authorities gain control of the disease. The country reported no new cases or deaths on Tuesday.

While many are relishing the prospect of resuming their normal lives – and economists are sighing with relief that the economy can kick back into life – a small sense of anxiety is growing among some at what will be a very altered version of New Zealand’s “normal”.

‘It’s a very different Ramadan’: how coronavirus has upended rituals in Australia

Mufti Zeeyad Ravat is an Islamic scholar, an authority on the day-to-day practice of Islam. His path to Australia was a circuitous one, from his birthplace in Johannesburg, South Africa, through India, Syria (where he studied Arabic), Brazil, Brisbane and Melbourne. In March last year, he travelled to New Zealand to lead a prayer service in Christchurch after 50 worshipers at a mosque were slaughtered.

Ravat, 39, is a bundle of energy, his arms waving to make a point, one leg tucked underneath him on a recliner in his home in Dandenong in south-east Melbourne. The everyday noise of family life (he is married with five children) break through from the next room as he explains how important Ramadan is, and how the coronavirus pandemic has upended its rituals.

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In other US news: Obamagate.

What started ‘Obamagate’?

On Friday, former US president Barack Obama expressed disquiet at the justice department dropping charges against Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in early 2017 for lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador. On a recording obtained by Yahoo News, Obama warned that the “rule of law is at risk”. He also described Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “an absolute chaotic disaster”:

So Trump took the moral high ground and kept a dignified silence?

Not quite. He spent Mother’s Day diving into the rightwing fever swamps and unleashing a barrage of tweets and retweets assailing his predecessor. One said simply “OBAMAGATE!” (the suffix “gate” is a frequently used play on the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon).

Another linked to a post that declared, “Barack Hussain Obama is the first Ex-President to ever speak against his successor, which was long tradition of decorum and decency.” Trump added: “He got caught, OBAMAGATE!”

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