Coronavirus: Scott Morrison, Angela Merkel among world leaders Jacinda Ardern spoke with ahead of alert decision

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken to several world leaders recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic is unfolding in their part of the world.

The World Health Organization was first alerted to the COVID-19 coronavirus by Chinese authorities in late December 2019 and since then has infected millions of people around the world and killed hundreds of thousands. 

Wuhan, China - where the virus is believed to have started its spread - was the first major centre to enter a form of lockdown in January and slowly over the next months other cities, and then countries, followed suit. That includes New Zealand on March 25.

With different types of lockdowns and restrictions still in place in most nations, fatigue has begun to set in in some regions.

New Zealand had a few months without strict rules - except at the border - but Auckland was forced into lockdown again in mid-August after an outbreak emerged.

That lockdown lifted on Sunday and alert level 2.5 came into play for the region. On Friday, Cabinet decided to extend those settings until at least September 16. 

While that alert level allows far more movement and social interaction than other jurisdictions globally allow, gatherings of 10 or more people are banned. The rest of New Zealand sits at alert level 2, which allows gatherings of up to 100 people. 

Asked on Friday about whether lockdown fatigue could cause compliance to drop, Ardern said that had been a topic of discussion with other figures deciding their countries' restrictions.

"It's been one of the conversations I have had with other world leaders. Just the ongoing issues that everyone around the world, and in particularly New Zealand, we have been dealing with this since February, it is completely natural that people will feel weary," she said.

"So we have to do what we can to make it as easy as possible to comply, set guidelines that accommodate as much as life as we can and level 2.5 in Auckland does that. We are putting in place a limit that is manageable, so people can have as much normal life as possible but also we can keep them as safe as possible."

She told reporters she has recently spoken to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison - though not specifically about lockdown fatigue - and, in August, German chancellor Angela Merkel.

"I talked previously with the likes of Angela Merkel and just some discussion over what was happening generally within Europe around people after travel and some of the issues there and younger people," Ardern said.

Parts of Europe have seen recent upticks in cases, such as in Spain, and Ardern said it might not just be lockdown fatigue that is fuelling that. 

"I think there is a range of issues there because, of course, we have a different strategy than Europe. They are, of course, trying to make sure that they don't see these large waves that overwhelm health systems. But we have a stamp it out strategy, so quite different," she said.

"All of it requires, though, a level of control and making sure you don't have a health system is overwhelmed."

Australia - which in early July was hit by a massive outbreak in the state of Victoria which is only just now beginning to subside - has recorded more than 26,000 cases of the illness.

Germany has seen a slight uptick in case since the start of August and has recorded 248,814 cases overall.

Back in Aotearoa, the Director-General of Health says he's been pleased that Kiwis have followed the rules. 

"My sense is if we look at the incredible response around the uptake of the New Zealand COVID Tracer app, which now supersedes many other countries which have similar apps, as well as the mask uptake and the level of the engagement around that," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

"I think, to me, that shows more that most people are very aware of and engaged with what they need to do. Not just now, but actually that these might be things we are going to have to keep up for a period of time."

Dr Bloomfield said on Friday that 2 million people had downloaded the COVID Tracer app, with 35 million poster scans and 2.3 million manual diary entries. More than 355,000 posters had been created.

From Friday, the Government has mandated that QR codes must now be displayed on public transport. Their display is also required at all businesses.