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The Easter Bunny Is An Essential Worker, New Zealand's Ardern Says

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared the Easter Bunny to be an essential worker in her country, stating that the rabbit can go about its mysterious business this Sunday as usual, despite a nationwide lockdown.

Ardern announced the exemption in response to rampant speculation by New Zealand's youngest citizens, who had wondered how the coronavirus crisis might affect the traditional arrival of colorful eggs, chocolates and other treats.

In a sweeping move, Ardern also laid to rest any doubt about the tooth fairy's status, saying the overnight exchange of gifts for lost teeth will continue.

"You'll be pleased to know that we do consider both the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers," Ardern told reporters at a recent news conference.

While she gave the OK for the nighttime visitors to continue their important work, the prime minister also warned that in some cases, the pair might not be able to provide the level of service young people have come to expect.

"So I say to the children of New Zealand, if the Easter Bunny doesn't make it to your household, then we have to understand that it's a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to perhaps get everywhere," Ardern said.

The prime minister also noted that, despite the Easter Bunny's ability to operate during New Zealand's four-week lockdown, Easter egg hunts might not go ahead as usual in many places. In that case, she said, children should take matters into their own hands.

"Maybe you draw an Easter egg and pop it into your front window and help children in your neighborhood with their own Easter egg hunt," Arden said, "because the Easter Bunny might not get everywhere this year.

The leader later posted an egg design on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, asking kids to download it and color it in, as part of the Big New Zealand Easter Egg Hunt. Ardern included a hashtag that has since become a magnet for adorable photos of kids and adults showing off their efforts: #NZEggHunt.

View this post on Instagram NZの首相 @jacindaardern さんの粋な計らい🐰 こんな状況だけど、イースターバニーとトゥースフェアリーはいなくならないよって、インスタに書いてくれて、イースターエッグの塗り絵を載せてくれたので、今日やりました🌼 みんなでやったけど、ニイが1番頑張ってたよ🌼🐰🌼 今日1日かけて丁寧に塗ってた❤️ ニイしゃんはイースターとクリスマスが大好きなのです😍💛 トゥースフェアリーだって見たことあるんだから❤️ 自分の歯はまだ抜けた事ないけど、カリンの初めてのトゥースフェアリーを見たんだって❤️ ピンクだったって💖💖💖💖🧚‍♀️#天使 ♡ #NZegghunt#Stayhome#塗り絵#おうち時間#イースター#Nina#6歳#ロックダウン A post shared by MAYUKA@NZ (@mayukahoney) on Apr 7, 2020 at 3:59am PDT

With that matter resolved, the prime minister returned to discussing the Level 4 alert her country is under, saying that despite the relatively low number of cases — 1,160 — New Zealanders should not lower their guard.

"My concern is that anyone who looks at our numbers, that they cannot be complacent," Ardern said. "The moment anyone decides that they can start loosening up on Level 4, that is a dangerous place for New Zealand to be. The fastest way for us to get out of Level 4 is for everyone to comply with Level 4 right till the end."

New Zealand is nearly halfway through the lockdown that was announced in late March.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.