Ardern Partially Eases New Zealand Lockdown Outside Auckland
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said lockdown restrictions will be partially eased outside of largest city Auckland amid encouraging signs that a community outbreak of Covid-19 is being brought under control.
All areas south of Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 at midnight tomorrow, Ardern told a news conference Monday in Wellington. The Northland region in the far north may also move to Level 3 later this week but Auckland, the epicenter of the outbreak, will remain at Level 4 for another two weeks, she said.
“We are seeing a decrease in cases outside of households, a decreasing number of locations of interest, and the reproduction rate reducing,” Ardern said. “All of that helps but the job is not yet done and we do need to keep going.”
Earlier, health officials reported 53 new cases in the outbreak of the highly infectious delta strain of the virus, down from 83 new cases the previous day. Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the estimated R value in the outbreak -- the number of people that each case infects on average -- appears to have fallen below 1, meaning case numbers should continue to decline.
Level 3 doesn’t mean the lockdown is lifted. It allows some businesses to resume operations but people are still asked to stay at home and work remotely if possible. Schools, daycare centers, shops and public venues are largely closed, and gatherings are restricted to 10 people.
Ardern said Level 3 is expected to remain in place for a week, and the government will continue to asses settings and reduce them when it can.
Active cases in the current outbreak now number 562. New Zealand has been left vulnerable because of its slow vaccine rollout, with only around 23% of the population currently fully immunized.
Health authorities today reported what they believe to be New Zealand’s first death linked to the Pfizer vaccine, but stressed the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks.
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