Ardern Extends New Zealand Lockdown as Delta Outbreak Spreads
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a nationwide lockdown by four days after an outbreak of the delta strain of coronavirus spread outside largest city Auckland.
The entire country will remain at Level 4 restrictions, the highest level of lockdown, until midnight on Aug. 24, Ardern told a news conference Friday in Wellington. The initial three-day lockdown had been due to lift at midnight tonight.
“While we are in a reasonable position at day three, with delta we believe it is too soon to draw any conclusions,” Ardern said. “There’s still a lot we don’t know.”
Ardern initiated the lockdown on Tuesday this week after the first community case of coronavirus since February was discovered in Auckland and later confirmed to be the highly infectious delta variant. The lockdown requires people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. All schools, public venues and most businesses are closed. Only shops providing essential services such as groceries, gasoline and health products are allowed to stay open.
While New Zealand has been among the best in the world at keeping Covid-19 out, its vaccination rollout has been one of the slowest, leaving it vulnerable if the virus breaches its border defenses. Less than 20% of the population has been fully immunized.
Earlier Friday, the Ministry of Health reported 11 new community infections, taking the total to 31. Three of the new cases are in capital city Wellington.
Despite extending the lockdown, Ardern said there were some positive developments.
“We’re starting to build a picture of the edges of this cluster,” she said. “At this stage, we don’t have have random cases popping up outside of those places where we already expect them.”
Still, a large number of contacts needed to be tested and there were many locations of interest, she said.
“We just don’t quite know the full scale of this delta outbreak,” Ardern said.
Auckland and the nearby Coromandel region were due to stay in lockdown for an initial period of seven days, and Ardern indicated that is likely to be extended.
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