Strict Lockdown Is Working Despite Delta Cases Rising, Ardern Says
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a nationwide lockdown is working and she remains committed to stamping out a delta outbreak of coronavirus even as case numbers continue to grow.
“Overall, lockdown is having an impact,” Ardern told a news conference Thursday in Wellington. “No one wants to use lockdowns forever and I can tell you now that is not our intention. But for now, while we vaccinate, elimination is the goal, and we can do it.”
Health officials today reported 68 new cases in the current community outbreak of the highly infectious delta strain of Covid-19, taking the total to 277. The strict national lockdown has been in place for more than a week and Ardern is due to announce tomorrow whether it will need to be further extended.
“Nothing at the moment appears to us to be necessarily unexpected, but we do need to be incredibly vigilant,” she said. “Delta has changed the rules of the game.”
The delta variant is testing New Zealand’s elimination strategy because it is so much more transmissible than the first iteration of the virus and has a shorter incubation period, giving contact tracers less time to find and isolate positive cases before they become infectious. The country has been left vulnerable by one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the developed world, with only around 20% of its population fully immunized so far.
Ardern said the rate of transmission within infected households was high, but it was encouraging that the outbreak hasn’t spread beyond Auckland and Wellington.
“If it weren’t for lockdown, I’m sure we would have seen cases spread further,” she said. “Lockdown is also having an impact on locations of interest. While our cases are continuing to grow, these locations of interest aren’t continuing to grow exponentially alongside them.”
New Zealand’s elimination strategy, which has seen it largely keep the virus out of the community since its initial lockdown over a year ago, remained the best path to follow for now as vaccination was ramped up, Ardern said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.