New Zealand Extends Auckland Lockdown as Outbreak Persists
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a strict lockdown in largest city Auckland as an outbreak of the delta variant of coronavirus proves difficult to vanquish.
Auckland will remain at Alert Level 4 for at least another week while the rest of the country, which exited lockdown last week, will remain at Level 2, Ardern said Monday in Wellington. There had been hope Auckland’s lockdown could be eased to Level 3, but Ardern said ongoing new cases required a longer period at the highest level of restrictions.
“Alert Level 4 is working. It has helped us get the outbreak under control,” she said. “But as you will have seen in the last few days, we haven’t quite finished the job yet.”
Ardern is persisting with an elimination strategy that has served New Zealand well to date. There are signs the lockdown is succeeding in severing chains of transmission, with daily new case numbers dropping from a peak of 83 to as few as 11. But numbers have picked up in recent days; 33 new cases were reported earlier Monday.
“There is not widespread transmission of the virus in Auckland,” Ardern said. “But the cases are telling us we have more work to do. The next week will be critical in providing us with the additional assurance we need.”
Ardern said cabinet has made an in-principle decision that Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 at midnight on Sept. 21. This is a milder form of lockdown, allowing some businesses to reopen.
Alert Level 2 for the rest of the country requires mask wearing in indoor public spaces, social distancing and some gathering limits, but otherwise normal activity has resumed.
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