New Zealand Extends Nationwide Lockdown As Delta Variant Outbreak Grows

New Zealand authorities extended Friday's national lockdown because of rising numbers of Covid-19 cases. Some new cases were reported outside of Auckland's current epicenter, raising concerns that the highly infectious delta variant could undermine much of the country's pandemic success.

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaks during a COVID-19 Response Update. Getty Images

The Key Facts

Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, announced that Friday's lockdown will be extended to midnight on August 24. After health officials reported 11 new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand on Friday, three of them were in Wellington, the decision was taken. Three Wellington residents had just traveled to Auckland, the epicenter of this current outbreak. They had also visited places that have been identified as potential exposure sites. Ardern cautioned that the extent of New Zealand's delta variant epidemic was still unknown as more cases were reported outside Auckland. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's health chief, noted that Auckland may extend the lockdown for the remainder of the new cases.

Big Number

31. This is the number of community cases New Zealand reported in the current outbreak, which began Tuesday after one Covid-19-related case was reported in Auckland. This was after almost six months of no Covid-19 cases in New Zealand.

Important Background

New Zealand managed to stop the spread of Covid-19 by imposing strict border restrictions and quarantining all travelers. New Zealand's zero-Covid policy has allowed it to protect its citizens without resorting to lengthy lockdowns. There have been only 2,968 cases reported and 26 deaths. However, only 23.7% have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This leaves a large portion of the country vulnerable to the highly infectious Delta variant. Arderns government now faces questions about slow vaccine rollouts, which are among the slowest of all OECD countries, and rising costs to keep the border closed. New Zealand's trans-Tasman neighbour Australia, which had previously managed to contain the spread of Covid locally, is currently experiencing one of the worst pandemic outbreaks, thanks largely to the delta variant.

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New Zealand's Ardern extends lockdown in response to virus outbreak (Reuters)

Lockdown on Covid-19: NZ will remain at alert level 4 through Tuesday night (Radio New Zealand).

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