Tue, October 26, 2021

international

New Zealand extends Auckland lockdown as it rushes vaccinations


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a lockdown in Auckland and pushed back plans to reopen schools in the nations largest city as its coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

Auckland will remain at Alert Level 3, under which most people are required to stay at home, for at least another week, Ardern told a news conference Monday in Wellington. That means the city will be in lockdown for at least nine weeks. Similar restrictions in the neighboring Waikato and Northland regions have been extended until at least midnight on Oct. 14, Ardern said.

"New Zealand is at one of the trickiest and most challenging moments in the Covid-19 pandemic so far," she said. "However, there is a clear path forward over the coming months in which New Zealanders should be able to move to living with fewer restrictions and more freedoms as a result of higher levels of vaccination."

Ardern has conceded that even New Zealand's strict lockdown measures are unlikely to beat the delta strain of Covid-19 but said they need to remain in place until enough people are vaccinated. The government has announced a "National Day of Action" on Oct. 16 to boost vaccination so that it can begin to gradually ease restrictions while the virus is still circulating in the community.

About 57% of eligible people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, while around 82% have had at least one dose.

Delta "has spread through communities that are harder for us to reach," Ardern said. "This has made getting to zero cases in Auckland very tough. Regardless, throughout this outbreak we have maintained our approach -- test, contract trace, isolate. We are continuing to try and stamp out the virus wherever we find it. We will keep doing that."

Despite the government announcing a lockdown after just one case was detected in mid-August, the total number of cases in the current outbreak has risen to 1,622. Health authorities reported a further 35 new cases earlier Monday after recording 60 new infections on Sunday.

Auckland schools won't reopen on Oct. 18 as initially planned, with further advice to be provided next week. The government today also made vaccination mandatory for large parts of the health and education workforces.

"In coming weeks I'll outline the framework for our next steps as vaccination rates lift," Ardern said. "We remain in a very strong position to make the transition from lockdown restrictions to the individual armor of vaccines while maintaining our world leading position on case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as delivering a strong economy and low unemployment."

Published : October 12, 2021

By : Bloomberg