New Zealand extends lockdown as Delta outbreak spreads

Sydney, Australia, Aug 23 (EFE).- New Zealand announced on Monday an extension to the lockdown of the entire country until next Friday, as 107 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded since last week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the measure at a press conference after a cabinet meeting, saying the measure against the Delta outbreak was “the safest option for all of us right now.”

“We don’t yet believe we’ve reached the peak of this outbreak or necessarily the edges of it,” Ardern said.

Ardern last Tuesday ordered a lockdown of Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula for seven days, and the rest of the country for three days, after the first local Covid-19 infection in New Zealand in six months emerged.

On Friday the authorities extended the lockdown of the country until Aug. 24.

In compliance with what was agreed Monday by the government, the country will remain confined until midnight on Aug. 27, and the most affected and populated city of Auckland until the end of the month.

Thirty-four new local infections were reported Monday, with a total of 107 cases since last Tuesday.

In response to the outbreak, the government also previously announced that parliament was suspending its activity for the entire week.

New Zealand, which has one of the slowest vaccination rates of the developed countries, had been globally recognized for its effective management of the pandemic with early and hard lockdowns.

This weekend, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged, however, that the Delta variant “changes the game considerably” and makes “existing protections… start to look less adequate and less robust.”

The government last week accelerated its vaccination campaign, which began in February with the most at-risk workers, but was not extended to the general population until the end of July.

It intends to finish vaccinating the target population before the end of the year to reopen its borders, which closed in March 2020, in the first quarter of next year.

New Zealand has accumulated some 3,000 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, including 26 deaths. EFE


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