New Zealand to relax hard lockdown for country south of Auckland

Sydney, Australia, Aug 27 (EFE).- New Zealand is to slightly relax its hard lockdown, in place throughout the country due to a Covid-19 Delta outbreak, for residents south of Auckland.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a press conference Friday that the national alert level will be lowered from the maximum 4 to 3 starting at midnight on Aug. 31 for all of New Zealand with the exception of Auckland – the most populous city and epicenter of the outbreak – and the bordering Northland region, which could be kept under total lockdown for two more weeks.

Level 3 will allow businesses to operate if personal contact is not required, while gatherings such as weddings and funerals will be allowed with a limit of 10 people.

At the beginning of last week the government ordered a hard lockdown of the entire country after the first local case of Covid-19 in six months emerged.

Authorities recorded 70 new local cases of Covid-19 on Friday, all in Auckland, bringing the total number of cases from this latest outbreak to 347.

On Thursday, the prime minister once again defended the elimination of Covid-19 as “the best strategy,” although she acknowledged that “experts are telling us to take on Delta differently.”

New Zealand, which has one of the slowest vaccination rates of developed countries, has been recognized worldwide for its effective management of the pandemic, which consisted of closing its borders and carrying out hard and early lockdowns.

To date, around 20 percent of its 5-million population have been fully vaccinated.

The government intends to finish vaccinating the target population before the end of the year to reopen its borders in the first quarter of 2022.

New Zealand has accumulated 3,297 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, including 26 deaths. EFE


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