PM Ardern postpones general election amid new COVID-19 outbreak

Sydney, Australia, Aug 17 (efe-epa).- New Zealand’s general election has been postponed by a month amid concerns surrounding the new COVID-19 outbreak, the country’s prime minister on Monday.

“I have decided on balance to move the election by four weeks to the 17th of October,” Jacinda Ardern said. The polls were due to be held on Sep. 19.

Coalition member New Zealand First, as well as opposition parties had called for a postponement.

“Our current priority is getting the Covid outbreak under control and removing restrictions on New Zealanders as soon as possible,” Ardern said, adding that it was also “clear the reemergence of Covid in Auckland at the beginning of the formal campaign period has been cause for concern.”

Voter safety, availability of information, fair polling, all parties being able to campaign, and timeliness were among the main points taken into consideration, including in consultation with the Election Commission and all party leaders.

She added that the date would not be changed again, and parliament would be dissolved on Sep. 6.

Nine new COVID-19 cases were announced Monday, seven linked to the new Auckland cluster that emerged last week, and two under investigation. Five people are in Auckland hospitals.

The new confirmed infections bring the country’s total to 1,280, with 78 active cases and 58 in the new cluster. The remainder are cases from abroad in quarantine facilities.

The new outbreak in Auckland was discovered early last week after four family members tested positive, breaking the country’s 102-day streak of no local transmission.

The source of the infection has not been identified, although Ardern on Friday said after genome testing, “it appears to be new to New Zealand.”

Auckland has been placed in a Level-3 alert lockdown, with the rest of the country on Level 2 restrictions, and rest homes on tight Level 4, banning visits.

The country had returned to normal in early June after having supposedly eliminated all local transmission of the virus, with the only cases registered in quarantine centers for those arriving from abroad. EFE-EPA


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