New Zealand extends lockdown as COVID cases top 100
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that the country’s pandemic elimination strategy was working, as she announced an extension to the nationwide lockdown due to a growing COVID-19 Delta outbreak.
Why it matters: NZ locked down last Tuesday after detecting the first community case in nearly six months — marking the arrival of Delta in the island nation. The cluster has grown to 107 cases, with 35 more people testing positive for the virus Monday.
What they’re saying: Ardern said at a briefing that “for now, absolutely elimination is the strategy” the government should use as coronavirus vaccinations continue to ramp up nationwide.
- “We know that an elimination strategy has worked before,” she added, pointing to the large periods New Zealand residents had enjoyed no restrictions and she said she’s keen to get back to that level.
The big picture: Ardern said at the briefing that the entire country would remain at its highest lockdown level until just before midnight Friday. This would be reviewed.
- But Auckland, the epicenter of the outbreak that’s been traced to Sydney, would remain on alert level 4 until Aug. 31.
Between the lines: Scientist Shaun Hendy, who heads a government advisory body, told Axios via email that level 4 restrictions were effective, and “we should start to see a decline in cases towards the end of this week.”
- “At the moment, we are still seeing cases reported who were infected before we went into lockdown,” the Te Pūnaha Matatini research center chief noted.
- Australia is facing outbreaks across the country, with New South Wales reporting a record 830 cases. State capital Sydney, the virus’ epicenter has been on strict lockdown since late June, but the state hasn’t seen the same level of compliance to health measures as in New Zealand.
What to watch: The elimination strategy would remain the best option provided the lockdown brought case numbers down as expected, per Hendy.
- COVID-19 vaccination coverage of 70-80% of NZ’s total population could see the country’s restrictions strategy change, according to Hendy, who is also a University of Auckland professor.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.