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Authorities in New Zealand extended the country’s nationwide lockdown on Friday as the number of new local Covid-19 cases rose with some new cases being reported outside the current outbreak’s epicenter in Auckland raising fears that the highly infectious delta variant could undo much of the country’s pandemic success.

Key Facts

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern annouced that the country’s lockdown—which was scheduled to end on Friday— will be extended until midnight August 24.

The decision was made after health authorities reported 11 new local Covid-19 cases on Friday, three of which were in the national capital Wellington.

The three people from Wellington had recently traveled to Auckland—the epicenter of the current outbreak—and had visited locations that have now been identified as exposure sites.

As cases emerged outside Auckland Ardern warned that the full scale of New Zealand’s delta variant outbreak remains unknown.

New Zealand’s health chief Ashley Bloomfield noted that the lockdown in Auckland, which has reported the majority of the new cases may be extended beyond August 24.

Big Number

31. That’s the total number of community cases New Zealand has reported in the outgoing outbreak which began on Tuesday after a solitary Covid-19 case was reported in Auckland. This came after nearly six months of no local Covid-19 infections in New Zealand.

Key Background

With strict border restrictions, quarantining of all incoming travelers and strong contact tracing, New Zealand had managed to largely stomp out the local spread of Covid-19. With only 2,968 reported cases and 26 deaths from the deadly virus, New Zealand’s zero-Covid approach has allowed the country to protect its residents without imposing dragged-out lockdowns. But with only 23.7% of its eligible population fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a large swathe of the country’s population remains vulnerable to the highly infectious delta variant. Ardern’s government is now facing questions about the sluggish vaccine rollout—slowest among all OECD nations—along with rising costs of keeping the border shut. New Zealand’s trans-Tasman neighbor Australia—which had also managed to largely stomp out the local spread of Covid, is currently witnessing one of its worst outbreaks of the pandemic, largely fueled by the delta variant.

Further Reading

New Zealand’s Ardern extends lockdown as virus outbreak widens (Reuters)

Covid-19 lockdown: NZ to remain at alert level 4 until Tuesday night (Radio New Zealand)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

Source: Forbes

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