New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday extended the three-day Covid-19 lockdown to capital city Wellington in a bid to control the fast-growing disease outbreak driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The nationwide lockdown comes three days after New Zealand reported its first Covid-19 case in nearly six months. The lockdown could be widened further in Auckland, health chief Ashley Bloomfield said.
Stating that the whole country should be on high alert, Ms Ardern assured that New Zealand has adopted this strategy previously to drive out Covid-19. “We’ve been here before … we know the elimination strategy works. Cases rise and then they fall until we have none,” the prime minister said.
The strategy is tested and true and people just need to “stick it out,” Ms Ardern said, stating the full scale of the Delta outbreak is not yet known.
A total of 31 new cases have been reported so far in New Zealand. The first case detected on Tuesday in Auckland led to six more fresh infections a day after and 11 new cases on Thursday. At least three new cases have been reported from Wellington, officials said.
The government has traced the Covid-19 cases’ origin to a returnee from Sydney on 7 August. Calling the development as “significant,” Ms Ardern said that the authorities can now be fairly certain about how and when the virus entered the country. The virus, she said, has not been in the community for long.
New Zealand had stamped out the coronavirus completely in February this year and went Covid-free, becoming one of the top nations globally to achieve success in its fight against the deadly virus. It remained cut off from the rest of the world after a hard quarantine strategy for almost 18 months.
The island nation has recorded nearly 2,500 cases and 26 deaths in a population of five million.
Concerned that the recent spread is exposing New Zealand’s low Covid-19 vaccination coverage, critics claim Ms Ardern’s approach is a failure.
Only about 23 per cent of its five million people have been fully vaccinated, according to official data.