New Zealand to extend a nationwide lockdown after uncovering more COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown initially began on Tuesday 17th August, in response to a single COVID case detected in Auckland.
Authorities believe that the new case, the first one recorded in the country since February, is the highly contagious Delta variant of the Coronavirus.
As the country has entered day 11 of the lockdown, the future of New Zealand’s fight to eliminate the Delta variant appears uncertain.
The outbreak has since grown to about 350 known cases and is putting a strain on New Zealand’s contact- tracing systems as workers struggle to track down another 30,000 potentially exposed people.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has said that this tough level 4 lockdown, which includes a stay at home order and the closure of school and businesses, would give contact tracers a chance to assess how much of the country has been impacted by the Coronavirus spread.
“I want to assure New Zealand that we have planned for this eventuality. Going hard and early has worked for us before.” She said in a press conference last Tuesday.
Officials say that there is a need for such a strong response out of fear of the Delta variant, which Arden noted as a “game changer”, and because there was no obvious link between the patient at the centre of the most recent cluster and the border or quarantine facilities.
New Zealand has been praised for its handling of the virus in 2020, which saw it close its borders to almost all foreign nationals and impose a “go hard, go early” approach to lockdowns and testing regimes.
This approach had seen the virus almost completely eradicated from within its borders and the country avoiding the out of control outbreaks seen elsewhere, having reported less than 3,000 COVID-19 cases and only 26 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Due to this, the people of New Zealand have been living virus free and without restrictions prior to the latest announcement.
However, worries arise in the country’s delayed roll out of its vaccine programme.
According to experts, only around 20% of people have been fully vaccinated and 33% have received their first dose, making it the slowest vaccine rollout amongst the wealthy nations of the OECD grouping.
The country chose to only administer the Pfizer vaccine and only approve its use 2 months after it was first approved in the US for emergency use.
However, since the outbreak began almost two weeks ago vaccinations have sped up rapidly, with almost 2% of the population receiving doses every day.
Photo by Fiona Goodall via GETTY