The lockdown began on Tuesday for a single infection, the country’s first locally transmitted case since February. This patient had contracted a highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. Authorities have since discovered 30 other active cases, including 11 locally transmitted infections which were announced on Friday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the lockdown would give contact tracers a chance to assess how affected the country has been by the spread of the coronavirus in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and where the first patient has been identified. Some cases have been discovered in the capital, Wellington.
The extension will last at least until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Authorities will reassess the situation on Monday, Ardern said.
The patient at the center of the most recent group was an unvaccinated 58-year-old man who had traveled to other parts of the country and had no obvious connection to the border, Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said on Tuesday. .
“We are one of the last countries in the world to have the Delta variant in our community,” Ardern said Tuesday. “We are able to learn from the experience abroad, and which actions work and which actions do not. “
New Zealand has been praised for its handling of the virus, which has seen it close its borders to almost all foreign nationals early and impose strict state-run quarantines on inbound travelers.
This approach allowed it to avoid the devastating epidemics seen in other countries and, before Tuesday’s announcement, life in the country had largely returned to normal. New Zealand has reported less than 3,000 cases of Covid-19 and only 26 deaths out of a population of around 5 million.
But New Zealand was slow to vaccinate. According to data collected by CNN, New Zealand has fully immunized less than 20% of its population.
Neighboring Australia, which was also previously praised for its handling of the virus, has been battling its own Delta outbreak for the past few weeks. More than half of Australia’s population is confined – and the country’s most populous city, Sydney, has been confined since June.
Earlier this month, New Zealand announced plans to start reopening its doors to vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries from early 2022, signaling a temporary easing of strict pandemic border controls.