WELLINGTON, Aug.24 (Reuters) – New Zealand on Tuesday recorded its biggest increase in COVID-19 cases since April 2020, as authorities warned that this current outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus was like doing facing a brand new virus.
The South Pacific nation’s virus-free run since February ended last week after an outbreak of the Delta variant erupted in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and quickly spread to the Wellington capital.
Authorities reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 148, Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said at a press conference. This is the largest increase in cases since April 10, 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
Of the new cases, 38 are in Auckland and three in Wellington. So far, eight people associated with the current outbreak have been hospitalized, the ministry said.
“Delta is different from our previous experience. As we know, it is highly infectious and transmissible and, as we have seen, spreads rapidly, ”Bloomfield said at a press conference.
But he said it was reassuring to see the numbers not increasing exponentially and that the majority were still in Auckland.
Authorities have reported a group of at least 58 people of Samoan ethnicity and linked to the Samoan Assembly Of God Church in Auckland.
The health ministry said there were unfortunately racist comments directed against the community.
“The virus is the problem, not the people,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has received praise around the world for eradicating COVID-19 in the country.
But its reliance on strict border controls and instant lockdowns that impacted the economy has been called into question amid the latest outbreak, which occurred when few were vaccinated. . Read more
On Monday, Ardern extended the strict national level 4 lockdown until August 27.
In neighboring Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is also under increasing pressure for increasing COVID-19 cases, said elimination cannot be pursued indefinitely, citing New Zealand as an example.
“Any state and territory that thinks it can protect itself from COVID with the Delta strain forever is just nonsense,” he told the 9News Today breakfast show.
“I mean, New Zealand can’t do that. They were following an elimination strategy. They are stuck. The way is to reach these 70 and 80% (vaccination), open safely, ”he said.
Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Christian Schmollinger
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