Health authorities on Monday recorded 33 new cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19, all in Auckland, which was over 23 and 20 cases reported over the weekend.
“It is clear that there is no widespread transmission of the virus in Auckland, but as long as new cases appear there are risks,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference, announcing the decision to extend the city lockdown until September 21. .
After that, Auckland will drop from level 4 to level 3, which means the borders will be relaxed slightly, but offices, schools and public places will still remain closed.
New Zealand had been largely virus-free for months until an outbreak of the Delta variant imported from Australia prompted Ardern to order an instant nationwide lockdown on August 17.
The outbreak has infected 955 so far, most of them in Auckland.
The city is virtually cut off from the rest of the country, where the lockdown was lowered last week to Level 2, allowing people to return to their offices and schools.
Lockdowns in New Zealand and the closure of international borders since March 2020 have helped curb COVID-19, largely freeing up people’s daily activities.
There have only been 3,593 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand since the start of the pandemic and 27 related deaths.
But Ardern has come under fire for a slow vaccination schedule as the country battles the Delta outbreak. About 34% of its 5.1 million people have been fully immunized so far.
New Zealand has purchased doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from Spain and Denmark to bolster its vaccination program.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Diane Craft and Simon Cameron-Moore)